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Ex-GIC chief economist disappointed with Heng Swee Keat for citing “outdated” 10M population argument

Calling the 10 million population argument "fundamentally economically and socially flawed," Yeoh Lam Keong said that he is especially disappointed that the Finance Minister uncritically cited this argument since he is an economist himself and "should know better".




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Ex-GIC chief economist, Yeoh Lam Keong, has expressed disappointment that Finance Minister and presumptive 4G Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat cited former chief planner Liu Thai Ker’s “outdated” 10 million population argument at a university forum recently.

Speaking to 700 students at a ministerial dialogue at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) last week, Mr Heng cited Liu Thai Ker’s views that Singapore should plan for a 10 million population, as he asserted that the projected population of 6.9 million by 2030 that the Government announced to widespread backlash in 2013 is not excessive.

Calling the 10 million population argument “fundamentally economically and socially flawed,” Mr Yeoh said that he is especially disappointed that the Finance Minister uncritically cited this argument since he is an economist himself and “should know better”.

Reposting a comprehensive rebuttal to the 10 million population argument he previously published in 2018, Mr Yeoh wrote on Facebook on Friday (29 Mar):

“Disappointed at having to repost this critique of Liu Thai Kers fundamentally economically and socially flawed arguments of why we should plan for a 10 million population in Singapore yet again.
“Even more disappointed that Minister Heng, who I have much respect for as an economist and should know better, so uncritically cites this poorly reasoned view based on bad, outdated economic policy that implies a return to excessive immigration that has created so many problems over the last 2 decades including poor productivity, depressed real wage growth and the plight of the working poor, right up to 2010 when it was finally reversed.
“Especially since PM Lee made an undertaking in parliament to aim for a long term population “well under 6.9 mln””
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Read Mr Yeoh’s critique of the 10 million population argument in full here:


In case you cannot read the above:

Just to repost my comments on Dr Liu Thai Ker’s views on planning for a 10mn population for Singapore as they probably bear repeating :

“The problem here is that with all due respect, while Dr Liu is an extremely competent and highly regarded town planner, he is effectively recommending very poor, outdated economic policy indeed.

He is still stuck in the defunct “go for growth” strategy which the government has long realized was a mistake since 2010.

Between 1990 -2010, twenty years of this “go for growth” strategy has left us with a bloated, inefficient, labour intensive and low productivity economy that has depressed wages for the working class, created massive working poverty, and boosted the population to an uncomfortable 5.6 mn that could easily swell to double that if labor force growth is not scrupulously controlled well below 1% pa long term.

Germany for example, grew its labour force and population at less than 0.5% pa over the last few decades and remains the most competitive and dynamic high value-added export economy in the world!

Doing the same for the next few decades will leave Singapore with a population well below 7 million, not anywhere near 10 million and with higher productivity and real wages, less wealth and income inequality and a much much smaller and more assimilable new foreign population.

What we need is high quality, not poor quality, high quantity growth. The latter is the way towards an unbearably crowded, extremely stratified and socially divided Dubai-type, not a Swiss-style standard of living that a productivity-led, relatively population-light strategy like Germany or Switzerland’s can alternatively provide.

Citizen well being, not growth numbers, greater profits, more billionaires or tall fancy buildings should be the true test and ultimate goal of long term population policy and urban planning.Let’s not forget that we are not just a city state but, much more importantly, a nation state as well.”




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