by Robin Chee Ming Feng (Dr)

I am writing in to highlight certain comments made by Minister Heng Swee Keat last week at NTU. I am not surprised that my comments were not published by the mainstream media but it’s pertinent that I write in to address certain serious concerns from the Minister’s speech as these are concerns shared by several members of the academic community I have spoken with.

The letter I wrote is reproduced below:

I refer to the comments made by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat at the ministerial dialogue at the Nanyang Technological University on Thursday (28/3/2019).

While it is heartening to note that the Minister encouraged Singaporeans to embrace diversity and to continue to upgrade themselves in an era of disruption, some of his comments may cause significant concerns among Singaporeans.

For instance, Minister Heng noted that Singapore’s population density is not excessive and that many other cities are a lot more crowded in terms of liveable space. This reasoning, unfortunately, would not convince many Singaporeans as it seems to suggest that the authorities are attempting to retain legitimacy in their policies through the process of comparative analysis. Thus as long as there are a few countries “worse” than Singapore in any arena, we should console ourselves that the situation isn’t that bad.

This reference could be enough to placate citizens of a young developing nation but would not hold water in a fully developed, economically prosperous nation where citizens expect more from their leaders. Besides, we have been told to expect a “Swiss standard of living” for many years so to now be told to be contented with being “better off” than a few nations is certainly not plausible.

More importantly, while Minister Heng conveniently highlighted Dr Liu’s comment that having a population of less than 10 million is simply not sustainable for Singapore, he has neglected to espouse how socially unsustainable it is to have a population of 10 million eg. the issue of comfort, integration and potential consequences to the environment. It seems that economic pragmatism will once again be prioritised ahead of more intangible concerns.

It is also worrying when Minister Heng appeared to base his conclusions that older Singaporeans may not be as receptive to a Prime Minister from a minority race from his “interactions with groups of people during the elections”. Many observers would note that personal experiences are hardly representative of the overall ground sentiments and it would have been better if Mr Heng could embellish his claims through statistically significant large scale studies on this issue.

Even if such large scale studies are not possible at this point in time, he could have supported his claims that the observations were made upon tabulating the experiences of several other ministers. To make a claim based solely on the unscientific observations by one individual is simply not acceptable for an individual selected to be the next Prime Minister of Singapore.

This is a letter written by a member of public and it does not represent the publication’s view on the matter.

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