Confusion over the 6.5 million experiment

Singapore Democrats

In 2007, former Minister for National Development Mr Mah Bow Tan wrote in the PAP’s website of the Government’s intention to raise Singapore’s population to 6.5 million. To drive home his message, Mr Mah unambiguously titled his article “Why we need 6.5 millionpeople.”$CUT$

In the piece, he set out the PAP’s case for thefigure assuring the people that, “A recent review of our long-term landuse and transportation plan concluded that we have enough land tocater to a population of 6.5 million.”

The SDP raised the issue in 2010 when Dr Chee Soon Juan responded to PM Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day message.

It was a hot button issue with the elections due the following year. This prompted the Straits Times to come to the PM’s defence with reporter Ms Rachel Lin writing:

[Dr Chee’s] assertion, however, has to be put in perspective. Mr Mah had stressed that the 6.5 million number is not a target that the Government feels Singapore’s population should reach. Instead, he characterised it as a ‘planning parameter’….

Mr Mah walked back his own remarks by saying in a speech to the URA in April 2011 (just before the elections) that the 6.5 million number he wrote “is not a population target.”

September 2012. In an interview, Mr Lee said that, “Today our population is over 5 million. In the future, 6 million or so should not be a problem.” Note the ‘or so’ part. The PM is leaving the door open to an even bigger number – 6.5 is just a short skip away from 6.

The SDP had warned repeatedly about the dangers of an overpopulated island prior to the 2011 elections. The PAP tried to play it down and now, a little more than a year after the elections, returns to its true intentions of gunning for a 6.5 million population.

It is the clearer instance yet why Singaporeans must not believe the PAP especially when it is in full-election mode: Tears will flow, apologies made and promises gushed. But like an incorrigible spouse abuser pleading for one more chance, nothing changes after the storm passes.

The danger to Singapore is that the Government, contrary to its confident pose that it knows what it is doing, is clearly out of its depth and flailing at the problem.

How do we know? Mr Lee Kuan Yew said in February 2008: “I have not quite been sold on the idea that we should have 6.5 million. I think there’s an optimum size for the land that we have, to preserve the open spaces and the sense of comfort.

He projected, instead, an optimum population size of 5 to 5.5 million for Singapore which, at 5.3 million currently, is about where we are today.

But then he now says that “we are short of workers today. We have 5.2 million people…We need more.”

Another sign that the PAP is groping in the dark over the issue was when former foreign minister Mr George Yeo admitted that the Government needed to come up with a masterplan to give “some idea of how many foreigners we can accommodate in a sustainable, organic way.”

This was in September 2008, after Mr Mah declared that his Ministry had done a review and found that we could house 6.5 million people.

While all the guess work and fumbling is going on, the average Singaporeans are the ones having to live with the consequences of what seems to be a massive and dangerous social experiment.

If the experiment fails – and all signs are currently indicating that it is failing – where will the people go? The ministers, with their millions, are inoculated from the problems. They have plenty of options if the experiment goes awry.

It is the average folks who will pay the price.

The SDP has warned Singaporeans, and we will continue to do so, about the problem and to treat the issue with a greater sense of urgency. Time is running out.

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