Singapore — Opposition Singapore Democratic Party chief Dr Chee Soon Juan took to Facebook to reiterate that the idea of a 10 million population in Singapore was no falsehood, in response to Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan’s statement that the Government was just “toying with the idea”.
During the first election debate on Wednesday (July 1), Dr Balakrishnan and Dr Chee got into a heated exchange regarding the 10 million population issue. This is the one “No” in the SDP’s “4Y1N” election manifesto.
This was Dr Chee’s question in full:
I mentioned about labour productivity on the decline and GDP growth going the same downward trend and unemployment in Singapore going up, and all this happening before (the) Covid-19 outbreak took place. And then you have, on top of that, foreign PMETs coming up as pass holders and employment pass holders continuing to rise. Over and above all this, Mr Heng Swee Keat then comes up and tell us in an interview the idea of bringing up the population to 10 million. Singaporeans are deadly worried about this proposal. Now, will you categorically tell Singaporeans right now, that your party has no intention of raising our population to 10 million by continuing to bring in foreigners, especially foreign PMETs into Singapore to compete with our PMETs for jobs?
Dr Balakrishnan responded that, on the same day, the Prime Minister’s Office had issued a statement advising people not to indulge in falsehoods.
Dr Chee then attempted to state that it was Mr Heng who had mentioned the idea of a 10 million population. He was, however, was cut off by Dr Balakrishnan, who said: “That’s a cheap shot, Dr Chee.”
Dr Balakrishnan added: “Let me state, for the record, we will never have 10 million … we won’t even have 6.9 million. The Government doesn’t have a target for the population. What we want is a Singapore core that is demographically stable, able to reproduce ourselves, able to create opportunities and jobs for ourselves and able to stay as a cohesive home. It is not a target. And it’s certainly not 10 million, and you are raising a false strawman. That is a false statement, and we have said so, and we will say so again.”
In the Facebook post after the debate, Dr Chee stated the sources of the 10 million statement that he had tried to mention during the debate. He cited former Chief Planner Liu Thai Ker, who said in 2014 that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long term. A report by straitstimes.com in March 2019 on a ministerial dialogue at Nanyang Technological University had (then Finance Minister) Mr Heng referring to Mr Liu’s statement. Mr Heng, who did not mention any figure, stated that Singapore’s population density was not excessive and that other cities were a lot more crowded in terms of livable space.
With more than 3,000 reactions and 910 comments, members of the online community expressed appreciation of Dr Chee’s efforts in highlighting issues that are worrying Singaporeans. One was grateful for the emergence of digital media, through which he said truths are easily shared, while another wondered what a few more debates could do if one “short live debate ‘halts’ a 10 million population debacle”.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said at the debate that my claim that Mr Heng Swee Keat was toying with the idea of a 10m…