Thursday, 14 February 2013

Afterthoughts Of The White Paper on Population

Update: The White Paper & The Singaporean Core


Apparently, Mr Lee is still not getting it that it wasn’t how the White Paper was presented but rather the context and the content of the White Paper which are rejected by many.

As a matter of fact, many academics and citizens have dismissed the White Paper as a shoddy piece of work crudely put together by a bunch of kindergarden pupils, befitting to end up in the toilet bowl, and flushed, of course.

On a side note, Mr Lee’s speech was widely reported in the local media with emphasis on words like “can do better next time” and “Mr Lee apologised”, i.e. “sorry”. 
Deja vu, anyone?

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Interjit Singh: Let’s give PM the support to work on White Paper plans

So I think we achieved a lot at this debate on the white paper:

1. The motion got amended and took out the words “population policy” and added a whole set of things which focused on core Singaporeans and on the plans to improve Singapore and lives of Singaporeans,
2. The government listened and decided to amend the 6.9m number,
3. The government agreed to take the views of many MPs and Singaporeans who contributed to the debate.
I am glad the government showed flexibility this time round. I know the prime minister will deliver and I am fully behind him on this. I want to thank the Prime Minister for showing this flexibility and we should all give him the full support so that he can work on the plans with his team.

So I see the white paper now as a working paper for the government to keep improving it based on the suggestions we have given and based on what the government will hear during the ongoing national conversation. I felt that many of the things I asked for in my speech did get through to the government and let’s hope the actions which will follow will also reflect this openness the government has demonstrated during the debate. I am confident this will happen.

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Family Secrets

This was what Inderjit Singh posted in his Facebook account:

Nothing really spectacular, just an honest man speaking his honest mind. So why is he so squeamish about his critical vote on the Population White Paper? He also wrote that, "I also did not agree with the 6.9m, and especially the additional 500K to 800K new PRs and citizens." Will the real Inderjit Singh please stand up?

Hounded by the many who wanted to know if he should check in at the Institute of Mental Health, he remains opaque about revealing his schizophrenic tendencies on that voting day. He now admits he was in Parliament on Black Friday, but still did not want to say if he had intentionally left the chamber before the vote.

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It isn’t possible for ordinary Singaporeans to absorb and fully understand all the arguments and implications

After the Straits Times’ Opinion Editor, Chua Mui Hoong, wrote on Sat (9 Feb) to ask Singaporeans to accept the Population White Paper “for what it’s trying to do” (‘ST Editor asks S’poreans to accept the White Paper‘), Straits Times’ Managing Editor, Han Fook Kwang, wrote on Sun (10 Feb) saying that Singaporeans must put their trust in the Government cause the Government’s solutions are in the best interest of Singapore.

Mr Han said, “Ultimately, they must put their trust in the Government, that it understands the issues and that its solutions are in the best interest of Singapore. If they don’t, the best-argued case will not wash.”

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ST Editor asks S’poreans to accept the White Paper

She attributed the public opposition to the White Paper to poor “public communication” or “political messaging”. She said, “It could have been framed better. Its arguments should have been set out more fully, over a longer time. And Singaporeans could have been given more of a chance to come to grips with the demographic challenge at hand.”

“So, all of that was a bit of a mistake. The Government could have, and should have, done better.”

She concluded her article by saying, “The PAP Government is like a geeky government, strong on the engineering of a product, but not so good on the marketing. PWP 1.0 is a beta version. But there will be upgrades and fixes.”

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Govt to study lessons from White Paper debate, says PM 

The government will study the lessons learnt from the White Paper debate to see how it can do better next time, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday.

But the public can also think over what has been debated in Parliament and understand what the government is trying to do, he added.

“It is a very emotional issue, understandably, it is an issue on which views are very strong, it is also a very complicated issue,” said Mr Lee.

