Calvin Cheng wants Population White Paper re-visited

Jan 09, 2017 08.30AM |

BUT he didn’t mention that figure which got Singaporeans hot under the collar: 6.9 million.

You remember that row, don’t you? How the G came up with a report in January 2013 that said more people would be needed to power Singapore’s economy in the future? There was an unprecedented outcry even though the population target (or projection) was for 2030.

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Mr Calvin Cheng, a former Nominated MP who is well-known for his conservative views, has a column published in ST today noting that the assumptions made in the White Paper, such as the challenges of globalisation, an ageing population, and the continued low birth rate haven’t changed. Nor has productivity budged to make up for low increase in manpower numbers.

He wrote:

No plan on the future of the Singapore economy can be presented without addressing the elephant in the room: how an ageing, shrinking population can have a future economy without addressing its population concerns.

He added:

If the electorate continues to reject the proposal of the 2013 Population White Paper, the Government cannot address the acute problems that an ageing, shrinking workforce brings. Without addressing these problems, how then can we bring in new plans of growth that will require an even higher increase of a productive workforce, and attract the best global talent to Singapore to help us execute these plans?

Mr Cheng thinks the people’s problem with the White Paper was the way it was explained to them, rather than the points in them. He also said that it was time for the People’s Action Party G to expend the political capital it accumulated in the last GE when it scored a landslide victory. Doubtless people will take issue with his proposal, even though the problems of overcrowding and inadequate infrastructure have eased somewhat with changes to housing and transport policy. Because what he is essentially calling for is a loosening of the foreign worker tap, so that Singapore can draw in available talent for use at home – rather than have them compete with Singaporeans in the global marketplace.

It’s likely that the immigration issue will be canvassed in the much-anticipated report of the Committee for the Future Economy. Eyes will be peeled.

Controversial column aside, it looks like ST is going big on changes in the new year, with a revamped Sunday Times and new foreign correspondents. TODAY has changes as well, deciding to expand coverage of local news. MSM also seems to have the same method of opening the new year: interviews with ministers. For ST, it was Mr Ng Chee Meng on education matters on Sunday. TODAY has a lengthy interview with Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin today, while Berita Harian ran a two-parter with Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.

So what’s new? You can read our post here for what was published over the weekend. For those who read Berita Harian, you’ll know already that Mr Yaacob has ruled himself out for the presidency. Which might be a good thing, because it will be mighty awkward if he got elected and had to meet US President-elect Donald Trump, whom he described as someone who is peddling “petty politics, hatred politics, misogynistic ideas”.



Featured image from TMG file.

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