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This report was printed from Singapore Parliament website.
Parliament No: Session No: Volume No: Sitting No: Sitting Date: 12 1 90 6 08-02-2013

PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES SINGAPORE OFFICIAL REPORT TWELFTH PARLIAMENT PART III OF FIRST SESSION VOLUME 90 Friday, 8 February, 2013 The House met at 12.30 pm

PRESENT:
Mdm SPEAKER (Mdm Halimah Yacob (Jurong)). Mr Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio). Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong). Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines). Mr Chan Chun Sing (Tanjong Pagar), Acting Minister for Social and Family Development and Senior Minister of State for Defence. Mr Chen Show Mao (Aljunied). Mrs Lina Chiam (Non-Constituency Member). Mr Charles Chong (Joo Chiat), Deputy Speaker. Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah). Mr R Dhinakaran (Nominated Member). Ms Faizah Jamal (Nominated Member). Mr Nicholas Fang (Nominated Member). Assoc Prof Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade). Mr Arthur Fong (West Coast). Mr Cedric Foo Chee Keng (Pioneer). Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast). Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien (Yuhua), Minister, Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs. Mr Gan Kim Yong (Chua Chu Kang), Minister for Health and Government Whip. Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Pasir Ris-Punggol). Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song (Non-Constituency Member). Mr Goh Chok Tong (Marine Parade). Mr Hawazi Daipi (Sembawang), Senior Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education and Acting Minister for Manpower. Mr Heng Chee How (Whampoa), Senior Minister of State, Prime Minister's Office and Deputy Leader of
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the House. Mr Heng Swee Keat (Tampines), Minister for Education. Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan-Toa Payoh). Mr Inderjit Singh (Ang Mo Kio). Ms Indranee Rajah (Tanjong Pagar), Senior Minister of State for Education and Law. Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio). Mr S Iswaran (West Coast), Minister, Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Second Minister for Trade and Industry. Dr Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol). Mr Khaw Boon Wan (Sembawang), Minister for National Development. Dr Amy Khor Lean Suan (Hong Kah North), Minister of State for Health and Manpower and Deputy Government Whip. Ms Janice Koh (Nominated Member). Dr Lam Pin Min (Sengkang West). Er Dr Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon). Mr Desmond Lee (Jurong). Ms Ellen Lee (Sembawang). Mr Lee Hsien Loong (Ang Mo Kio), Prime Minister. Ms Lee Li Lian (Punggol East). Mr Lee Yi Shyan (East Coast), Senior Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry. Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah). Mr Laurence Lien (Nominated Member). Ms Mary Liew (Nominated Member). Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten). Mr Lim Hng Kiang (West Coast), Minister for Trade and Industry. Mr Lim Swee Say (East Coast), Minister, Prime Minister's Office. Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied). Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Nee Soon). Miss Penny Low (Pasir Ris-Punggol). Mr Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied). Ms Low Yen Ling (Chua Chu Kang). Mr Lui Tuck Yew (Moulmein-Kallang), Minister for Transport Mr Mah Bow Tan (Tampines). Mr Masagos Zulkifli B M M (Tampines), Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs. Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman (East Coast), Senior Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence and Minister for National Development. Mr Muhamad Faisal Bin Abdul Manap (Aljunied). Assoc Prof Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim (Nee Soon), Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Minister for Transport. Dr Lily Neo (Tanjong Pagar). Dr Ng Eng Hen (Bishan-Toa Payoh), Minister for Defence and Leader of the House. Ms Irene Ng Phek Hoong (Tampines). Mr David Ong (Jurong). Mr Ong Teng Koon (Sembawang).
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Ms Denise Phua Lay Peng (Moulmein-Kallang). Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang). Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied). Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade), Deputy Speaker. Mr Seng Han Thong (Ang Mo Kio). Mr K Shanmugam (Nee Soon), Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law. Ms Sim Ann (Holland-Bukit Timah), Senior Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications and Information and Minister for Education. Mr Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir). Mr Sam Tan Chin Siong (Radin Mas), Senior Parliamentary Secretary to the Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Minister for Foreign Affairs. Mr Tan Chuan-Jin (Marine Parade), Acting Minister for Manpower and Senior Minister of State for National Development. Asst Prof Tan Kheng Boon Eugene (Nominated Member). Ms Jessica Tan Soon Neo (East Coast). Mr Patrick Tay Teck Guan (Nee Soon). Mr Teo Chee Hean (Pasir Ris-Punggol), Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs. Dr Teo Ho Pin (Bukit Panjang), Deputy Government Whip. Mrs Josephine Teo (Bishan-Toa Payoh), Minister of State for Finance and Transport. Mr Teo Ser Luck (Pasir Ris-Punggol), Minister of State for Trade and Industry. Mr Teo Siong Seng (Nominated Member). Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam (Jurong), Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance. Ms Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade). Mr Edwin Tong Chun Fai (Moulmein-Kallang). Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang). Dr Vivian Balakrishnan (Holland-Bukit Timah), Minister for the Environment and Water Resources. Mr Wong Kan Seng (Bishan-Toa Payoh). Mr Lawrence Wong (West Coast), Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information. Assoc Prof Dr Yaacob Ibrahim (Moulmein-Kallang), Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs. Mr Alex Yam (Chua Chu Kang). Mr Yee Jenn Jong (Non-Constituency Member). Mr Yeo Guat Kwang (Ang Mo Kio). Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol). Mr Zainudin Nordin (Bishan-Toa Payoh). Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang).

