HDB disputes claims that CEO’s remarks could mean Singapore would have 10 million population by 2030

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Housing Development Board has disputed claims that comments the group’s chief executive had made at a recent lecture could be taken to mean that Singapore would have a population size of about 10 million in 2030, contrary to the 6.9 million projected by the Government.

HDB’s response is directed at a letter writer who expressed alarm at the population figures presented by HDB CEO Dr Cheong Koon Hean. In her IPS-Nathan lecture, Dr Cheong said that Singapore’s population density would increase from 11,000 people per sq km to 13,700 people per sq km between now and 2030.

The letter writer, Cheang Peng Wah, pointed to Singapore’s land area which is 720 sq km and expressed his unease that the Singapore’s population size could go up to 9,864,000, or nearly 10 million, by 2030 given the chief executive’s projection.

Highlighting that this was not the figure forecast in the Population White Paper of 2013, which projected a population of 6.9 million by 2030, Cheang asked the authorities to explain this new figure on population density and “assure Singaporeans that everything is being planned to prepare for such an eventuality.”

In a letter that was published yesterday, HDB’s Director of Strategic Planning, Jaffrey Aw, clarified that the figures cited by Dr Cheong was on Singapore’s living density and not the nation’s population density.

Aw asserted that it would be “inaccurate” to divine population size from the living density figures presented by Dr Cheong:

“Housing Board chief executive Cheong Koon Hean’s lecture was about how Singapore can anticipate its urban future and develop “liveable density”.
“The figures cited were, hence, on living density, and not population density.
“Living density takes into account only the land available for urban areas, and excludes land used for ports, airports, defence and utilities, among others.
“It would be inaccurate to extrapolate the population size from the living density figure.”

This is, however, not the first time a 10 million population figure has been suggested by a top HDB planner. Dr Liu Thai Ker, former chief executive of HDB made similar comments in 2013, at a forum organised by the Singapore Institute of Planners (SIP) and co-hosted by the National University of Singapore’s Department of Architecture, on the topic of planning for 2030.

Dr Liu said that Singapore should look beyond 2030 and plan for the year 2100, with 10 million people in it. “The world doesn’t end in 2030, and population growth doesn’t end at 6.9 million,” he said, referring to the planning parameter in the Government’s White Paper on Population.

Dr Liu argued that population growth is necessary for economic growth. He insisted that since Singapore’s land area is essentially fixed, higher density is inevitable. Dr Liu was optimistic that “high density and a better living environment are mutually compatible”. He suggested that by alternating denser and less dense areas, liveability can be preserved with adequate amenities and buffers of greenery.

One National University of Singapore (NUS) study, however, suggests that  localised residential density may not only impact property prices in Singapore, but  may also have unattended negative effects on welfare. The findings of the study said: “land use restrictions such as anti-sprawl measures that increase urban density as a by-product may have unattended negative effects on welfare.”

Did HDB CEO suggest Singapore’s population may rise to 10 million instead of 6.9 million projected by White Paper?