Saturday, 9 February 2013

Parliament endorses Population White Paper

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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DPM's closing speech at parliament

Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Teo Chee Hean, gave the closing speech at the parliamentary debate on the Population White Paper Friday.

Below is his speech:

It has been an intense five days. Seldom have I seen Members on both sides of the house rise and speak with so much passion. Over the past five days, we have heard more than 70 Members share their views, concerns, and suggestions on this important issue of population. This is the longest debate we have had on any single Motion in Parliament in my memory. And so it should be. It reflects the importance that Members have placed on the far-reaching implications of our population challenge, as well as Members' concerns about resolving the current issues facing Singaporeans today.

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Singapore Passes Population Plan After Heated Debate

In 17 years’ time, this tiny but bustling Southeast Asian city-state could see its population swell by nearly a third to 6.9 million people. But should it? And how would the island nation deal with it?

These pressing questions have stirred raucous debate in Singapore this week, as laymen and lawmakers voiced concerns with a new government platform that keeps immigration as a key tool for tackling the country’s low birthrates and aging population. But they failed to sway the People’s Action Party government, which adopted the plans on Friday after a decisive parliamentary vote.

The result was never in doubt, with the PAP holding 80 out of 87 seats in Parliament. But analysts say it could antagonize an electorate that has steadily deserted the ruling party in recent years amid rising socioeconomic tensions, adding pressure on the PAP to do more to assuage citizens’ grievances.

WP's statement on White Paper on Population 

The Workers' Party has release a press statement on the parliament debate on the White Paper on Population.

Below is the statement:

WP votes for a sustainable Singapore - For the last one week, Parliament debated the motion to endorse the Government's White Paper on Population entitled "A Sustainable Population for a Dynamic Singapore".

The Workers' Party MPs voted against the Amended Motion in Parliament today.
Although the Amended Motion captures some of the Workers' Party concerns about the White Paper, fundamentally the White Paper still forms the basis of the roadmap forward to 2030, which the House was asked to endorse.

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More NMPs reject population white paper

Singapore’s Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) Janice Koh, Eugene Tan and Laurence Lien all lent their voices in opposition to the population white paper over two days of Parliament that concluded on Friday.

[Parliament endorse motion on White Paper by 77 votes to 13]

Koh weighed in on the country’s declining Total Fertility Rate (TFR), contrasting the “women-friendly and family-friendly social policies and labour market practices” adopted by Nordic nations to Singapore’s falling workforce participation rates for women aged 30 and over.

“If this projection of 6.9 million people by 2030 is really a ‘worst-case scenario’... by the same argument, shouldn’t we explore all means and ways to raise the TFR of our resident population under worst-case scenario circumstances?” she said.

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Some PAP MPs had difficulty endorsing original population motion: Denise Phua 

A few People's Action Party MPs would have found it difficult to support the motion on the Population White Paper if it had not been amended, said Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) on Friday.

The amended motion acknowledges that 6.9 million population is not a target of the Government, it also places priortiy on a Singaporean core, with a calibrated pace of immigration to prevent the citizen population from shrinking, and is committed to resolving the current infrastructure problems.

The amended motion also leaves room for the White Paper to be improved though mid-term reviews.

Population White Paper bulldozed through Parliament by 77 votes to 13

Not surprisingly, after five short days of “intense” debate, the PAP-dominated Parliament passed an amended motion to endorse the Population White Paper yesterday (8 Feb). The White Paper was drafted by the National Population And Talent Division (NPTD) under the Prime Minister’s Office. PAP has relied on its overwhelming majority in Parliament to bulldoze the White Paper through Parliament.

PAP MP Liang Eng Hwa had proposed amendments to the original motion. His proposed amendments, which were passed, include explicitly stating that the White Paper “supports maintaining a strong Singaporean core by encouraging more Singaporeans to get married and have children, supplemented by a calibrated pace of immigration to prevent the citizen population from shrinking”. However the term “Singaporean core” was not defined in the motion.

WP MP Low Thia Khiang specifically called for division on the amended motion. That is, the vote of each Member is collected and tabulated through an electronic voting system.

