Monday, 25 February 2013

Alternative 'Blue Paper' On SG Population

Update 6 Mar 2013: Government responds to population paper by Workers' Party 

The Singapore government has issued its response to the Population Policy Paper released by the opposition Workers' Party on February 23.

It said if a realistic adjustment is applied to the Workers' Party's projections, the population would in fact go up by more than 200,000 and go beyond six million in 2030.

The WP's paper had sketched out a projected population of about 5.8 million by that time.

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WP's proposal on labour force participation is "hopeful but unrealistic": Dr Khor

Minister of State for Manpower Amy Khor has described the opposition Workers' Party's proposal to boost Singapore's labour force participation rate to 78.7 per cent by 2025 as "hopeful but unrealistic".

Speaking during the Budget Debate in Parliament on Tuesday, Dr Khor also explained why it would be challenging to push for a more progressive tax system.

The Workers' Party has said it's possible to grow the labour force participation rate by tapping on women and seniors. It said the rate for those aged between 15 to 69 years can go up to 78.7 per cent by 2025, compared to 72.2 per cent last year.

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The Workers' Party publishes its Population Policy Paper

The Population White Paper released by the Government recently is by far the most widely debated White Paper in Singapore politics — not only in Parliament, but also by the people of Singapore. This is understandably so as it has wide ranging implications for our nation’s future.

For five days, Parliament debated a Motion to endorse the White Paper. It was then passed following an amendment by an MP from the Government backbench.

After careful consideration of the proposal, the Workers’ Party (WP) opposed the White Paper and presented our alternative proposals in Parliament during the debate on the Motion.

Download the WP Population Policy Paper
Read the WP Population Policy Paper on Link
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WP issues own population paper

The Workers’ Party (WP) issued its population paper as a counter proposal to the government’s.

It criticised what it called the Population White Paper’s model of immigration-driven growth, and said the focus should instead be on raising the total fertility rate (TFR) and the resident labour force participation rate.

The 38-page document, titled “A Dynamic Population For A Sustainable Singapore”, fleshes out points made by the nine WP MPs during this month’s parliamentary debate on the White Paper, which they also voted against.

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Workers' Party publishes its Population Policy Paper

The Workers' Party has released its own paper on Population, just two weeks after Parliament endorsed a report charting the country's strategies to mitigate an ageing and shrinking population.

Titled 'A Dynamic Population for a Sustainable Singapore', the Workers' Party makes a case for a population projection of about 5.8 million by 2030. This is down from the 6.9 million in the government's White Paper.

The party aims to achieve that with an annual resident workforce growth of one per cent, a freeze to the foreign workforce growth rate and a projected GDP growth of between 1.5 and 2.5 per cent in the next decade. That is half a percentage point down from the government's GDP projections.

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Workers' Party releases population policy paper

A fortnight after its MPs offered alternatives to the Government's population policies in Parliament, the Workers' Party (WP) published a paper to give a fuller picture of its proposals and to stimulate more debate.

In the 38-page policy paper titled "A Dynamic Population for a Sustainable Singapore" released on Saturday, the opposition party elaborated on ideas such as freezing foreign worker growth while focusing on growing the resident labour force through tapping women and the elderly.

It also disagreed with the current strategy of topping up the low birth rate with immigrants, and emphasised its key goal of focusing on Singaporean families and coming up with measures and workplace environments to help citizens start families and procreate.

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Worker’s Party‘s population paper calls for higher citizen numbers

The opposition Worker’s Party (WP) has issued its population policy paper to the public to spur greater debate.

The government’s own white paper had been subject to debate at Parliament before an amended motion endorsing it passed the House.

Public anger over the paper, which projects that Singapore's population will grow to as much as 6.9 million in 2030 of which nearly half would be foreigner, drew several thousands to a protest on 16 February. 

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WP's Population Paper lands new blow to local SMEs: ASME 

The Association of Small and Medium Enterprises said it views the Workers' Party's Population Policy Paper as another blow to the local SME community.

