Key questions addressed in this article:
- What is the Singaporean core?
- Why is the Singapore Population White Paper 2013 centred around the Year 2030? Why not 2060 or 2070?
Today is the last day of the debate in parliament over the Singapore Population White Paper 2013. To be clear, after all the fanciful arguments for and against the articles in the paper, and even after PAP politicians speak out against the paper, or parts of it, the motion being debated on will still be passed by an overwhelming majority. The problem, as anyone would have pointed out by now, is that PAP has all the power in Singapore, and they can decide anything they want for Singapore at their whims and fancies. Of course, this is our fault as well, to have allowed ourselves to be scared, to give up on our rights to vote, and to treat our vote as a game, and keep voting PAP into power. Yet, as much as we talk about how we want a want a better quality of life, how it’s not all about money, and how it’s not right for our kids to have to live in a future that we think is unimaginable, we continue to vote PAP at the ballot boxes, because we start thinking about our money and how, you know, actually, under PAP and their materialistic mindset, our money can keep growing, so let’s put out bets in that basket again, even as we know how they are at the same time, making money of us. We are willing victims to a crime which we perpetuate because we pay lip service to our own beliefs. We want a life which can accord us more joy and freedom but when it comes down to it all, we let money rule our minds, and hearts. So, don’t blame PAP when you are now in the rut that you had created. Don’t blame PAP when you were the one who kept voting them in. They are so emboldened to do what they are doing now, because you didn’t have the balls to do the right thing for yourself. So, if you have any self-respect, I hope you know to do the right thing for yourself at the next general election.
What Are The People That We Are Bringing Into Singapore?
But today’s article isn’t about this. Today, I would like you to think a bit further. As I’ve discussed before, one of the fundamental problems of the government’s planning principles of Singapore is that they look at Singapore as a city and not as a country. And as I’ve discussed, when we look at ourselves as a city, it’s about the buzz and dynamism of the city but it’s temporal in that you come into this city to soak yourself in the business of it all, and then you leave. On the other hand, when we look at a country or a nation, it evokes feeling of attachment to our shared history, culture, way of life and the relationships and ties that we would develop with one another.
So, why is it a problem when we look at Singapore primarily as a city? It is a problem because it impacts on the kind of people that you bring into Singapore, as well as the sense of place and connections that people who come have for Singapore. Essentially, is there a sense of rootedness? You see, because Singapore is a city, with the buzz and dynamism, what are the mindsets that people who decide to come have? I want to come here, live in it, be part of a city, be part of the hectic life and because I’m young, it’s something I’m willing to live with, as I build my career. But when you reach an age where you want the pace of life to slow down, the attraction of the city no longer appeals to you as much. You want a place where you are able to walk slower on the streets, where you can have long, slow chats and walks with your friends or with your dog. You want to slow down and a city life just isn’t for you anymore. Or maybe it is, but you would move to a quieter suburb while you commute to the city centre.
So, with this as a backdrop, who will Singapore attract? People who want to come for a short time to be part of a dynamic city life in this part of the world, and when it’s enough or when there are other job opportunities to advance themselves elsewhere, they will hop to another city. This is the kind of people that we are mostly attracting to Singapore.
To be very sure, this does not mean we should discount them or judge them as people. Everyone has their priorities and preferences and they decide how they want to live our lives. In fact, many Singaporeans have the same mindset of hopping to other cities and around, and perhaps not come back to Singapore. So it would be highly hypocritical of us to criticise others for wanting to do so, when we ourselves have the same want. And why so? Because of a global economy which has allowed those who can be economically mobile to do so. If you have the relevant qualifications and experience, know-how and ties, you get to move. So, this isn’t the issue.
