Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Population White Paper Conundrum

Never in the recent history of Singapore has there been such massive protests by Singaporeans against an ill-conceived Government measure as the White Paper on Population. Right from the start when the White Paper was introduced, there were unmistaken ominous signs that the Government would find the passage very rough if it tried to force this unpopular and undemocratic White Paper down the throats of the normally tranquil Singaporeans. In the face of such massive opposition, PM Lee Hsien Loong was gung ho in ignoring Singaporeans' wrath to push the White Paper through Parliament with the endorsement of the entire PAP MPs. Well almost entirely because there seemed to be the solitary conscientious PAP MP who voted with his feet in defiance of the PAP Whip.He showed outstanding courage as a PAP MP in criticising the White Paper and followed up with a no-show when it came to the crucial point when he was expected to cast his vote in support. It will be interesting to watch how PM Lee will deal with this so-called renegade.

The crux of the public protests is the projection in the White Paper of an inordinate increase of population of 6.9 million in the little red dot called Singapore in the year 2030 when the infrastructure even now when the population is 5.3 million is bursting at the seams. The Total Fertility Rate at 1.2 could not be expected to fulfill the target of 6.9 million and the Government will have to resort to immigration to make up the target with its attendant social problems.The loss of job opportunities to Foreign Talents is now the biggest bugbear among Singaporeans, especially the PMETs many of whom are still unemployed and the Government is hardly innovative in addressing their problem. The overwhelming population increase will exacerbate the perennial acute housing problem which will be a perpetual headache to any future housing minister. It is expected that many Singaporeans will be impoverished by the population increase while the millionaire PAP prime minister and ministers will continue to wallow in their wealth, thanks to taxpayers' money.

The Govenment is back-pedalling  as a result of public anger and pressure and now portrays the 6.9 million population as the "worst case scenario" and not the target.But the pitch with which the Government had been pushing the 6.9 million population increase has left a pernicious impression on the public mind which cannot be erased easily. So even when it has now softened on the 6.9 million target, Singaporeans are hardly convinced of the Government's sincerity and will continue their vehement protests against the White Paper until they see tangible proof of the Government's sincerity in addressing this issue. The 4,000 strong protest meeitng at Hong Lim Park on Saturday 16 February  is just one of the manifestations of continuing public wrath against the White Paper. There will no doubt be more protests of this nature. PM Lee and his Cabinet colleagues can continue to pooh-pooh this continuing groundswell of public dissent against the White Paper at their peril. If left unaddressed, it may come to a disastrous climax for the PAP one day.

It may intrigue PM Lee to know that there are coffee shop talks that the former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew bad built up Singapore from a third-world to a first-world State only to be demolished by his dragon son PM Lee Hsien Loong.