Friday, 15 February 2013

The White Paper & The Singaporean Core

Update 20 Feb 2013

Singapore population likely to hit 6.1 million by 2030: demography expert

According to an Austrian demography expert, Singapore will not face an unproductive population that is burdened from old age, as what is previously forecasted (AFP photo)

Singapore’s population in 2030 will not be as large and its older people as unproductive as what the government expects, an Austrian demography professor said Tuesday.

In a public lecture organised by the Institute of Policy Studies to some 140 attendees at RELC International Hotel, Professor Wolfgang Lutz estimated that Singapore’s population that year would be 6.1 million, bearing into account increases in the city-state’s population every 5 years since 1970. 

In a recent white paper, the government projected that there would be between 6.5 million to 6.9 million people in Singapore by 2030, sparking a backlash among Singaporeans, many of whom have complained that the large influx of immigrants in recent years have strained infrastructure and pushed up the cost of living.

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Relook population replacement rate, says expert 

LIKE many countries, Singapore may be looking at its population figures through outdated lenses, an Austrian expert on demography said yesterday. 

Professor Wolfgang Lutz is calling for nations to set aside 2.1 as the desired population replacement rate and look instead at their changing conditions. 

For instance, he calculates that Singapore's optimal fertility in the long run should be about 1.7.

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Singapore does not need a birth rate of 2.1: Population expert

With a current Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of 1.3, Singaporeans are not replacing ourselves.

This number is far from the Government's long term goal for Singapore to have a TFR of 2.1.

But according to renowned population expert Professor Wolfgang Lutz, our baby woes may be due to our outdated methods of looking at our population figures.

6.9m isn't a must-have for S'pore, says experts

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6.9 Million People in Singapore: How Will It Affect You?

Heard the news? By 2030, there might be 6.9 million people in Singapore. It’d be inhumane to grow bacteria under conditions that cramped, let alone people. But no use dodging facts: Our immigration policies remain looser than a hooker’s pants, and we’ll be packed shoulder-to-shoulder in the coming years. Here’s our (strictly unofficial) take on how it’s likely to affect you:

Look, a rare native Singaporean. That one guy, in the far back. 

What’s This About 6.9 Million Singaporeans?

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7 Million Population White Paper Widens Trust Deficit Between Populace and Government - Simon Loh

Yahoo! News Singapore, 15 Feb 2013
The SG Conversation was a bold, promising step in the right direction to reconnect government and people, rebuild trust, and take a more inclusive approach to leadership. But in one fell swoop, pushing ahead with the White Paper has undermined any credibility the SG Conversation will have going forward; findings of which have yet to emerge or be shared.

Surely, discussions around “What makes Singapore our HOME? What are your hopes for our shared future? How can we have more HEART as a nation?” – all quoted from the SG Conversation website - would have had much to add to and help shape the White Paper.

Furthermore, as the population plan per se can only form a part of an overall strategy to achieve the vision of Singaporeans, releasing it at this point would be putting the cart before the horse.
It is worse to have been asked for an opinion, only to have it ignored, than not to have been asked at all. Just on this basis alone, there was sufficient merit to have held back the White Paper: to do the right thing by the thousands of Singaporeans who have given time to this nation-wide feedback exercise. Full story

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SDP unveils six-point plan to control population 

The SDP launched our alternative policy entitled Building A People: Sound Policies For A Secure Future this evening to deal with the problems of immigration and population in Singapore. 

As the title suggests, the focus of the paper is on the people and how we can take care of their future and their needs.

Our policy is aimed at lowering the number of foreign workers currently in Singapore as well as tightening the entry of foreigners into the country in the near future thus creating an environment where Singaporeans can thrive and enjoy a high quality of life.

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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has walked back the Government's position on increasing Singapore's population to 6.9 million by 2030.

He announced in Parliament last week that the target was a "worst-case scenario" after a public furore ensued when the White Paper was released.

The Government will now stick to the 6 million target for 2020 and, thereafter, review the situation.

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Singapore’s Population Debate Grows Heated

Edwina Lin is 24-years-old and happily married, with a young son turning two this year. In Singapore, a prosperous city-state with a dismal birth rate, this is becoming increasingly rare.

But it’s not all smooth sailing. Lin, a financial planner, and her family are currently living with her parents- and brother-in-law; five adults and one child squeezed into a four-room flat in one of Singapore’s many public housing estates.

She and her husband, a travel sales agent, have applied to buy a five-room flat in a newer estate that will only be ready in 2016. Until then, there isn’t much to do but work, earn as much money as possible and save up. They‘re expecting to have to take out a 30-year mortgage to pay for their home.

