Thanks, Philip for your thoughtful analysis and also for collating all the past information which is very useful for us to put things in perspective.
From: phillip ang [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2013 1:21 PM
To: DPM TEO; INDERJIT
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Subject: 20130206 Population White Paper – planning or another guessing game?
Dear DPM Teo
I refer to the White Paper on population issues.
I am surprised that the White Paper on population “is for Singaporeans’ benefit”. I have yet to identify any proposals that will improve my life as well as my children’s.
The current plan for population increase appears to have been hatched years ago, very likely to be implemented and Singaporeans’ pleas to change course will unlikely be heard.
In a 2007 speech, ex-Minister Mah Bow Tan had mentioned the figure of 6.5 million. The current higher limit of 6.9 million appears to be an ‘insurance’ figure as the government has consistently overshot its projections the last 2 decades. By an extremely wide margin.
This issue must have already been debated behind closed doors. How else could other ministers be so certain within days of the release of the White Paper to put their entire weight behind this issue? Why did the government not allow Singaporeans any say when our population was much lower?
The fact is politicians and civil servants who had come up with such proposals do not have any inkling about our issues. When was the last time any politician took public transport regularly? Do PAP MPs and key executives of statutory boards ever take public transport or live in public housing in the first place? What about issues of crowded food centres and food courts, high tuition fees for child’s education, high medical costs etc.?
URA’s Concept Plan is anything but “a strategic land use plan that will guide Singapore’s development over the next 40 to 50 years”. In 1991, in order not to sacrifice comfortable living, there were even plans to house Singaporeans on some of our islands should the population exceed 4 million. Quality of life was then taken very seriously.
But the 1991 Concept Plan scored an ‘F’ – the population exploded and crossed 4 million in 2000, a mere 9 years later! The percentage of HDB dwellers which had been expected to decrease to 70 per cent remained almost unchanged at 86 per cent. Even after 2 decades, it has only reduced slightly.
Ten years later, Concept Plan 2001 tells Singaporeans that it “maps out our vision for the next 40 to 50 years. It is based on a population scenario of 5.5 million”.
At the rate of increase during the last few years, the 5.5 million mark looks set to be breached in less than 13 years! If it could be rated, it would be an F star.
This is some kind run-of-the-mill planning or maybe the ‘tikam tikam’ type. Why pay top dollars for scholars when any Tom, Dick or Harry could have produced way-off-the-mark results?
According to the URA, “the idea to develop the Jurong Lake District and Paya Lebar Central has its roots way back in 1991” – planning 2 decades ahead. http://www.singaporecitygallery.sg/media/worksheets/students/Classroom(Advanced)/Discussion%20Article%20-%20Planning%20for%20Sustainability.pdf
Presently, Minister Khaw wants to build 200,000 residential units, the equivalent of about 4 HDB estates, within 2 to 4 years! Minister Khaw also tells Singaporeans not to worry about this sort of ‘planning’? (don’t worry about record number of heavy vehicles and machinery in a small country, traffic jams, environmental and noise pollution, crowded public transportation etc. After completion of an initial 200,000 units, another 35,000 (or maybe more?) annually until 2030!) This can only be quality of living redefined. We are deeply worried.
From its track record, can any Singaporean be expected to trust the government blindly, again? Is it not likely that Concept Plan 2021 will push for an even higher population figure?
Just one example of public transport – it has become very crowded on weekends. Seats have also been removed from a number of cabins and there is actually a weekend rush hour or sorts (maids’ rest day), leaving only standing room. It already feels like being in a foreign land without any further increase in their numbers. Does SMRT have plans to remove more seats to accommodate a population increase?
Does SMRT expect my mother and other senior citizens to sit on the cabin floor or what?
And please do not maintain this ‘good’ quality of living.
Please do not trivialise individual issues as collectively, they do add up.
Record low TFR, structural unemployment, new citizens giving up citizenship, PRs leaving Singapore in droves etc all these are directly related to a flawed population policy. These have not been adequately addressed. Although it may take years to resolve them and the government should not rush headlong into compounding current issues.
MP Inderjit Singh appears to be the only rational PAP voice in Parliament calling for a delay in population growth for 5 years. (thank you Mr Singh) Singapore has been on an unsustainable growth trajectory for 3 decades and taking a few years to iron out issues is a necessity. GDP cannot grow forever.
Growth did not bring about attendant benefits for the majority of Singaporeans but has worsened our quality of life. For our sacrifices which cannot be easily quantified like our GDP, the government has yet to deliver a good/high quality of life. We have a Swiss cost living but its standard one can only imagine.
All said, the government should not expect us to trust it can deliver restaurant food when it has yet to provide hawker food.
An upset Singaporean