This article first appeared at Jentrified Citizen
It is becoming irksome hearing and reading the government and the Straits Times telling us that we have all missed the woods for the trees by focusing on the 6.9 million population.
Since the debate started over the Population White Paper, the PAP cohort and some of the MSM have come out strongly to defend it and to frame the issue. They have in unison told us that the critics have missed how wonderful the proposals really are in the White Paper and how we have been wrong to focus on the 6.9 million target (which they have since back-pedalled and referred to as worst-case scenario). To be fair, I reread the White Paper again and I can double confirm that I, like the rest of the irate Singaporeans, did not miss the woods. In fact, we all did the right thing to zoom in on the elephant among the trees.
Much of the paper focused on improving infrastructure and the generalities of having a dynamic population and economy, all of which are things that any good government should work on without having to put forth a Wpaper. What then was really new and vital? The proposed population projections and numbers of course! It is a plan that will further reduce our Singapore Core to less than half of the total population by 2030 and which will add to our worries of overcrowding and daily stress. Which true blue Singaporen wouldn’t be shaken by this?
In fact, on second reading, the WPaper came across as making a case for more immigrants and foreigners while trying to assure us of the importance of a Singaporean core and a high quality of life despite the proposed population changes.
The conclusion of the WPaper states clearly and affirmatively: “To stop our citizen population from shrinking and sustain the citizen population with a stable age distribution, we WILL take in between 15,000 and 25,000 new citizens each year. The citizen population could be between 3.5 and 3.6 million in 2020, and between 3.6 and 3.8 million in 2030. We WILL grant about 30,000 PRs each year, in order to maintain the PR population at between 0.5 and 0.6 million…”
Does the above sound like a hazy projection or a planned course of action? Readers can discern the difference I believe.
I also found it ironic that the WPaper dedicated a grand total of three very brief paragraphs to the 200,000 Singaporeans living overseas while reams of pages focused on the importance of importing more new immigrants and foreigners. And sadly, those 3 paras in Chapter 2 and 3 were nothing more than sweeping general statements with zero strategy on how the government plans to truly engage our overseas citizens and to draw them back to their homeland. And nothing was said about how it would retain those disllusioned Singaporeans who are thinking of leaving the country. Do our people matter so little? Are they water tossed put the window once they leave or decide to leave? Does our clinical government find it more rewarding to just keep importing “grateful” pro-PAP foreigners?
PM Lee has said they will learn from this episode on how the WPaper was presented and do better next time. I wonder what exactly he and his team will learn from this. I worry that with ill advice from shallow advisers like the PR lady who wrote to ST saying the government should have framed the issue better by not highlighting the 6.9m, our dear leaders will in future mask their real intentions for sensitive national proposals. Framing and omitting the truth to win a case is common, but it should not be done with national issues that concern the lives and future of the citizens.
As it is, PM Lee has been sending out confusing signals. In 2011, the signal was that he would listen to the people and slow and reduce the intake of foreigners. In 2013, he stuns us all with the White Paper and the 6.9 million target-projection-worst-case scenario. After the public uproar, he says it is not a population target but a number to work towards in planning and building the infrastructure. Excuse me but shouldn’t a visionary leader have a clear vision? First you underbuilt, now you will overbuild and you say you hope we don’t have to reach 6.9 mill? Really?
Please stop trying to frame and divert us from the heart of the issue. Try being honest and consistent for a change. And while we are at it, it’s really 7 million and not 6.9 mill isn’t it?
When a government has lost the trust and respect of the people, it should do all it can to regain it, in an open and honest way. Will this be one of the lessons that our government leaders have learnt? I am not hopeful going by all that has been said and done to date.