The association said it is already facing a severe manpower crunch from the government's tightening of foreigners and now the Workers' Party is proposing an even more drastic deceleration.

The association said the construction industry, the F&B industry and others in the service sector simply cannot recruit enough Singaporeans.

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WP's proposal will hurt Singapore SMEs and workers: Grace Fu

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu has said that the government is studying the opposition Workers' Party's (WP) Population paper released on Saturday.

However, she added the key difference in the WP's paper and the government's paper, which has been endorsed in parliament, is in its approach.

Posting on her Facebook page, Ms Fu said the WP wants to freeze foreign workforce growth immediately which she said, will hurt Singapore small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and workers.

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Association of Small and Medium Enterprises hits out at Workers' Party population paper

The Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) deems the Workers' Party's 'A Dynamic Population for a Sustainable Singapore' as another blow to the local SME community.

Already facing a severe manpower crunch from the government's drastic tightening of foreigners, SMEs have painfully learned to accept that there will be no U-turn in the policy only to now hear that the Workers' Party proposes an even more drastic deceleration.

The main prongs of the proposal relied heavily on increasing the Labour Force Participation Rate to 78.7%. This is easier said than done as there is an element of mismatch between available jobs and workers' expectations.

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India unhappy with restrictions 

Singapore’s move to placate its locals is seen as a stumbling block to Indian workers who are looking for jobs in the republic.

INDIA may soon put a little international dimension into the growing rift over immigration between Singaporeans and their government.

It has complained that recent laws in Singapore – aimed at placating Singaporeans – were imposing restrictions on Indian professionals who intend to work in the city.

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Singaporeans do not benefit from CEC Agreements

INDIA may soon put a little international dimension into the growing rift over immigration between Singaporeans and their government.

It has complained that recent laws in Singapore – aimed at placating Singaporeans – were imposing restrictions on Indian professionals who intend to work in the city.

This, it says, is a violation of a bilateral free trade pact, the service portion of which grants special preferential treatment to Indian workers. The two countries signed the pact, called Comprehensive Econo­mic Partnership Agreement (CECA), in 2005.

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Govt decries CECA violation by Singapore

The country has imposed restrictions on inflow of foreign workers, which is going to affect Indians working there. Those of you planning to make it big in Singapore might be in for a setback. Singapore recently made certain changes to its Employment Pass Framework law to reduce inflow of foreign workers significantly to create more job opportunities for local professionals. The move is expected to impact even those Indians working there at present across various sectors.

The amendments, made on a proposal by its Ministry of Manpower, has armed the Singapore government to bring down the foreign share of the total workforce to around one-third while encouraging employers to invest in productivity in return for incentives in the form of tax breaks.

The move came as a recent Singapore's policy paper predicted that its population would grow by 30 per cent to 6.9 million by 2030, with immigrants making up nearly half that figure. The paper led to demonstrations in Singapore yesterday, a rare happening in the country, in protest against rise in immigrants.

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Economics myths in the great population debate

The debate on the Population White Paper has surfaced a number of myths and fallacies that seem to dominate the current discussion on Singapore's population policies. Economics provides us with a very useful set of analytical tools to clarify our thinking and to develop sensible, evidence-based policies. The purpose of this essay is to examine some of the ways these myths have inadvertently, or even subconsciously, been used to justify inaccurate thinking about policies. 

Myth #1: If we don't have sufficiently large injections of foreign labour, business costs will rise, some businesses will shut down or move out of Singapore, and Singaporean workers will be laid off.

Myth #2: Economic growth is a zero-sum game

Myth #3: Denser, larger populations create significant economic benefits for cities

Myth #4: Spending on healthcare and social services are costs which have to be financed by higher taxes, and are therefore a drain on the economy

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It’s time for a u-turn

The recent publication of the “population white paper” has generated much controversy, which even culminated in a rare mass protest in Hong Lim Park very recently involving thousands of Singaporeans. The public resentment against this policy has even reached international news platforms; as in this BBC article.