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The Constitution of Singapore is the highest law in Singapore (same as all other democratic countries). It is the mother of all laws, i.e, the law of laws. That means, any laws, government regulations etc CANNOT contradict the Constitution, both in letter or in spirit. Any laws or regulations that contradict the constitution is deem illegal and must be removed. In essence, the Constitution is a legally binding contract between each and every citizens of Singapore.

The main purpose of the constitutions is to protect the individual rights of each citizen and the common rights of the citizens as a whole.

The Constitution of Singapore was adopted on August 9, 1965 when we became an independent democratic country after the separation with Malaysia. Due to the urgency of the situation then, the Constitution was drafted and approved rather hastily. As such, it is far from perfect. We can expect many careless omissions and ambiguities in it. However, the spirit of the Constitution is very clear.

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Undoing the population White Paper

Getty Images/Getty Images - SINGAPORE - FEBRUARY 13: People packed the Sentosa Express train on February 13, 2013 in Singapore. The government white paper revealed Singapore's population may increase 30% to over 6.9 million by 2030, with nearly half the population expected to be foreign-born. Many local residents are critising the plan concerned about the added strain on housing, transportation and healthcare and the diminishing identity of the Singaporean community. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

If there is a silver lining to the Population White Paper, it must be how it has stirred the voices of Singaporeans.  And as a citizen, I too, feel a duty to share my voice even if much has already been said. 

The White Paper was poorly timed, lacked breath, depth and honesty with its social impact analysis, and failed to recognize the zeitgeist. 

But the bigger doubts of Singaporeans are not over economics or population replenishment projections.  They are about the more fundamental issues of trust and respect. Singaporeans need to know that they have put people in government who will give them that.  For all its noble and right intentions, the White Paper failed to recognise this starting point.

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Understanding the Population White Paper

After traversing through many political chats and debates in cyberspace, it has become apparent that the  main source of knowledge about the population white paper is coming from a few main terms: '6.9 Million', 'Overcrowding', 'Foreign Workers' & 'WP must object!'.

So in this post, I'll quote the population white paper and analyse what they are actually saying, not what you are reading on forums or on the news.

Maybe we'll start by taking a look at this graphical representation of our current population from Page 47 of the Population White Paper.

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White Paper: The Voting Population

It's said politics is a game of numbers. Make no mistake, it's really the numbers that any party especially the PAP looks at, in formulating its policies and electoral plans.

The PAP has always been focused with statistics and data collection. Of course it's not possible for them to pander to each and every want of the people, they have to draw the line at some stage and decide which are they key areas they want to focus on. This has been long been economic growth and the GDP in particular.

Many Singaporeans and especially those online are up in arms with the White Paper on Population. But it will be foolish to expect that just because of some of the vocal opposition and unease on the ground, this 1 issue will mark the end or at least the beginning of the end of PAP rule. Some 'die hard' opposition members and the more vociferous bloggers online, are already rallying the ground for a 'watershed 2016 GE' which will see the PAP either lose power or come very close to it.

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The population must continue to grow…for now

In my earlier post, I stated why Singapore won’t be overcrowded even with a 6.9m population. But assuming we can stave off over-crowding, we should still ask why Singapore’s population has to grow in the first place. The short answers are: Blame the baby boomers, and blame our societal expectations.

Blame the Baby Boomers - Why “Blame the baby boomers”? Because Singapore is about to face one of its largest demographic changes in the next 2 decades – a doubling to tripling of elderly folks. (I will be one of these elderly as well.) The chart below shows that this “silver tsunami” is nearly upon us.

age profile

This large influx of elderly is unprecedented in our young nation’s life. The productive years of the baby boomers helped keep Singapore’s tax base low because we had many working adults paying for very few elderly and a shrinking base of children. In the future, much fewer working Singaporeans will be supporting the elderly and the young. I will not be surprised to see my children grow up with higher income taxes and GST being imposed on them.

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Afterthoughts – The White Paper on Population

After five days of intense debate, Parliament on Friday (08-Feb-2013) passed the amended motion to endorse the toilet White Paper on Population with 77 ayes and 13 nays. The results is of no surprise. The fact that the WP MPs voted against it demonstrates the difference between them and PAP backbenchers. Unlike PAP MPs who has no avenue to vote according to their conscience as long as the whip is not lifted, the PAP cannot take it for granted that Workers’ Party MPs will vote in favor of everything it wishes to pass.