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PM Lee, please make up your mind on the population figure

Last September, at a National Conversation event on TV organised by Channel NewsAsia, this was what PM Lee said about Singapore’s population:

It’s very hard to give a concrete figure, because the situation is evolving. We’re gradually increasing our land area, and if we rebuild our older towns, then we can accommodate more people.
Today our population is over 5 million. In the future, 6 million or so should not be a problem. Beyond that, we’ll have to think more carefully.
In other words, PM Lee is saying the 6 million figure is not a problem. However, for the population to grow beyond 6 million, he has to be cautious – “to think more carefully”, in his own words.

Then about four months later, right after the Punggol East by-election, he quickly pushed out a Population White Paper for Parliament to endorse. The White Paper said:

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White Paper Passed : Roadmap to an unwanted destination 

The anger among Singaporeans does not come from failure to understand what the White Paper aims to achieve but from an understanding of the negative outcomes we will get from what is proposed in the White Paper


  "Don't be so gung-ho about slower growth rate" - Minister Tan Chuan Jin

If you take your time to read the speeches by PAP MPs and ministers during the White Paper debate, you will find the one clear ideological belief that stands out is that we need faster economic growth to achieve a better quality of life for Singaporeans. The PAP believes we need to have this growth for the lives of Singaporeans to improve. For this reason, the proposal by the Workers' Party to freeze foreign workers at today's level, aim for slower growth of 1% and allow the economy and businesses to restructure, was attacked by PAP MPs.

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Comments on Mr Shanmugam’s comments on the Population White Paper

Mr Shanmugam claimed that 6.9 million is not a target but a possibility to plan for. But the Population White Paper wrote: “if we can achieve 2% to 3% productivity growth per year (which is an ambitious stretch target) and maintain overall workforce growth at 1% to 2%, we can get 3% to 5% GDP growth” [2]. As written, the 2% to 3% productivity growth is a target, not a possibility to plan for. The 1% to 2% workforce growth and hence the associated population growth cannot be some random possibility. It must be a distinctive possibility that is either being targeted or constrained as such by other factors.

Since the government insists that population growth and hence workforce growth are not being targeted, they must have been constrained by other factors. Since workforce growth + productivity growth = GDP growth, constrain to workforce growth must require constrains to both productivity growth and GDP growth. This means that besides productivity growth, GDP growth is also being targeted. The setting of targets to both productivity growth and GDP growth automatically constrains workforce growth and hence population growth. Thus, even if 6.9 million is not a target, it is the result of targets set to both productivity growth and GDP growth.

Mr Shanmugam also claimed that a responsible government will look 15, 20 years ahead so that we would not be caught by surprise as we were in the 2000s when there was an infrastructure crunch. But the government in the 2000s is also the government today. Is Mr Shanmugam saying that our government had been irresponsible in the 2000s as they were caught by surprise then?

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Singapore feels the squeeze of population drive 

The move to cram 30-per-cent more people onto the island in just 17 years is now being debated in Parliament, and has predictably stirred public anger.

According to its Population White Paper, the government intends to increase the number of permanent residents (PRs) annually by 30,000, and new citizenships by 15,000 to 25,000 a year.

By 2030, nearly half (45 per cent) the population will be made up of foreigners.

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Dismayed by White Paper, uncertain about future

Children watch as a plane leaves Changi Airport's Terminal 1. Will Singaporeans’ lives improve in the next decade and beyond, a young citizen wonders on the back of the White Paper on population that has stirred discontent and anxiety among the people (Photo: AFP / Roslan Rahman)

While speaking in favour of the recently published White Paper on Population, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean argued that the policies would prevent young Singaporeans from leaving Singapore for greener pastures in the future.

After what I feel is a pointless five-day debate – the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) was always going to be able to push the paper through given its majority presence in the House – the paper was passed on 9 February. It was approved by 77 Members of Parliament; 13 voted against it, and eight did not vote.

I could practically hear the cry of dismay from my circle of friends online.

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The first was during his speech which he made on the last day of the parliamentary debate. PM Lee, at one point, held back his emotions when trying to explain to Singaporeans how they are at the heart of government policies. It is a point which several other ministers tried to make during the week. And from the PM’s emotional explanation, one can tell that perhaps the government feels a certain sense of desperation that S’poreans must believe what it is saying. 