Simultaneously, I have come across accounts of certain Singaporeans, especially the youth, expressing a fear for the future, and a desire to leave the nation and pursue life abroad; such an account even featured in this important article on Yahoo News. I would not be surprised if these accounts actually reflect a more general sentiment.

I would like to respond to this entire issue, and present a perspective that is as yet unconsidered. I would like to suggest that most Singaporeans are right to feel that something is really wrong within this country, but that there is a general failure to pinpoint the exact nature of the problem, which could lead to a preference for certain counterproductive policies. Allow me to explore the economic issues and social issues separately; yet recognising that there are some deeper political questions at the heart of it all.

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We always get this stupid reason that companies cannot find workers, but why don’t companies pay more, and yes they will say they can’t survive as a business, than why not pack up and leave?

If you think you can do better, I suggest that you take your business to the cheap source of labor supply like Philippines, India, China, etc, try to setup a company there, squeeze the local’s salary there and see what happens to you and your company?

So cut the crap that Singaporeans don’t want to work, it’s because you are trying to get us to take dirt cheap wages and want to maximize your profit.

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Association of Small and Medium Enterprises hits out at Workers' Party population paper

It took issue especially with the WP's proposal to grow the resident workforce by 1 per cent a year by attracting more women and older Singaporeans back to the workforce and to freeze foreign worker numbers at the present level.

These were among the proposals in the WP's 38-page paper issued on Saturday, which summarises the key arguments made by its Members of Parliament during the Population White Paper debate earlier this month.

On raising resident labour force participation rate, the ASME said: "This is easier said than done as there is an element of mismatch between available jobs and workers' expectations."

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SBF says WP's Population Policy Paper detrimental to businesses

CEO of the Singapore Business Federation, Ho Meng Kit said the proposal in Workers' Party's Population Policy Paper to keep foreign workforce constant and to rely on a one per cent growth in resident workforce has broken no new ground.

Mr Ho said the federation's position remains that a freeze in the growth of foreign workforce will be detrimental to businesses.

He added that it is too risky to bet that improvement in Labour Force Participation Rate will offset the real need for more foreign workers in some domestically oriented sectors such as construction where demand is growing.

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The road to higher quality of life and a stronger nation

The Worker's Party released its Population Blue Paper yesterday proposing an alternative approach to PAP\s Population White Paper. Based on the WP's approach our population size will be in the region of 5.8M in 2030 from today's 5.3M.  You can read the Blue Paper here.

Parts of the proposal was attack by PAP ministers during the parliament debate:
"The Workers Party's proposal to stop taking in additional foreign workers until 2020 is drastic and very risky, Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran told Parliament on Thursday. 

It will speed up business closures and cause Singaporeans to lose their jobs. The economy could spiral downward, and result in a loss of the country's reputation in the business and investor community." -  BT Report on the Parliament Debate [Link] 

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ASME attack on WP confirms SMEs discriminate women and older workers 

The fact that the SMEs are jumping up and down against WP's suggestion to slow down foreigner intake, shows what we always knew. These SMEs have been deliberately hiring foreigners as cheap labour, never mind their lack of skills and/or competency, compared to the more skilled and competent local stay-at-home women or older workers.

Looks like the ASME, by attacking WP's paper, has unwittingly admitted that SMEs have been doing what they have been denying all along - discrimination against local workers, including women and older workers.

Good work WP. You have caused these hypocrites to panic and they've hit the wrong button, exposing their true selves.

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WP’s Population Paper is Singaporean-centric

The Workers’ Party has shared its population proposal, an alternative to the repugnant White Paper by the government. I had a read through and the main thing that struck me was that the “Blue Paper” focused on Singaporeans unlike the White Paper which was focused on foreigners and economic growth.

