SINGAPORE: Some 60 Members of Parliament (MPs) have indicated their interest to take part in the debate on the White Paper on Population.
There were several references to the much—talked—about population number, which the government is using to prepare infrastructure plans.
There were calls to find ways to avoid the need to grow Singapore’s population to 6.9 million people.
Suggestions included improving work—life balance and providing more incentives for Singaporeans to have children.
Seah Kian Peng, MP for Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency said: "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 our married couples to have more babies. Singaporeans ourselves can and must respond and answer to this call too.
"At the same time can we moderate the flow of immigration as we strive to grow our citizen population? Only within these figures can the notion of maintaining a strong Singapore core make sense. At the same time, we need to continually review and continually enhance the privileges of being a Singapore citizen. This must be on government’s radar screen all the time."
Foo Mee Har, MP for West Coast GRC suggested: "I would like to call for urgent action to ensure a stronger Singaporean core in our population strategy. I offer two priorities for the Deputy Prime Minister’s consideration so that we don’t arrive at 6.9 million — Take bolder steps to improve total fertility rate, tap our own talent pool, especially amongst economically inactive women and older workers."
"There is a national anxiety and some angst, but instead of letting out this national moan about the projected population numbers, there should be a national vigour to address the vulnerabilities of Singapore," said Arthur Fong, MP for West Coast GRC.
"Perhaps then, we might look at the numbers needed with more objectivity and a renewed urgency to move forward on borrowed time. Our future rests with the three keys that the White Paper has stated, that the heart of our nation is represented by our Singaporean core. I would like to say that for a strong Singapore and a cohesive society, we need a strong heart and better yet, a big heart."
There were also concerns that augmenting the Singapore population with new citizens and permanent residents would dilute the Singaporean identity.
Christopher de Souza, MP for Holland—Bukit Timah GRC said: "Singaporeans must be the key ingredient to how Singapore is portrayed to and understood by the rest of the world. This responsibility and privilege must be accorded to Singaporeans, with PRs and residents playing a complementary role. Every few years, Singaporeans must be able to look back and say ’My life, my family’s life has improved, there is a happy future for us.’
"If the government believes this slew of policies, including a possible 6.9 million by 2030 is necessary for the Republic’s very survival, then couple that belief with a concerted effort to allow Singaporeans to enjoy the fruits of the policy by ensuring more than adequate public infrastructure is built in advance of demand. Otherwise, we will just be chasing our tail right through to 2030."
MP for Aljunied GRC Sylvia Lim said also expressed concerns about a dilution of the Singaporean identity.
She said a strong Singaporean core must be strongly Singaporean in values, culture and sense of history, and should be made up of Singaporeans who grew up in Singapore.
The opposition MP said the Workers’ Party is opposing the White Paper on Population and proposed that Singapore entertain the idea of a more modest GDP growth rate which will see a population of 5.9 million or less in 2030.
Ms Lim said this can be achieved if Singapore works towards a GDP growth of 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent per year up to 2020. And from 2020 to 2030, 1.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent per year.
Ms Lim said: "We believe this rate can be achieved with productivity improvements at the same rate proposed in the White Paper, but with less population injections if we can utilise more of our existing population. We could target to grow our resident workforce by at least one per cent per annum by getting more foreign spouses, homemakers and seniors back to work.
"This trade off will mean less overcrowding, better integration of newcomers, a stronger Singaporean identity, and less stressful labour market competition. This is turn is likely to have knock—on effects on total fertility rate recovery.
"It will also not be at the expense of market competitiveness, as our economy continues to restructure, to push the proportions of Singaporeans in PMET jobs from half to two thirds. The road map proposed in the White Paper will further dilute our national identity. It will also place us on a course towards needing even larger population injections in the future, which we do not believe is sustainable."
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