A PAP MP can rave about being ‘his own man’ and it is nothing but a sham. They are simply their ‘own man’ apart from the will of the voters. The only avenue for an PAP MPs not to vote for a bill that they have spiritedly spoken against – so that they may not be looked upon as hypocrites and traitors to their constituents – is to be absent on the day when they are required to do so. That should be easy since Mah Bow Tan has been absent for almost half of the 12th Parliament’s sessions so far, and Mr Inderjit Singh was also absent during the vote on the White Paper.

If they have an issue taking leave, my suggestion to them is “keng mc”. ["Keng mc" is a term used by National Servicemen for malingering. It means to think (mis-pronounced as 'keng') of a way to fabricate symptoms of physical disorders or sickness such that the medical officer would issue the servicemen an official excuse from duty for a certain period of time. The PAP MPs who have served NS can do Janil Puthucheary a favor by advising him what this means.] 

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Fandi and the “Singaporean core"


“Fandi’s sons willing to switch nationalities if it can further their football career,” the New Paper reported on 12 February. When it came to National Service (NS), Fandi said, “[The] boys are old enough and mature enough and we respect them to make their own choices.”

When we posted this on the Facebook page, the overwhelming majority of commenters supported his sons’ potential move to South Africa to further their careers.

One wonders if the same support would have been forthcoming in earlier days, say the 1970s or 1980s, when support for our national football team was arguably more intense and more widespread.

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Walk the Talk!

It is a mockery of the Parliamentary process when a Member of Parliament fails to exercise her right to vote on issues that have come up for  consideration.  Whether or not there exists the anti-democratic “party whip”, as an elected MP, I expect the person to have the gumption and the conscience to vote according to what the person says.

Here is an extract (page 40) from the “Standing Orders of the Parliament of Singapore” (it’s a PDF) (the bold emphasis is mine): 

Collection of voices
62. – (1) When the Speaker or Chairman has put the question at the conclusion of a debate, he shall collect the voices of the “Ayes’’ and “Noes’’ and provided that no Member then claims a division, shall declare the result in accordance with the provisions of the law(13).

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White Paper Passed : Roadmap to an unwanted destination

I'm sure many of you had this experience when you visited friends and relatives  this week - a large group of people gather to talk about various issues, catch up on each others' lives and at some point someone brings up the population white paper and the torrent of negative views about it pours out and keep going until someone reminds everyone else that it is Chinese New Year and we shouldn't be so angry.

I haven't met anyone who is positive about the White Paper. Never in my life have I seen such an overwhelmingly negative reaction to a govt proposal. Every single opposition MP in parliament voted against it and all NMPs present during voting, except Eugene Tan who abstained, voted against it. 

But he urged the public to not just understand the details of the White Paper but also the government’s aim in putting it out, which is “to help Singaporeans have a better life for the future in the best way possible"

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Population White Paper 2013 — The Real Objectives

Population White Paper 2013 — A Sustainable Population For A Dynamic Singapore was released on 29 January.  It was followed by Land Use Plan To Support Singapore's Future Population — A High Quality Living Environment For All Singaporeans on 31 January.  Both were debated in Parliament from 4 February to 8 February, and endorsed by Parliament in a 77-13-1 vote.

Inasmuch as Population White Paper 2013 is, as Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said, the population road map to address the country's population challenge, it is surprising that the Government gave the Opposition and Nominated Members of Parliament less than a week to digest and debate the important issues therein.

Perhaps, the Government believed that the Opposition MPs had already more or less reached a position on this matter.

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How close to the core?

Have you ever seen a picture of Fandi Ahmad’s five children? They are pictured in TNP today and they are so beautiful, a product of a cosmopolitan couple, a Singapore son and a South African model. Go buy TNP.

I think there will be more such good looking people in Singapore, with the rise of mixed marriages. I wonder how long though these children with one parent with a foot in another country will stay. I say this because the two oldest boys, at just 13 and 15, are already calculating their chances about making it big on the soccer stage.

"We are born in Singapore and we will definitely consider playing for Singapore, but we will have to decide what is the best decision for us to move as far as we can in our football career.’’ Such heavy words from a 13 year old!

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Stop Trying to Frame the White Paper, We Can See the Truth

It is becoming irksome hearing and reading the government and the Straits Times telling us that we have all missed the woods for the trees by focusing on the 6.9 million population.

Since the debate started over the Population White Paper, the PAP cohort and some of the MSM have come out strongly to defend it and to frame the issue.  They have in unison told us that the critics have missed how wonderful the proposals really are in the White Paper and how we have been wrong to focus on the 6.9 million target (which they have since back-pedalled and referred to as worst-case scenario).  To be fair, I reread the White Paper again and I can double confirm that I, like the rest of the irate Singaporeans, did not miss the woods. In fact, we all did the right thing to zoom in on the elephant among the trees.