The WP’s Blue Paper was Singaporean-centric and gave many suggestions on how to improve the lives and living environment of Singaporeans while tackling the issue of population growth. It analysed various issues from how to improve the lives of children, young couples and the elderly to the environmental and social costs of an overly-dense population with an unhealthy proportion of  foreigners.

Whether the WP’s proposed ideas and scenarios are debatable is a separate issue.  The vital point is that the WP had shown they care about the people by placing Singaporeans at the heart of their proposals.  This, I liked very much. After all, a proposal of such national magnitude is meaningless if it doesn’t show empathy and concern for its citizens.

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PEE in Singapore

Population Expansion Exercise (PEE), that is! Not the peeing in HDB lifts that one hears about occasionally!

The Workers’ Party is a very careful opposition party. Not surprising, for obvious reasons! If the PAP wants 6.9 million by 2030, the WP wants a tad less. Both parties share the same concerns on the falling fertility rates in Singapore. Both talk about protecting the Singaporean core. All this can make one wonder if the WP is an extension of the PAP.

The difference between past opposition leaders and those from the WP stable is that the latter is making inroads into Parliament, thanks to a stumbling and fumbling PAP.

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Land scarce Singapore looks underground for space

Already one of the most densely populated countries in the world, tiny land scarce Singapore is projecting its population to swell by a third over the next two decades. To accommodate the influx, its planners envisage expanding upward, outward and downward.

State media is already championing the idea. In September, the Straits Times newspaper characterized underground living as the "next frontier" for Singapore. It said Singaporeans may one day "live, work and play below ground in vast, subterranean caverns that make today's underground malls look like home basements." The Building Construction Authority, which oversees a new agency responsible for surveying underground, said it could become reality by 2050.

The public's reaction has included derision and disbelief. "Why pull me down," said Patricia Bian-Hing, a retired 87-year-old businesswoman. "The only time I will go underground peacefully to live will be in my coffin."

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Will bustling Singapore survive the rat race?

As Singapore's population grows and our private personal space shrinks, coping with the maddening crowd becomes an ever-increasing emotional struggle.

By now, you may have watched the viral video of the mum in a Bedok carpark, who shot to internet infamy after the the incessant blaring of her car horn became a major public disturbance. Her act reeks not just of impatience and self-entitlement but also scant consideration for her neighbours or fellow drivers.

But before you judge her by her act of selfishness, how many times have you yourself been curt or even rude in your conduct towards your fellow man? 

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White and blue: A tale of two papers

In my previous posting entitled, “Seeing the Invisible Gorillas” on Institute of Policy Studies’, I critiqued the content and process of the Government’s White Paper on population. The Worker’s Party (WP) has now released its own paper on population. The WP should be commended for its efforts in putting to paper its thinking on this important issue.

There are four points about the WP’s so called ‘Blue Paper’ that stand out for me. 

Growing Political Sophistication - The first concerns the timing of its release. Budget Day is on Monday, Feb 25. The WP releases its paper on Saturday, Feb 23, so the Sunday papers are filled with reports of the Blue Paper. This is an obvious attempt to seize the initiative from the PAP by keeping the population issue front and centre and potentially force a reaction through the Budget statement. This shows the continuing sophistication of the WP’s political tactics. Even the titling of the paper as a ‘Blue paper’ reveals a deft hand at cheeky populist humour.

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As of now, the NSP, SDP and WP have released detailed alternative population policy proposals, with the WP just releasing theirs. It seems that when you put the various initiatives together, one then has a comprehensive alternative population policy. Here’s an overview:

Employment Policy:

  • Ensure that only high quality foreign professionals get to work here and are granted PR/SC status if they apply (SDP)
  • Require employer pay-out parity to prevent non-performance-based discrimination against Singaporeans (levies to be re-factored as taxes, which is more administratively hygienic) (SDP)
  • Regulatory initiatives to increase the labour force participation rate (WP)
The various one-liners really do not do the line items justice, some more so than others. Have a look at the papers and think of what a constructive alternative government can do for Singapore. Here are links to the papers by:

WP - A Dynamic Population For A Sustainable Singapore


NSP - Pausing the Growth in Foreign Workforce &Improving Fertility Rate

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Population Plan for Singapore: Pausing the growth in foreign workforce & improving fertility rate 

The PAP Government has proposed that the population of Singapore be increased to 6.9 million by 2030.