The eventual votes in Parliament were:
Number of ‘Ayes’ – 77
Number of ‘Nays’ – 13
Number of Abstentions – 1 (NMP Eugene Tan)

The 13 MPs who refused to endorse the Population White Paper are:

  • 7 elected opposition MPs: Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim, Pritam Singh, Chen Show Mao, Muhamad Faisal, Png Eng Huat, Lee Li Lian.
  • 3 opposition NCMPs: Yee Jenn Jong, Gerald Giam, Lina Chiam.
  • 3 NMPs: Faizah Jamal, Janice Koh, Laurence Lien.
All the PAP MPs present endorsed the White Paper. MP Interjit Singh who spoke out against the White Paper was not present at the voting.

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Lift the Whip

It’s been a few days into the parliamentary debate over the controversial Population White Paper and we have heard how PAP Members of Parliament (MPs) presented their views, ranging from the strong objection of Inderjit Singh to the near total endorsement of Mah Bow Tan, not to mention the usual scaremongering (businesses fold up, Singaporeans lose jobs, no foreign workers to build flats etc etc) of Amy Khor, Jessica Tan and Khaw Boon Wan.

While we give credit to MPs like Inderjit Singh and Seah Kian Peng who dissented from the party position and were critical of the White Paper, many netizens also rightly pointed out that what matters ultimately is how the MPs vote. 

Speaking against such a contentious policy as the Population White Paper and then voting for it seriously undermine a PAP MP’s credibility. How is the MP going to answer to his constituents for negating ground sentiments and voting along his party line instead?

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Sparks fly during debate on foreign labour 

After a brief hiatus, the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the Workers’ Party (WP) resumed verbal jousting over the latter’s alternative proposal to cap the number of foreign workers at current levels until 2020.

The debate between the PAP and the WP got heated at times — with PAP Member of Parliament Lim Wee Kiak apologising for his “insensitive” comments in asking WP chief Low Thia Khiang to turn up his hearing aid — as Mr Low defended the Opposition party’s proposal and its position on foreign workers, under heavy scrutiny by PAP MPs including Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office S Iswaran and Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.

Describing the WP’s proposal as “drastic and inherently very risky”, Mr Iswaran said it would have a “chilling effect” on the Republic’s economy.

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Finally, a PAP MP making a considered and sane proposal

I am really glad to read the speech that PAP MP Inderjit Singh gave in Parliament about the Population White Paper.

Mr Singh, since I can’t find your speech anywhere else outside a walled garden, I hope you don’t mind me including it here as posted to your Facebook page.

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Singhing a different tune 

Since most of us are not privy to the behind-the-scenes activity of the ruling party, we therefore cannot say whether Mr Inderjit Singh's speech AGAINST the White Paper for Population is just another act or was it really a ruling party member voicing his real views.

From the outside looking in, it looks as if Mr Singh's speech indicates one or more of the following:
1) tired of his own party's bullshit
2) looking to be an opposition candidate in GE 2016
3) the ruling party is divided
4) the ruling party needed an escape route considering all the "noise" and he was the escape valve

I really don't know what the real truth is. And since that is the case, I will take it for face value and that he is indeed speaking his own mind, not more ruling party acting. It also has to be noted that even though he spoke AGAINST the White Paper, unless the party whip is "lifted", he will still have to vote FOR the White Paper.

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Chiam See Tong and Inderjit Singh’s Takes on the Population White Paper
Mr Chiam See Tong, Secretary-General of the Singapore People's Party

My former Member of Parliament, Mr Chiam See Tong (詹时中) has came of his medical leave to broadcast the YouTube video below, giving his take on the Population White Paper. Mr Chiam may no longer be in parliament, but his heart and soul is always with Singaporeans, putting our interests first before anything else.
Mr Inderjit Singh, Ang Mo Kio GRC MP

I find it frustrating that the ruling government is still so persistent on defending the 2030 6.9 million population white paper when there are so many angry voices from all directions.

Mind you, it is not just ordinary Singaporeans, academics, bloggers, opposition MPs and politicians who are giving their thumbs down to the population white paper, even a PAP MP, Mr Inderjit Singh from the PM’s own Ang Mo Kio GRC oppose it too.

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WP MP Chen Show Mao: A red letter day 

ESM Goh Chok Tong and former Minister Mah Bow Tan spoke near the end of parliament sitting today. I raised my hand after each of their speeches to ask questions but in each case was not called upon by the Dy Speaker. Well, I hope they read this.

ESM took pains to point out that 6.9 million is a planning parameter, not a target. I wonder if he remembers that the last time a population planning parameter was told to Singaporeans, it was overshot and superseded, and in double quick time, the effect of which still ails Singapore today.