Much of the paper focused on improving infrastructure and the generalities of having a dynamic population and economy, all of which are things that any good government should work on without having to put forth a Wpaper.  What then was really new and vital? The proposed population projections and numbers of course!  It is a plan that will further reduce our Singapore Core to less than half of the total population by 2030 and which will add to our worries of overcrowding and daily stress. Which true blue Singaporean wouldn’t be shaken by this?

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6.9m? Don't Worry Be Happy!

I wasn't going to talk about this but since the whole world (yes whole world) and not just Singapore is talking about it, I think I need to put in my 2 cents worth too. Just to be "in" with the crowd, you know.

Anyway, Singaporean and even foreign born converted Singaporean are crying father crying mother over the projected population target of 6.9m by 2030. Everybody is super worried and pissed off about this humongous increase in population. "Where we going to stay?" They cried.  "Are we going to have to employ people pusher at our train stations to get the people into the trains?" Another group screamed. "And how are we going to get jobs?"

Me? I think our people have too little faith in our gahmen. You think they stupid is it? Our gahmen you know is the highest paid gahmen in the world.  Therefore must be smart otherwise they won't pay themselves so much. They have the greatest foresight - like how confident they were of keeping Punggol East in the latest By-Election. Of course we cannot blame them if they make a little "mis-calculation" here and there. Like telling people to "Stop at Two" and now telling us we don't have enough people to fill jobs. They are human after all and human are not perfect.

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Inderjit Singh and his Political Dilemma!

INDERJIT SINGH..crushed between the devil and the deep blue sea!!

A 'hero' in the making is Inderjit Singh..with his fiery passionate speech on the White Paper and also ticked Goh Chok Tong (GCT) on his failed PM-ship to suggest to bring S'pore to the Swiss Standard of living...What has become of S'pore NOW !! It is elitist PAP living!!!

I was in parliament that day to witness his 'heroic' speech. But then the outcome was such a disappointment. Apart from all that...he also has an axe to grind with the govt to withhold more foreigner workers in our country. It is going to affect his own business (owning maybe a couple of SME business)

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What the Debate on the White Paper Has Taught Us: We Also Have Solutions

By now, it should be obvious to you that what the debate over the white paper has taught us is this – Singaporeans have the answers and we have the solutions.

After all the government’s fear mongering that we need a strong government with majority control because only they have the answers and that only they know what needs to be done, by now, we should realise that:

First, the government does not know everything that needs to be done. In fact, for the white paper, they had relied on old solutions to fix new problems, and

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The myth of the reluctant Singaporean worker

Every time the government proposes slowing down the rate of intake of foreign labour so that the economy and society can adjust, we have businesses, notably members of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), claiming that any such move would hurt them immeasurably.

Just yesterday, the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) urged the government to re-assess curbs on the inflow of foreign workers, failing which they will face what they term “dire consequences“.

They even bombastically claimed that Singapore risked losing its reputation of having a vibrant food and beverage (F&B) sector, and that the F&B sector is facing a dire situation because many Singaporeans tend to shun its jobs, leaving the industry with little choice but to rely on foreign labour.

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Who is a Singaporean?

"We are Singaporean because of the common responsibility that we hold towards one another, because of the common hopes and dreams that we share with one another, because we are stakeholders and the protectors of the future of our country. These are what unite us and define us. We feel proud to be Singaporeans because of what Singapore is and what Singapore stands for. No foreigner can share in this pride. We feel sorrow when misfortune befalls one of our fellow Singaporeans, and display a generosity of spirit to our fellow Singaporeans.

We defend Singapore and Singaporeans, because we are the stakeholders of our country – and our families, our homes and our futures are here. No foreigner can feel the same way. We may help to ensure the safety of foreigners who are here in time of conflict, but we are not defending their families or their futures. We are defending ours. And that will never change. We are Singaporean not just because of where we are born, but because of what we believe in, the values we live by, and a common desire to want to make our home, a better one." 

To end off, I would like to quote the late S. Rajaratnam, "Being a Singaporean is not a matter of ancestry. It is conviction and choice."

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Solutions for our TFR (Part 2) – 13 policies

I’d like to get into a little bit more detail here on my earlier post Solutions for our TFR. Ideas will need legs and arms, so I’ll take a stab at considering budgets and implementation for some of the policies I suggested, plus a few more new ideas.

There needs to be a balance between encouraging mothers to raise their children and encouraging mothers to earn more money to fuel our economy. While I won’t say that either one is always the better choice, the cards are stacked heavily against encouraging stay at home mums (or dads). MP Patrick Tay touched on this in parliament recently. My view is that tax breaks for high-income working mothers are already so generous that this is unnecessary.

