On Tuesday (28 July), Mr Lee Hsien Yang (LHY), younger son of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (LKY), took to his Facebook to share an article published by The Straits Times (ST) in 2008, in which Mr LKY clearly voiced his reservations on having a population of 6.5 million for Singapore.
The article, titled “MM ‘not quite sold’ on idea of 6.5m for Singapore”, stated that Mr LKY projected that the ideal population size for Singapore is 5.5 million as it will be able to “preserve open spaces and sense of comfort”.
“MINISTER Mentor Lee Kuan Yew ‘has not quite been sold’ on the idea of a 6.5 million population size in Singapore. Instead, he projects for Singapore an optimum size of five to 5.5 million for Singapore,” the article read.
In 2007, the Government announced that it was planning to increase the country’s population to 6.5 million in 40 to 50 years down the road, which is an up from the current 4.5 million in 2008. This then sparked concerns about overcrowding, the article said.
It was reported in the ST article that Mr LKY said this while speaking at think-tank Institute of Policy Studies’ conference in 2008 which discussed what Singapore will look like in 2030. Some of the other issues spoken at the conference include “how the economy should evolve, cultural trends, and the Singapore identity”.
The article also highlighted that the moderator at the conference, Tommy Koh, asked if Singapore is guilty of overbuilding.
To this, Mr LKY said that Singapore should not follow the footsteps of Hong Kong where it is “just solid buildings, one blocking the sunlight of the other”.
“We are building on freehold and we are owners, we are sovereign. Therefore, my projection would be for somewhere around five to 5.5 million,” Mr LKY was quoted saying in the ST article.
It added, “Coupled with further reclamation, Singapore can then retain its space, the greenery, and ‘the sense of not being crammed, our parks, our connectors, our park connectors, birds, trees, water, canals into streams and so on’.”
Mr LKY also stressed then that having all the above-mentioned elements is how Singapore can be unique.
ST’s article also wrote:
‘What we have done with the Singapore River and the Kallang River from two sewers into recreational areas, we must do with every canal in Singapore. And it will be done within the next 10 years,’ he promised.
This, he added, does not go with ‘a terrific density of population’.
10 million population for Singapore
An issue that has been extensively reported during the recent GE2020 was the Government’s plan to increase the country’s population to 10 million.
In fact, during GE2020 Debate that was broadcasted live on TV early this month, Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) chief Dr Chee Soon Juan questioned about the Government’s plan to bring the country’s population to 10 million.
“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?”
As a reply, People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Vivian Balakrishnan pointed out that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had issued a statement “advising people like you not to indulge in falsehoods”.
On 1 July, the National Population and Telent Division (NPTD), Strategy Group in the PMO released a media statement explaining that the Government is not planning to increase the population to 10 million, reiterating that the statements that have been circulating online is not true.
“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.
POFMA office followed up with Correction Directions issued to The Online Citizen Asia, as well as the Facebook pages of Peoples Voice Political Party, SDP and Sin Rak Sin Party over “false statements of fact claiming that a statement made by Dr Cheong Koon Hean at the IPS-Nathan Lectures in 2018 suggested that” Singapore’s population would increase to 10 million by 2030.
However, it was subsequently reported that Hyflux CEO Olivia Lum had seemingly claim in the company’s townhall meeting that the PAP government had “given instructions” for her company to plan for 8 million population. No POFMA direction had been issued over this.