Singapore—Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong discussed a number of topics in his dialogue which capped this year’s Forbes Global CEO Conference, which was held at the Shangri-La Hotel on October 14 and 15 and featured such speakers as Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.
It was the first time since 2014 that PM Lee has attended the conference.
At the conference, whose theme for this year is “Transcending the Turbulence”, PM Lee talked about the effects of the trade war between the United States and China on the rest of the world, the demonstrations in Hong Kong, environmental issues, and even immigration in Singapore, saying that one of the challenges that the country faces is keeping the right balance.
He said, “If we could open our doors, we could double our population overnight, and that would not be a wise idea.”
And then the Prime Minister also talked about babies, specifically Singaporean babies.
One long-time goal is for the country to have a workforce made up of a core that is two-thirds Singaporean, and therefore it is key to make sure that enough Singaporean babies are being born.
“To secure our future, we must make our own babies, enough of them. Because if all of the next generation are not our own, then where do they come from and what is the point of this?”
According to a report in Yahoo Singapore, PM Lee said this in the context of immigration and the need to grow the country’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) which had gone down to 1.14 last year. A population’s TFR must be at 2.1 percent so that its number can replace itself.
He said, “If we can push (up) the fertility rate, not to 2.1 which would be replacing ourselves, but maybe 1.3, 1.4, we produce two-thirds of what we need, then the balance one-third – well, I am prepared to top up from overseas, and the numbers are not too enormous and will not overwhelm us.”
A September report from the Department of Statistics (DOS) says that as of June of this year, the population of Singapore had reached 5.7 million, composed of 3.5 million Singaporean citizens and 530,000 permanent residents.
In 2018, 32,413 babies were born, a small increase from 32,356 the previous year.
The Prime Minister talked about the need to manage the numbers of individuals who become permanent residents, as well as current permanent residents who wish to become Singaporean citizens. “And that we can manage, because there is no shortage of people who want to come, and we are able to choose those who are most able to fit in, and most able to make a contribution.”
He continued, “We have now about 32-33,000 babies born in Singapore a year, citizens. We bring in about 30,000 permanent residents , so it’s almost one to one. But of those PRs, we have about 20,000 who become citizens a year. So we’re producing more of our kids than we are having immigrant new citizens. So I think that is not a bad balance.”
PM Lee also said that he hopes that immigrants would be “a plus” to the country.
“Because it adds a vibrancy to the place that in Singapore, you have people from all over the world who are able to come here, who are comfortable living here, working here, have their kids here, and living peacefully, law-abiding, making a contribution, arts, culture as well as economy and business.
If we can do that and keep the core Singaporean, and you come to Singapore and say ‘I know I’m in this place, there’s something special about it, beyond the food and the accent’, then I think we’ve got the balance right.”/ TISG