The second instance came today – 10 February – when he again apologized for a mistake his government has made. This time, for describing nursing as a “low skilled” occupation in the White Paper. He also promised the government will assess how it can do better to communicate future policy proposals. 

If you read between the lines, you see a prime minister under siege, really.

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A Singaporean Core? What Defines a Singaporean

About a week ago I was looking through the Population White Paper and was greatly perturbed by the missing definition of a “Singaporean core.”

Like many of us, I am concerned about a “diluted” Singaporean identity with the proposed influx of new migrants each year: according to the projected target, “Singaporeans” — which includes a substantial number of new citizens — only make up half the total population by 2030. 

As I was trying to tabulate the number of “true blue” Singaporeans, i.e. those who are born and raised in Singapore, I was stumped.

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Are we Singaporeans in this together? PM Lee get your facts right!

Many Singaporeans would be feeling despaired, disappointed and disillusioned after yesterday evening’s announcement that the population White Paper has been passed in parliament by majority vote. The high level of interest this Paper has generated in the past two weeks is almost unprecedented. Criticism, debate, suggestions have flowed on social media sites and blogs. In Parliament, many speeches were made to either support or decry the call to increase the Singapore population to 6.9 million by 2030.

Prior to the votes being taken, Lee Hsien Loong (LHL), as Prime Minister of this little red dot, made an impassioned speech to assure Singaporeans they are at the “at the heart of all (the PAP government) do”.

Trying to show solidarity with Singaporeans, he insisted, “we are all in this together” and used phrases like “we feel as one” and “share (Singaporeans’) sorrows”. He then sought to further assure Singaporeans that the citizens “are at the heart of all of our policies. You are the reason why my key men and I entered politics… and we want Singapore to do well so Singaporeans can do well”. After all that talk of solidarity and touchy-feely emotions, he concluded with saying he supports the amended motion.

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Singaporeans are asking of the PAP government: do you really know what you are doing?

In brief, the Paper was a shambles.

For a document as important as this, a roadmap for a nation no less, it is appalling to see how the government fumbled right from the get go to the eventual vote itself – with the most critical PAP MP, Inderjit Singh, effectively abstaining from the vote when he was absent from the House during the poll. [There were, according to news reports, 8 MPs who were absent during the vote.]

There are many lessons for the government (and the PAP) in this episode, and I am sure the party will conduct its own internal assessment.

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With so many objections to the population white paper, we have to ask ourselves, did those people who claimed to be your voice in parliament, truly represent your voice or did they represent the PAP voice in parliament?

With so many existing problems created by the existing PAP Govt, from the lack of building adequate public housing, resulting in prices soaring and eventually Singaporeans taking up a bigger debt ratio when foreigners sell the HDB flat and eventually cash out with their profits.

Take public transport, we need to use 1.1 billion of tax payers monies to buy buses, but then again you hear of the transport operators making huge profits.

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'PAP must get the small things right first'

Singaporeans are anxious, seeing how the government has been unable to deal with current problems the last few years, notably that of public transport, public housing, and an income divide. Although there are signs that it is getting a handle on things in these areas, the challenges going forward are quite different and Singaporeans are rightly concerned.

Having lived through the increase and then the squeeze (and not just in the physical sense) of a larger population the last few years, Singaporeans are naturally skeptical when the same government tells them “not to worry”. The daily experiences of each Singaporean tells him or her that life in Singapore has changed, and not necessarily for the better.

So, to put it simply, Singaporeans are asking of the PAP government: do you really know what you are doing?

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Dubious footnotes in the Population White Paper

It is deeply regrettable that the NPTD would go public with such a poorly-substantiated documented. Doing so only encourages speculation that the White Paper is little more than an attempt to create an illusion of robust support, by quoting evidence out of context.