The issue is that when there are the people that we attract into Singapore, the people who come do not have a sense of rootedness to this place. To them, it’s about enjoying the cultural spaces and contributing to the economy, so what’s with the daily lives of the people who are born and living here? Singaporeans can go on in their daily lives and perhaps they might be upset with their government, but I get to make money while I’m here, so it’s all good right? Their concerns won’t be about Singaporeans or our livelihood. Their concern won’t be about helping to shape our identity or helping to create an environment that’s conducive to the social and developmental well-being of us and our children. Of course I’m generalising here as there are foreigners who come and contribute to our society. But what I’m saying is this – the only people we can truly be relied on to want to protect the social interests and well-being of Singaporeans are those who are born here and are here for the long haul, whether they want to or they have no choice. We cannot rely on foreigners who come because their mindsets are of a looking at Singapore from a transient perspective. Again, I mean this as no judgment, mind you.
So, this is what we mean when we talk about the Singapore core. As mentioned, as a city you attract anyone here who can contribute to the economy and are economically productive, but people who do not have an allegiance to the building up of this place as a country. As a country, you need people to want to create a sense of community which you can shape your lives around. By right, our starting point should be that once we are able to shape this community, we then build up the other aspects around this developed community, so the economy, and so forth. But more and more so, it looks like we are developing the economy first before we develop the community. Which means we are weakening the social core. Whither Singapore? George Yeo, that’s what it means.
So key to this, why is it an issue? Without a developed community and social core, people do not have ties or a sense of rootedness to this place. You have no allegiance to this place or want to stay and make it better. If you can, you would want to find another place where you can still make money anyway, and if it so happens that you stay there long enough and develop a sense of attachment to it, that place becomes your home, and that place becomes the social core that you identify with. This is why it’s an issue. And already, you can hear of many young people who do not have plans to stay in Singapore and will leave once they can. You already hear of it from people who come, maybe get a citizenship from Singapore, and then leave when their time to soak in city life dissolves. What then is there to ground the people onto this land, if they do not feel a sense of connection to this place, to want to help build it?
According to Ms Sylvia Lim of the Worker’s Party, she had said yesterday at Parliament that a Singaporean core should be “made up of Singaporeans who grew up in and with Singapore.” However, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said that a Singaporean core “is defined not by whether these Singaporeans are born and bred here, but by whether these are people who have made the Republic their home, where they serve and contribute to society.”
To be clear, does this need to be a Singaporean core. Look at it from another perspective, it’s about anyone who has a sense of connection to this place who develop a sense of rootedness to this place and who thus want to make a contribution to this place, and make it work for them. Does this has to be Singaporeans? It doesn’t. The idea is the general belief is that because Singaporeans are born, bred and grow up here, that they would naturally have a sense of attachment to this place and will want to contribute to it. But as we have seen, more and more so, this idea seems to become untrue.
But what is the problem? The problem is that the government primarily plans Singapore as a city, which takes the sense of rootedness that you would develop for the country, away. And so, not only do foreigners who come do not come here with an intention to stay for the long haul, gradually, Singaporeans are finding that they are also losing their sense of attachment to this place, and they are leaving, or thinking of leaving. So, in that sense, it’s not about keeping the Singaporean core. Because so what if we have a Singaporean core, if this core isn’t committed to this place?
So, even as Mr Tan countered that, a Singaporean core can be Singaporeans who “may not have grown here, but they have decided to make this place home, and serve and contribute to this society,” foreigners will not root themselves in Singapore because the very principles that the government plans itself along is along attracting foreigners who want the vibrancy of a city, who intend to stay for as long as they can increase their wealth from it, then leave to find greener pastures, and eventually a place where they can really call home.
Ultimately, what is more essential is that anyone who is here decides to stay for the long haul, and this means that the government’s planning principles cannot be solely one of looking at Singapore as a transient city stopover but one of developing the sense of attachment and commitment to this place.
Will Singapore Still Be A Country?
Then, the next question to ask is, is the government interested in that – to develop a Singaporean core, or actually, developing people’s sense of attachment and commitment to this place?
