As many other people living in Singapore, I was surprised by recent headlines on a DBS white paper which expects the Singapore population to reach 7 million people by 2030. Although no official government population target has been released, this has not stopped analysts from speculating.
Actually now that I really think about it, this announcement shouldn’t have been such a surprise; extended MRT lines, newer and taller buildings, never-ending reclaiming of land, all these elements have been hinting at the political intention of expanding the population.
This sounds quite ambitious, but then again, we’ve managed to pull off crazier stunts in the past, haven’t we?
The thing is, it’s not the technical orchestration I’m worried about. I’m more concerned about the impact this will have on our daily lives. Here are a few questions I’d like answered:
Is this good for Singaporeans?
What will their everyday lives look like? Just imagine, if we already feel cramped now, what it’s going to be like then? Will there be further political backlash in the future?
Where will they find all these people?
How do you find so many people willing to come here in the first place? It’s a well-known fact that Singaporeans aren’t reproducing fast enough, so I doubt the few million extra people will all be Singaporeans. If, for instance, a wave of highly-skilled BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) citizens shows up at our doorstep, does that mean we will be paid less money but see our house, food, and school expenses grow? Surely the government has thought of ways to guarantee this doesn’t happen, right? Right?
And will our economy continue to be attractive in the first place?
How will we all fit?
The way I see it, there’s only two ways we can all fit on this island: either we all go underground into tunnel cities, or we continue building gigantic towers that reach the sky.
This means digging, restructuring the skyline, replacing old houses with rows and rows of high-rise buildings, destroying heritage sites to make way for more valuable tunnels and underpasses, reducing green areas to make roads, adding buses and MRT lines, adding shopping malls, adding more 7/11s, etc. Basically making it so that everyone fits like in a Tetris game and polluting the scenery with “shopping” and “entertainment” outlets.
Pretty soon there won’t be one unoccupied spot, nowhere to sit on a grass patch to relax and smell the trees. Is that what we really want? Sure, there’ll be money, and business, and success, but we’ll be living in a Blade Runner or Dredd-like world made of smog, neon lights, people hating and shoving each other, children playing in concrete structures, etc.
Sorry if some of these points may seem exaggerated or grim, but the way things are going Singapore will very soon look like other global megacities (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Johannesburg, Bombay), except we won’t have the luxury of space to take a breather from time to time.
Singapore is small – that’s our karma.
But maybe it’s also our karma to have a small economy?