Sadly, the lack of public support is still evident. Donald Low, a senior fellow at the LKY School of Public Policy and a former top civil servant, has criticised the white paper saying that there “wasn’t even a References section to show what research the writers of the paper had done, what social science theories they relied on, what competing theories/frameworks they looked at… There was also a surprising lack of rigorous comparison with other countries that have gone through, or are going through, a similar demographic transition.”

The poverty of intelligent thinking in Government policies makes us all the poorer.

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The Reform Party Calls For A Constitutional Amendment To Allow The Holding of A Referendum on the Population White Paper 

The Reform Party has already made known its opposition to the Population White Paper (read our rejection of the White Paper and our proposed alternative policies here). It is proof that the PAP has run out of ideas and has no clue about how to raise the living standards of Singaporeans. Worse still it illustrates how out of touch they are with public sentiment despite the large swing against them in the recent by-election that was held even before the White Paper was published.

The government tried to give the impression of conciliation by amending the motion before the vote on Friday. Singaporeans should not be deceived.  On current policies our population looks to be well above 6.9 million by 2030. The Reform Party considers that the people should be asked to vote on an issue of such national importance.  This is particularly the case since In the 2011 GE the PAP manifesto made no mention that the government was planning such a large increase in total population and in the number of new citizens.

While dissolving Parliament and holding fresh elections might be one way of obtaining a mandate, this is both impractical and unlikely to find favour with the government. One possible compromise might be to hold a referendum on the White Paper. However, given its unpopularity, the government is unlikely to want to do this either.

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99 Problems and 6.9mil ain't one

The omnipotent ruling party of Singapore plans to achieve a population of 6.9 million by 2030, in a landscape of growing discontent over the aging infrastructure, overcrowding, income disparity and good ol' xenophobia. In the similar style of some 80s-90s propaganda movement, they decide to call it "A Sustainable Population for a Dynamic Singapore".

It has drawn a lot of criticisms online, and as of writing, parliament is debating over this.

From the way I see it, I'd like to throw in my opinion into the fray of 'alternative' media. I'm also going to throw something called 'feedback loop', which is going to be the theme of how the White Paper and ongoing debate is useless.

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White paper – Its not about 6.9 million, it’s about hearts

Living in New York City, London, even Hong Kong, is a choice for the citizens of American, the UK and China. Singaporeans don’t have a choice about accepting a higher paced city life style either for work, education or retirement.  It therefore behooves policy makers to remember to balance the needs of city and country.

How do we create national identity, roots and a feeling of belonging even as we try to create a city that provide jobs, opportunity and a tax base to pay for a gentler, kinder country?

It’s a conundrum no city-state has tried to solve in the last 50 years and I do applaud the government for its efforts. But I don’t believe the problem can be solved by an algorithm that optimizes the proportion of old citizens, new citizens and migrant labour against train lines, public housing and recreational spaces.

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A bottom up business approach to the White Paper 

The white paper is a crude solution to our declining birth rate and aging population problems. Any first year university social science student can come up with such a simplistic solution – if your population is declining rapidly just bring in more immigrants.

Besides it is unnatural to make our core Singaporeans a minority in our own country. We don’t need multi-million dollar paid ministers to come up with such a solution. Furthermore the solutions outlined in the White Paper are not new as Singaporeans have experience it for the past few years and are very unhappy with it. Many Singaporeans are unhappy that the government has the audacity to ask us to endorse more of the same.

It appears what our people really want is a White paper to reduce the population back to pre-2005 level and yet address our declining population problems. At our current population of 5.3 million, we are already bursting at the seams . It makes no sense in debating whether 6.9 million or 5.9 million people is the ideal number as it appears top down, distant  and academic

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7 Days to "Say No to 6.9M"

I cried when I read PM Lee said, "Immigrants have been critical to Singapore's success and over the years, many have embraced Singapore's cause, and made important contributions to Singapore, being the fiercest defenders of Singapore and the most able propounders of our cause and pushing our story worldwide. Rajaratnam was one of them. That's how we become a shiny red dot." 