That’s when the next part of the discussion comes in. Now, why did the planning parameters for the Singapore Population White Paper 2013 end with the year 2030? In the Concept Paper 1991, the government was already planning for 2030, and in the Concept Paper 2001, the government was already planning for 2040 to 2050. And there were also plans for Year X, where plans were outlined for a longer term future. So, why did the government stop at 2030 for the Population Paper 2013? Why not plan until 2060 or 2070?
You know why? Make your own projections of our population after 2030. You see, already, by 2030, the government is projecting that Singaporeans will only make up 55% of the population. According to the Worker’s Party, if you look only at the population who is born in Singapore, it will make up less than 50% of the population. By the Worker’s Party’s estimates, Singapore would already have a marginalised Singaporean core, who is assumed to be committed to Singapore.
And what if it was 2040? You can see that in the chart below, that by the government’s projection, by 2040, the Singaporean core will have also become a minority. And by 2050, we would just make up 40% of the population.
Now, this is if all goes as plan with the projections. But as we can see from the population projections of 1991 and 2001, not only were these projections not met, they were exceeded greatly and the population projections were breached many years in advance.
So, what this means is that you can expect that by 2030, we won’t have 7 million people. We will have 8 million people. By 2050 (chart below), we might have 10 million people. So, the government says that 6.9 million is a worst case scenario. They know it themselves it isn’t even the best case scenario.
At this rate, it means that by 2030, we won’t be having 55% of the population who are Singaporeans. It would be 48%. And by 2050, Singaporeans would only make up 38% of the population.
Is this possible? I’m not surprised if it happens. Now, if you understand that the government plans for Singapore as a city and along economic principles, you would know why this would make sense. If Singaporeans form only a minority population and you get to shape the rest of the population who comes, isn’t it a joy for planning and for economic growth? You can attract young people, in their most economically productive age of between 20 to 40 years old. We won’t have a problem with the elderly population because by then, they will make up less than 10% of the population.
By then, when Singaporeans no longer feel rooted to Singapore and they leave en masse, you will see that those who are the most mobile would leave first, which means the very poor and the elderly might continue to stay here, which will continue to be the cleaners and labourers for a highly transient and young workforce. Because this transient workforce is not rooted to Singapore, they won’t care about what happens to the very poor and elderly in Singapore anyway. On the flipside, the very rich who get to benefit from Singapore will stay as well. And because they are so rich, the government will allow them to hold the Singaporean citizenship, and dual-citizenships with other countries, as is happening right now. So, the people who will leave in bulk will be the middle income earners. What this means is that by 2080, the Singaporean core will make up only 28% of the population. Of this 28%, they will be split between the very rich and very poor. The interests of the very rich will continue to be aligned to the government and be part of the government, while the very poor will continue to suck it up as they earn stagnant wages which will never grow on par with inflation, as they continue to clean our food courts and streets.
And why is this a highly desirable scenario for the government? You get to attract anyone you want to Singapore and those who are the most willing to travel are also those who are most willing to strive and help the city grow rich. At the same time, businesses will continue to come to Singapore because by then, we are an established city node for the world. Shanghai is attached to China. Hong Kong is attached to China. Seoul is attached to South Korea. Singapore has no hinterland. World, we are all yours. So, come the businesses and come the MNCs. Is it any wonder why the government is so keen in attracting MNCs, so that the brand name of Singapore is boosted by them? Is it any wonder why the government isn’t interested in growing SMCs? SMCs are a waste of time. They take time to grow and you never know if they are ever going to make it. It’s a waste of resources. You want to be an innovative startup? Go to New York. Go to Silicon Valley. Heck, even go to Iskandar for all we care. When you show some form of success, then maybe the government will start wooing you over with cash. Otherwise, don’t waste our time and space with your aspirations, when we can easily attract established big businesses and companies who are able to propel Singapore into success.
