SINGAPORE: Nearly 60 Members of Parliament have given notice to take part in the week—long debate on the White Paper on Population.
Kicking off the debate on Monday — after Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean’s wide—ranging speech — was Seah Kian Peng, chairman of Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Social and Family Development.
Mr Seah said Singaporeans should all acknowledge and celebrate the improvements to family life, with the enhancements to the Marriage and Parenthood Package announced by the government.
The MP for Marine Parade GRC hopes that the measures will go some way to boost the total fertility rate or TFR in Singapore.
However he added that his most severe reservation about the White Paper is the ratio of citizens to non—citizens.
Mr Seah noted that currently, the nation has fewer than two Singaporeans to one non—Singaporean, which is already low.
But in future, this may go lower than 1.5 to 1.
Mr Seah emphasised: "So, I hope that the ratio can be maintained at current levels and not decline further by 2030.
"We do need to do more to have more citizens, not just by getting new citizens in but also by getting our people to get married and getting married couples to have more children.
"Singaporeans can and must respond and answer to this call too.
"I know that voters need to know what MPs have done, and can do. Today’s debate is about the joint future of Singapore, and it is a collaborative effort.
"So I urge the debate to take a mutual—interest approach, rather than paving the way for future credit claiming.
"Together, both sides of the House can make Singapore better for our fellow Singaporeans.
"I make this point about the need for cool debate, only because the issues that I and others will bring up are hot ones."
Mr Seah noted that the White Paper made provision for a population of up to 6.9 million.
But the public reaction so far has been less than euphoric.
He explained: "The government has been careful to say that more immigrants are needed because Singaporeans are getting older.
"Yes, we need growth and continued prosperity. But there are many ’buts’. But Singapore is already so crowded. But foreigners will take some of our jobs. But do we really want to keep growing? Singapore is crowded as it is. The current bottlenecks, especially transport, are already there.
"These are legitimate concerns that Singaporeans have raised and I share them too. So, before we go further, we need to resolve current strains on infrastructure, especially transportation. This is an imperative."
Mr Seah also said that there is a need to continually review and enhance the privileges of being a Singapore citizen.
This must be on the government’s radar screen all the time, he said.
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