I cried not because he was able to stir my sense of nationalism for my country. I cried because I was offended by the insult he brought to our former ministers like S Rajaratnam. To compare Singapore's founding generation of leaders like Rajaratnam to the mass importation of foreigners now by PAP with open legs is an insult too much to bear.

He went on to say,"So we will watch the numbers. But the Singapore core is not just about the number, it's about the spirit, and when I talked about the spirit earlier and if the spirit is strong, we can manage, and I think it's critical to imbue the younger Singaporeans with the Singapore spirit. We will always put Singaporeans first and make sure that the benefits of population in our population policies flow to Singaporeans"

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Singapore: Breathing Space

Just try standing in between your HDB flats and ask yourself how would you feel if those flats were two or three times higher? If the flats had houses in the basements? Or try packing up a room full of people and they ask someone to fart. Can you imagine traumatic and discomforting the experience would be? 

When the heart pumps, blood circulates in and out. But the target of 6.9 million is blood pumping in, and in and not going out. The heart, veins will burst! Teo Chee Hean sounded very internationalist when he said in the speech: 

"We should continue to welcome immigrants who can contribute to Singapore, share our values and integrate into our society. Taking in younger immigrants will supplement the smaller cohorts of younger Singaporeans born since the 1980s, and balance the ageing of our citizen population. Taking in between 15,000 and 25,000 new citizens each year is about equivalent to having a stable and sustainable Singapore citizen core population with a total fertility rate of 2.1."

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Embracing the Elderly Worker

Like it or not, we're becoming a greying population.

With low fertility rates of 1.2, the ratio of young to elderly Singaporeans would decline in the decades to come. This has been highlighted as a critical problem in the much talked about White Paper on the Population, and a reason why we need to augment our population through immigration and to bolster our businesses through skilled foreign workers.

While we grapple with this thorny issue, I reflected upon my own situation. I'm going to be 43 this year. By 2030, I'll be 60 years old and categorised as an "active ager" (yes, I'm no spring chicken). I also looked around at people of my cohort (Generation X-ers) who are now 35 to 48 years of age.

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I want Govt to reveal real-time figures of new citizens and immigrants from now on 

As  expected, the White Paper On Immigration & Population  has been “Bulldozed” thru in 5 days !

Such an important issue and all it takes was 5 days discussion among 80plus “souls” ( hopefully )

Even buying a $100 dollar product has a 7 day “Cooling Period”.

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Population expansion 

THIS article may one day prove to have touched on one of the most important issues that will decide the kind of lives Singaporean families will live.

I am referring to the national debate on a Population White Paper that sets a 6.9 million people target for the Republic, making it the world’s third densest country by 2030.

Because it aims at expanding it by up to 30 per cent in just 17 years, the issue and its urgency, recently debated in Parliament, have predictably stirred public anger.

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For Pete’s sake, “Instant citizens” is not demeaning

I refer to the 6 Feb 2013 TR Emeritus posting “Instant citizens? I think not!” by Pete.

Pete may be genuinely mistaken in thinking that the phrase “instant citizens” is demeaning. It is not. It is an accurate portrayal of the current situation where in some cases, citizenship forms are completed before hand and handed over at the airport to the arriving foreign talent for his endorsement. You can’t get more instant than that. Foreign talents like Feng Tianwei are given citizenship in less than a year after stepping onto our shores. You can’t get more instant than that.

Perhaps to Pete, giving up his former citizenship requires much consideration, not an instant decision. Not so for many others running away from the oppression or poverty of Third World countries. For them, citizenship is never instant enough.

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Alternative 'Blue Paper' On SG Population
Voice Of The People @ Hong Lim Park
A Photo Documentary Of Hong Lim Protest
Large Turnout At Protest Against Population White Paper
The White Paper & The Singaporean Core
Afterthoughts Of The White Paper on Population
"Worst-case Scenario" Of A 6.9 Million Population
Parliament endorses Population White Paper
Planned Protest Against Population White Paper
Parliament Debates WP's Proposals
Parliament Debates Population White Paper
SG White Paper On Population
Our SG Population
Population and Immigrants