During a live TV debate yesterday evening (1 July), People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate Vivian Balakrishnan and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) candidate Dr Chee Soon Juan went head-to-head on a number of issues, including PAP’s goal of reaching 10 million population (‘GE2020 Debate: SDP’s Chee Soon Juan and PAP’s Vivian Balakrishnan argue on fiscal spending and 10 million population‘).
At the debate, Dr Chee highlighted the increase of foreigners on S-Pass and Employment Pass working in Singapore. “And over and above all this, Mr Heng Swee Keat then comes up to say, in an interview, toys with the idea of bringing our population up to 10 million,” Dr Chee noted.
He continued, “Singaporeans are deadly worried about this proposal. Will you categorically tell Singaporeans right now that your party has no intention of raising our population to 10 million by continuing to bring in foreigners—especially foreign PMETs—into Singapore to compete with our PMETs for jobs?”
Dr Balakrishnan then countered Dr Chee saying that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had issued a statement “advising people like you not to indulge in falsehoods”.
To that, Dr Chee interrupted and hinted that it was Mr Heng who mentioned about the idea of having 10 million population, adding that he would even cite the interview that he was referring to.
Dr Balakrishnan refuted his point, saying that it was a “cheap shot”. “Let me state for the record. We will never have 10 million. We won’t even have 6.9 million,” Dr Balakrishnan stressed.
“The Government doesn’t have a target for the population. What we want is a Singapore core that is demographically stable, able to reproduce ourselves, able to create opportunities and jobs for ourselves, and able to stay as a cohesive whole.”
“It is not a target, and it is certainly not 10 million, and you are raising a false straw man. That is a false statement. And we have said so and we will say so again,” he remarked.
Heng’s dialogue with NTU students
Dr Chee was probably referring to Mr Heng’s dialogue with NTU students last March when he mentioned Mr Heng “toying” with the idea of bringing Singapore’s population up to 10 million.
The event was reported on the Straits Times (ST) on 29 March 2019 (‘Heng Swee Keat on S’pore staying open: We don’t want a world where people build walls‘).
At the dialogue, Mr Heng said Singaporeans need to be open and understanding of foreigners so that they have the confidence to interact with people of all races, languages and cultures from around the world.
It’s true that Mr Heng did not exactly mention raising Singapore’s population to 10 million but according to the ST report, Mr Heng did say Singapore’s population density is not excessive and noted that other cities are a lot more crowded than Singapore.
“He cited former chief planner Liu Thai Ker, who said in 2014 that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long term,” ST reported.
In other words, Mr Heng did mention Liu Thai Ker’s name in the dialogue, whom everyone knows championed the Singapore government to plan for 10 million population.
What was Mr Heng thinking when he “cited” Liu at the dialogue? Did ST misquote Mr Heng?
Vivian promises no adjustment to water prices
And speaking of Dr Balakrishnan, in Aug 2015 just less than a month before the 2015 GE, he told Parliament that there was “no need for an adjustment (of water prices) at this point” given the state of technology and energy prices. But 2 years later during Budget 2017, the PAP government suddenly announced a 30% water price hike, citing the scarcity of water and the need to bring the importance of water to public attention.
Writing on WP’s blog, Mr Pritam Singh lamented (‘Checking the Government: Justifying the 30% Water Price Hike‘), “Did energy prices suddenly increase by 30%?… Rather than to provide an explanation, the Government changed tack, returning to the water scarcity mantra which only in 2015 the MEWR Minister framed as an energy security issue, contingent on the price of energy.”