Former Minister Mah said that the Workers' Party's proposal is tantamount to closing Singapore off to the world. Come again? 28% of our country's total population are foreigners who currently live here (not including PRs). This is one of the highest rates in the world. Under the Workers' Party proposal, the aggregate number of foreigners (not including PRs) in our total labour force will be held at the current level, even as individuals come and go. The aggregate number will be increased to top up our labour force in the event the growth in our resident labour force falls short of 1% per annum. How does this close us off to the world?

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The Singapore population white paper clown show 

The priestess of Ise has no interest in publishing a review of the Singapore government's white paper on population. There is no proper white paper to speak of, none constructed with care and intellectual honesty to deserve a point by point response.

Just look at this image of an empty train station on page 53, or any of the strangely depopulated urban landscapes, or any of the skylines of Singapore that take up half of every page in the white paper. This is how its authors think they can sell a policy that will change Singapore completely, forever.

We do not exaggerate. Donald Low of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy  has this to say:
There was very little scholarship and academic rigour in the report. 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. If this was a term paper, I would have no qualms failing it - whether or not I agree with it.
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Population White Paper : An Epic Failure at all levels 

One academic pointed out that the entire white paper has no reference section to show the research the paper is based on - even a student thesis needs to substantiate its findings with existing research.  I will tell you what this is the case later on. The paper set the wrong priorities putting GDP growth not the well being of Singaporeans as key  targets.

It then goes on to use  our low TFR and support ratios for the old as justifications for importing foreigners and converting many to PRs and citizens. The white paper has left out our non-resident workforce to show that our OASR (Old age support ratiio is falling. But this is not true once we include the current level of the non-resident workforce - the OASR goes up to 9.8 way above the average among OECD countries.

We have already expanded our population so much in the last 10 years with new citizens and the expansion of the non-resident workforce. This expansion is far in excess (by 5-8 times) of what we can achieve if our TFR is maintained at the replacement level of 2.1 i,e. we have already overcompensated for our low fertility of the past....if TFR is the real reason we can just stop importing people for the next 10 years because we have already over-compensated for it.

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Three ‘I’s of the White Paper 

In this post, I talk about the three broad themes that have come to characterise the debates on the White Paper. I summarise them as the three ‘I’s: immigration, infrastructure, and identity. These three themes are intertwined.

Firstly, I argue that the topics of immigration and identity have close bearing on one another and have hence evoked a more emotional response Singaporean society in general. Secondly, I argue that the Land Use Plan put forward by the Ministry of National Development (MND) is an essential complement to the White Paper, and to reject the White Paper would be tantamount to rejecting a viable plan for infrastructural development.

Lastly, I will touch on the deficit of trust that has developed between the people and its leaders today.

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Exploring the White Paper debate 

While the White Paper debate is raging on in parliament, it seems like the issue of the White Paper has become a hot topic among Singaporeans as well. The White Paper was announced by the government just last week shortly after the Pungol East by-election results were revealed. One of the main points of the White Paper on Population is that it is targeting to expand the current 5.3 million (3.29m citizens, 0.53m PRs and 1.49m foreigner) to 6.9 million by 2030. The White Paper suggests that by 2030, half of the population in Singapore will be comprised of foreigners. 

Strong objection to the White Paper - Judging from a recent poll we conducted on our Facebook page asking for feedback regarding the White Paper, almost all of our readers expressed strong objections to the measures proposed by the White Paper. The Facebook poll has since garnered 42 comments so far.

Many of our readers also expressed their worries over how the White Paper will negatively affect the future generations of Singaporeans. Isma Iskandar, whose comment on the poll has attracted 11 likes so far states “I wonder how my future generation are going to cope in terms of living and career…it’s worrying for me.” Many of our other readers also echoed similar views and concerns over stiffer competition in the job market and in schools are some of the main reasons why Singaporeans seem to be so dead set against more foreigners being allowed into our country.

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A Solution that requires More Solutions, is Disillusion 

While I’ve been following the political projections with regards to shaping this island, for the decisions & bills to be passed shall determine how the building & built-up industry will morph, the recent initiative to increase population numbers come to me as a saddened news.

Its quite a given to guess the intent & objectives to be achieved from the numbers, but what’s more worrying is for them to be blind to the infrastructural & operational issues found to be greatly lacking.