Cut FDW and working mother tax reliefs for high-income families. The rationale is that you only have that pressing need for a FDW or tax breaks if you are in a less-than ideal financial situation.

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Population White Paper – hard limit, or really hard limit?

The New Year saw a slew of baby-making benefits, followed by the Population White Paper. It’s no wonder that Singaporeans quickly jumped to the conclusion that the government has a hidden agenda. 

Had there been no mention of a 6.9 million projection, and had the focus been the development of infrastructure to sustain the lives of Singaporeans instead, would there have been a strong backlash?

“Tomato, tomatoe”, you say?

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The magic 6.9 million

With the festive visiting throughout Chinese New Year, the hottest topic was about the “passing motion on white paper”. It is without a doubt something close to the heart of every Singaporean. It is something everyone is feeling the effects of: roads are congested, trains are packed, buses overcrowded and nothing short of a miracle to walk around without knocking into anyone. 

Well, let’s not get into politics further. Airing unhappiness and voting one small SMC opposition into power is not going to change everything overnight. Let’s face it, 6.9 million is going to be a reality whether one likes it or not. Instead of complaining, let’s take advantage of the opportunity that is presented. 

There is only so much land in Singapore. How is she expected to house these 6.9 million people? As we all know simple economics, supply is limited but demand is surging – what will happen? Prices will continue to climb up. This is an almost risk free assurance from the government that property prices in Singapore will only go up. So, you are either holding on to some of them for capital appreciation or waiting to lose out by getting them at a higher price in future.

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S. Korea' : Growing the economy through innovation and productivity

Due to low fertility rate of 1.2 and a generation of baby boomers born around 1960s, the S. Korean society is one of the fastest ageing in the world. So far the S. Korean govt has not resorted to massive immigration and opening the floodgates to cheaper foreign labor. Businesses without access to cheap foreign labor have to increase productivity by investing in automation, improving its businesses processes and innovation.

Despite mounting pressure from businesses demanding cheap foreign labor from Philippines  China and India, the S. Korean leaders did not succumb to pressure to implement pro-business policies to allow businesses to import cheap labor to boost their profits. The S. Korean economy did not sink from the lack of labor force growth instead flourished with improvements in labor productivity and the innovation of home grown industries.  We sometimes forget that S. Korea is a relatively small country with a population of 50M given its cultural influence and industrial giants like Samsung. The policy choices made by S. Korea are hardly unique. Smaller countries like Finland and Denmark (5.5m population) with ageing population chose to focus on maximizing the talents of their indigenous population and growth through productivity.

The PAP claims we need to import foreigners to care for old (support ratio argument). The aged in these countries are well taken care of without the need for massive import of people ...did our massive import of people in the last decade help to secure a comfortable life for our elderly? No, our many of our old folks are working at an age when they should be retired and struggling with poor health because there is little help for them from the state.

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Japan, sinking paradise for elderly people

For example, my parents in Japan are 76 and 73 this year. They are living on a few thousands dollar pension (per month!) from the government. It’s  a lot more than what they have contributed when they were young.

My mother had a cancer 2 years ago. She got a surgery and very good care in a famous private hospital, stayed there for many days. But what she paid was less than 10% of the total cost. Government paid the rest.

Where does this money come from? …….Yes, they use current tax payer’s money to sustain the system. And actually, even that money is not enough. Our government is spending more money than they earn. Japanese government has huge amount of debt and nobody knows how to get rid of it.

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We’ve Been Ripped Again

Just think of the harebrained, grandiose schemes that have failed: COE is a dismal failure, but what about the Park & Ride Scheme of 1975 and the government’s experiment with eugenics policies – the Graduate Mothers’ Scheme of 1984?

This time the population “debate” happened when Singaporeans learned that this island republic had become the sixth most expensive city in the world to live in, and that it has the third highest cost of living in all Asia.

The way it was initially positioned, the subsequent back-tracking (“Sorry, sorry, it’s a projection, not a target, relax lah”) and the scramble to damage-control (“It’s for the good of the people, trust us” – said in the same tone as “the cheque is in the mail” or “I promise not to cum in your mouth” or “I promise to pull out before cumming”); the half-baked measures proposed (“Increase land mass, remove golf courses” yeah and piss off all golfers and reclaim land from the sea until the map of Singapore looks like an oblong bloc izzit?) the pissing-off of the nursing community (“Nurses are low-grade workers” – yeah sure, don’t forget they wiped your mother’s backside when she was a frigging vegetable) – indeed how could this government get it so wrong with one screw-up after another?

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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