The National Solidarity Party is of the opinion that this increase is likely to further depress our fertility rate, creating a vicious cycle.

The Party proposes a focus on improving our fertility rate, and limiting the number of foreign workers if we want to continue growing our economy with minimal social problems.

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Why the SDP does not propose a target population

Various ministers have proffered various numbers for our population size: 4 million (Goh Chok Tong), 5 million (Lee Kuan Yew), 6.5 million (Mah Bow Tan) and 6.9 million (Lee Hsien Loong).

Are these numbers helpful? On what basis have they been determined? If they are a result of extensive Government study and planning - which one would expect them to be - then why do they vary so wildly?

In reality, these figures are arbitrary, based on assumptions rather than evidence. This is why the SDP refrains from proposing a target population number

Building A People: Sound Policies for A Secured Future (pdf) is available for download here

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SDP to launch alternative paper on population

In keeping with our objective to offer Singaporeans an alternative platform, the Singapore Democrats will present our policy paper on immigration and population for our country.

There has been intense anger on the part of Singaporeans since the launching of the Government White Paper, A Sustainable Population for a Dynamic Singapore, in which it was announced that the PAP would increase the population to 6.9 million by 2030.

Last week, however, the paper was amended to reflect that 6.9 million is not a target, but rather a planning parameter.

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White Paper propaganda on national TV forum programe

If you have been away for 2 months and have not kept up with what has happened in Singapore and you get back to watch this show on Channel 8 yesterday , you will get the impression that most people in Singapore support the White Paper.

The programme started by saying that the White Paper by the govt has created plenty of "interest" among Singaporeans. It does not say anything about the anger it has caused and not a word about the biggest protest in Singapore for several decades against the White Paper.

They showed a segment in which every man and woman they interviewed on the street before the show supported the White Paper. The panel consisted of members who generally supported the White Paper with some  concerns such as transport and housing that the govt has already admitted are problems.

Good old fashion propaganda

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Parliament endorses population White Paper by 77 votes to 13

After a week-long heated debate, Parliament voted on Friday to endorse the population White Paper by 77 votes to 13, with one abstention. 

Close to 6pm, Madam Speaker of Parliament Haalimah Yaacob called the House to a vote. 

WP leader Low Thia Kiang stunned those in attendance by standing up to ask the Speaker for a division to the motion, effectively meaning the House could not decide to pass the paper by a verbal vote. The House doors were then locked and the assembly took to an electronic vote. 

The nine Workers' Party MPs and NCMPs, Lina Chiam, along with Nominated Members of Parliament Janice Koh, Faizah Jamal and Laurence Lien all voted against the motion, while 77 voted in favour.

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Popping the Population myths

A story in Today caught my eye: It was about reactions to two commentaries on the Population White Paper which appeared on the Institute of Public Policy website over the past fortnight. The pity is that the article didn’t give me enough of what the commentators said, before zooming into the reactions. The article should have been excerpted for wider circulation, especially the one by four economists writing in their personal capacities on the four economic myths in the population debate.

I’ll try to sum up the myths here and my apologies to the four authors if I didn’t capture everything or over-simplified stuff.

Myth #1: If we don’t have sufficiently large injections of foreign labour, business costs will rise, some businesses will shut down or move out of Singapore, and Singaporean workers will be laid off.

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Population White Paper - January 2013

A Sustainable Population For A Dynamic Singapore

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Population and Immigrants
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