By 2080, Singaporeans would make up 28% of the ‘Singaporean core’. The very rich will be those who are related to PAP. And there might still be a segment of the very poor who are chronically poor, and who are needed to continue to do the cleaning and washing for Singapore. By then, Singapore will no longer be seen as a country. We will be the first truly global city without a hinterland where we belong to the world. The government has always wanted to develop Singapore as a hub. By then, we will be a city hub and firmly established as one of the top 4 financial centres in the world.
By then, the government won’t be known as the government. They will be known as the administrative centre of this global city, where they continue to manage the laws and regulations, to allow businesses to operate efficiently. At the same time, they will also be the businesses making money. Isn’t this what PAP has always been planning Singapore for? Why do we keep talking about Singapore Inc.? Because that’s precisely how PAP sees Singapore. Look, Singapore is a company. And you simply don’t need to take care of the social well-being of the people. We are not an American company like Google. We are an Asian company like Foxconn. Work, people! By 2050, the first signs of a truly Singapore company will emerge. By 2080, Singapore Inc. will be fully incorporated, and we will be the first country in the world to transit from being a city-state to a company.
Is this possible? Well, look – look at the population projection. At the rate we are going and at the rate PAP continues to hold on to its power, and at the rate Singaporeans simply refuse to see clearly and to live in fear, what is the most likely scenario? Definitely, by the middle of the 21st century, we won’t even make 50% of the population. Unlike the Middle Eastern countries where their populations make less than 50% of the population and where their governments provide free education, housing and healthcare, this is and will never happen to Singapore. The government does not need to value the people when its priorities are focused towards making money. And businesses are a safer bet if you want to make money, naturally!
Why Am I Doing This?
I will leave you to think about whether the scenario that I have shared will pan out. But what I would further say is this. I am starting to hear so many people say – I might just as well leave Singapore. Me too, I want to too. I want to go to a country where the government treats me humanely, even if I am not their locally-born citizen. But if I leave, who will take care of my parents? My parents don’t speak English and they are old. I cannot bring them to Canada or New Zealand, because their daily lives will be affected. They will be quite old so I would have to earn enough for 3 people. We could move to Taiwan or even China but my Chinese is terrible.
This is why I am speaking up and I am raising awareness about Singapore, how Singapore is being planned and managed and how we can look at Singapore more holistically is because of this – I simply have to make Singapore work. I cannot choose to uproot myself just like that, and leave the very people whom I need to think about here.
Singapore can be a place we can call our home, and we can make Singapore work. We can make it a place which respects our lives and where we can continue to work, yet feel comforted, contended and at peace with ourselves. It can, but first, we need to awaken ourselves to the deep slumber that the government has put us through, through a controlled education and messed-up mainstream press which pander so much to the government that they have lost their bearings. We need to awaken ourselves to this, and we need to learn to think so much more dynamically than our education has constrained us to doing so. We need to know that it’s ok to think in explosive ways, which we have thought that we shouldn’t be thinking and make the dynamic linkages and connections to how things work in Singapore. We need to have the clarity and perspective to understand things for what they truly are, and make all the connections we need to understand Singapore for what it truly is.
I am betting on this to work. I need it to. You need to remember, you are a person with your rights. Now, you can choose to use it or you can choose to keep thinking that your fate is resigned into the government’s hands. Your fate is yours to control. Your life is yours to lead. Now, you make a decision as to how you want to live your life, and to make it happen. And I don’t mean finding a job that can help you make enough money, earn enough and then spend as much as you can to make yourself seemingly happy. That’s not what I am talking about. You can do this anywhere in the world. What I am saying is this – you know what needs to be done for our country. You know what is wrong. You know how to make it right. We need to put the right people in our government. And we need to consolidate ourselves, to then also check on the government. It’s all up to you now, so please, think about it. Your life isn’t about just making money and complaining about the government not respecting your other needs if you pander to the needs of money yourself and thus put yourself in the conundrum. I am not saying, give up on making money. I am saying, if you think there’s something else worth fighting for, then stand up and do it. Stand up and let your voice be heard. Stand up and do what is right for yourself. And respect yourself.