While the relevant ministries & agencies are ramping up the supply for public housing that have fallen short of demand by a mile, the nature of the industry is such where developments will take approximately 5yrs to complete. Needless to say, the pace at which it is taking place is yet to adequately meet growing needs within the next 5yrs.  And because the core practice is BTO (built to order), demand inevitably will always exceed supply.

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White Paper…Ooo very scary

When I saw the 6.9 million figure on local media, the first thing that struck my mind is some old marketing technique of using .90 to price any value giving one the illusion that the White Paper projects to 6.9 million when the actual figure the PAP government is aiming for is 7 million. It’s not 6, but 7, SEVEN million. That adds an additional 1.7, or if I too use the marketing technique of rounding up, it’s adding 2 million or 2/5 of the current population, entirely via importing labor. 

7 million-population target - Do not be mistaken. The figure of 7 million is a target despite some minister claiming that it is just ‘worse-case scenario’ planning. Do you think the government will actually over build houses and facilities and risk over-supply that will push Singapore into deflation? That contradicts the PAP policy of ‘ensure gradual increase in house prices to build up every citizen’s asset value.’

What is not that obvious to me is the government’s insistent that we need a younger workforce to support the increasing group of retiring work force. Singapore does not have a pension system, unlike many other countries. The amount spent on medical care is by far one of the least per capita in comparison with other developed economies. That suggested there is more room for the government to allocate their resources in. In case someone is to argue that I am just being wasteful, aren’t the nation’s reserve always ‘prudently’ invested via GIC and Temasek? Is too careful not as bad as too wasteful?

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I have been busy lately but had a strong itch to write on PAP's glaring 6.9 million figure. And it doesn't make it better with WP proposing the 5.9 million either. Singapore is a small country and growing bigger will metaphorically and maybe literally 'sink' us. If there is any country where anyone wants to meet any nationality in the atlas, do come to Singapore as we are opening our gates to anyone that is willing to be Singaporean and help boost the economy. Selamat Datang! 

You turn left, right, bottom, or top, you will see a human being. As you take the public transport, don’t be mistaken that you are sitting beside a pinoy although they looked like Malay. Where I am staying, I have counted there are 4 pinoys staying at my block. I am not xenophobic, but I’m just perplexed that they are everyhwhere and the person sitting next to you may not be a Singaporean native, but an imported citizen. 

The White Paper is full of contradictions. As a Malay-Muslim, I was aghast in disbelief when the government proposed that there will 6.9 million people in 2030. Being a minority in this country I cannot help but feel threatened, insecure and helpless because I know the Malays are not producing enough and the government are importing ‘Malays’ from other regional countries. You mean there is no alternative measures to help Singaporeans?

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Population White Paper Debate: 3 missing questions

It has been just a week since the White Paper on Population was launched, and it has already sparked heated debate in Parliament, and amongst the public and business community.

We have seen an amendment put forward to focus on the Singaporean core, as well as an alternative proposal from the Workers’ Party that will slow down the population growth further. Meanwhile, the businesses are wringing their hands in despair. And there are two days of debate left to go.

While many issues have already been raised, to my mind, there needs to be an open discussion on  three other aspects of Singapore’s future.

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Is Population Growth a Ponzi Scheme? 

Bernie Madoff's recent Ponzi scheme has drifted out of the world’s headlines. However, there is another even more costly and widespread scheme — "Ponzi Demography" — that warrants everybody’s attention. 

While it may come in many guises, Ponzi demography is essentially a pyramid scheme that attempts to make more money for some by adding on more and more people through population growth.

While more visible in industrialized economies, particularly in Australia, Canada and the United States, Ponzi demography also operates in developing countries. The underlying strategy of Ponzi demography is to privatize the profits and socialize the costs incurred from increased population growth. 

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Debate on Population Reveals Singapore’s Varying Priorities

During the parliamentary debate on population held yesterday, Singapore’s Members of Parliament (MP) discussed their concerns regarding endorsing the White Paper on Population. The Paper, which was released last week, projects that Singapore’s population may rise to the 6.5 - 6.9 million bracket within the next 17 years. However, in the same swoop, the proportion of Singaporeans to the total number of inhabitants is set to fall from 62% to 55%, hence diluting the citizen core.

