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?


What Singaporeans are saying

Over the years, various policies have led to increases in cost of housing and living, hostility towards immigrants, and scepticism of intentions behind our nation’s fast-paced growth.

PAP MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, Inderjit Singh, urged for Singapore to take a 5-year breather from re-growing our population again. He mentioned that it’s time for social cohesion, and it’s certainly time for Singaporeans to feel taken care of again:“Instant trees cannot grow strong roots and can be uprooted in difficult times” – and this is true on many levels.

The echoing sentiment is that Singapore has become overcrowded due to an influx of immigrants as a result of government policies over the years. Coupled with the fact that there was a promise to “listen” during last year’s General Elections, frustrations have been mounting despite increased participation in National Conversations.

More than 9000 people have joined a group to “Say No to an overpopulated Singapore” and more than 900 people are planning on staging a protest organised by transitioning.sg – both which have caught the attention of Bloomberg.

A Facebook user by the name of Lai Ah-Eng pointed out that the protest should centre on policies on citizenship as opposed to immigrants, while a foreigner who has stayed in Singapore since Primary 1, Ralph Bonifacio, is against the White Paper as it is causing discontentment among the people.

Other concerns include the lack of physical space, the constraints of public transportation even during peak-hours, and the affordability of housing – all which are causing inconveniences and dissent from netizens.

Simply put, netizens will not stand united behind the government’s vision if their quality of life and interests are not met and placed first.

In retrospect, the policy’s fundamental approach is the same, but doing so with the mind-set of growing the population by increasing the share of foreigners may have just struck an uneasy chord.

If there’s a lesson to be learnt it’s that an angry mind can cloud judgement. To what extent are Singaporeans’ concerns warranted? Would alleviating immediate concerns dampen Singapore’s progress, or is it necessary to focus on appeasing the netizens now? Can a consensus even be achieved?

Maybe we do need a breather.

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