Concerned MPs raised questions of whether the quality of life for Singaporeans will be improved if this Paper is endorsed. They also raised the flag against eroding Singapore’s identity as a nation if only 55% of its population is made up of citizens 17 years down the road

Commenting on the debate, Ms. Christine Lim, General Manager of Singapore company formation specialist Rikvin, said, “This debate harkens back to growing criticism from citizens and business communities that Singapore has become an increasingly costly place to live in and do business and that something has to change. This is a delicate issue. On one hand, there is an urgency to have a population that naturally replenishes itself. On the other, there is a necessity to meet the needs of the business community as they adjust to the national economic restructuring goals.”

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The battle of the comparison tables 

Day four of the debate on the Population White Paper in Parliament was full of fiery exchanges, barbs and brickbats lobbed by both sides but there was also a battle taking place away from microphones and cameras.

It was a battle of comparison tables.

It started with Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang distributing a comparison table giving his party’s take of how the two sides differed in their approach to problems. For instance, on the low birth rate problem, the table said that the WP position was to use “institutional reforms to remove obstacles for young couples and set birth rates on path to recovery”. Meanwhile it painted the PAP position as “using monetary incentives to entice young couples to ahve more babies and hope birth rates will improve”.

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The population crisis: Stopping our brain drain and addressing our fertility rate 

In the past two or three decades, Singaporeans have become more socially mobile and more globalized. Many Singaporeans have decided to leave our shores, often permanently.

There have been many factors contributing to this steady brain drain in which many of our best and brightest leave every year to make a life elsewhere with little thought of returning.

Some have decided to emigrate to spare their children the painful stress of going through our education system, especially with the emphasis on rote learning, cramming the students’ schedule to the brim with assignments, projects, and extra-curricular activities, and forcing students to master two languages in a mind-numbingly competitive examination environment.

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Duelling on Day 4

There is some merit in NOT carpet bombing the news. I read ST’s coverage of Day 4 and got thoroughly confused about what’s happening. Stuff kept getting repeated. Quotes got repeated too. Seems no one person is looking over the whole coverage.

And those boring, boring headlines. Yesterday’s headline was about a “major’’ shift in planning infrastructure. Today’s ST headline was yet another “major’’ shift in the economy. I don’t think anything quite beats the headline for the first day of debate : that the White Paper was for “the benefit of Singaporeans’’.
Here’s where the smaller papers do much better – pick the relevant points and home in on them. But I suppose ST has to labour under the burden of being the newspaper of record (of sorts).

BT homed in on the G’s objections to a total foreign labour freeze advocated by the Worker’s Party while Today gave an excellent account of the PAP-versus-WP sword play. I could follow it, because each cut and thrust was well juxtaposed, with relevant backgrounding. I thought its insertion of PAP MP Lim Wee Kiak’s apology to WP’s Low Thia Kiang right at the top of the article was a stroke of genius: It reflected how tense and impassioned the debate had become for Dr Lim to tell Mr Low to “turn up his hearing aid’’. Ooh, what a cut! For which Dr Lim was good enough to apologise for

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The White Paper Eye-Popping Population

– Diary of A Singaporean Mind: Population White Paper : An Epic Failure at all levels
– I’m getting personal…: Singapore: Breathing Space
– Majulah!: Population White Paper : Simply Flawed.
– No country for the old
– Singapore 2B: What check? What Voters want, and what they actually get
– The Temple Of Thoughts 3: 99 Problems and 6.9mil ain’t one
– Five Stars And a Moon: Inderjit’s Salient Points
– Pam Petite: On Political Participation
– Singa Blogger Blogspot: WP Performance in White Paper Debate
– Singapore Armchair Critic: Lift the Whip
– REFLECTIONS ON CHANGE: Half-Hearted Baby Steps & Procreation Dilemma
– Cooler Insights: Embracing the Elderly Worker
– Bears Roam Free: If WP’s measure leads to tailspin, it means PAP been speeding
– Bertha Harian: Duelling on Day 4
– BLUTA-log: Going Beyond MP Inderjit Singh’s Ideas on Housing
– Under The Angsana Tree: “Worst-case Scenario” Of A 6.9 Million Population
– The Side Parting: The Workers’ Party: A Case of Misrepresentation
– Life is in the Small Things: 2030: Is It Still Home When You Don’t Recognise It?
– Oddznns: White paper – Its not about 6.9 million, it’s about hearts

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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