ABSENT:
Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar). Mr Lee Kuan Yew (Tanjong Pagar). Mr Raymond Lim Siang Keat (East Coast). Ms Tan Su Shan (Nominated Member).
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Mr Alvin Yeo (Chua Chu Kang).

Permission to Members to be Absent
Under the provisions of clause 2(d) of Article 46 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, the following Members have been granted permission by the Speaker to be absent from sittings of Parliament (or any Committee of Parliament to which they have been appointed) for the periods stated: Name Mr Lee Kuan Yew Ms Tan Su Shan Dr Vivian Balakrishnan Dr Teo Ho Pin From To

(2013) (2013) 08 Feb 08 Feb 08 Feb 08 Feb 08 Feb 08 Feb 10 Feb 13 Feb 14 Feb 14 Feb 19 Feb 26 Feb 22 Mar 24 Mar [Mdm Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions Refining the COE System
1 Ms Denise Phua Lay Peng asked the Minister for Transport if LTA will modify the current COE bidding system to allow for balloting of fixed-priced COEs by user categories while retaining the quota ceiling. The Minister of State for Transport (Mrs Josephine Teo) (for the Minister for Transport) : Mdm Speaker, let me first thank the Member for her suggestion, which we ourselves in the Ministry have considered before. The big challenge in a balloting system for COEs is that even those who have no real intention to buy a car would try their luck. This is especially because the “prize” of the ballot, in this case a COE, will be much sought after and a person who wins the ballot can quite easily decide to cash out and literally “make a small fortune”. It is not that we have anything against people getting lucky but such a system will in fact generate additional demand, and reduce the chances for those who really want to buy a car. It would also lead to a black market where balloted COEs are resold to genuine car buyers at a much higher price. This in fact was the experience when Beijing introduced a balloting system for cars in 2011. The Beijing
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municipal government released about 240,000 quotas that year, allocated through a monthly lottery system. This number is only one-third of the 750,000 cars registered in the previous year of 2010. Applications to the lottery have since increased exponentially, exceeding a million applicants for the monthly quotas of 20,000 and that number is still rising. So every month, 20,000 quotas, but also, one million applicants every month right now. It is anybody's guess how many of those one million applicants are trying their luck for the first, second or even nth time. Furthermore, the lotteries have made under-the-table deals a very lucrative business. Balloting also does not help us to better satisfy the demand for cars, unless we give special preference for certain user groups. This, however, has serious drawbacks, as I have explained to the House earlier this week. In addition, we would have to fix some arbitrary price for COEs given out under a balloting system. It has to be high enough to deter speculators and yet not too high for people who would like to own cars. The Member will agree that this is next to impossible as any price that is lower than what people are willing to pay will attract speculators. To summarise, balloting essentially means telling genuine buyers, whether they are families or businesses, that getting a COE depends on the luck of the draw or having to resort to the black market. Neither of this is very reassuring and clearly not an improvement over the present system. Ms Denise Phua Lay Peng (Moulmein-Kallang) : Mdm Speaker, I thank the Minister of State for the reply. The ever escalating COE is a bug bear among Singaporeans, and there is also talk that potentially, the COE can go up to more than $100,000. I was just wondering if Ministry could consider at least studying what are the models available around the world and get Singaporeans to maybe come up with our own model, and address this bug bear. We could use the Singapore Conversation series as a platform to do that. I think we need to engage Singaporeans to look into this. Let them have the information about the fact that you already have studied this model or other models, and engage them, so that we can perhaps draw some wisdom from them as well. Mrs Josephine Teo : Mdm Speaker, I thank Ms Denise Phua for her comments. Indeed, we share the concerns that Members have over the COE prices. As I have shared earlier this week, we are open to reviewing a number of ways in which we could improve the system, for example, we could look at how the categories are defined. I totally agree with the Member that it is an area that we need to reach out more and share with Singaporeans why some of the options that are very well-intentioned, do however have some serious drawbacks or difficulties in implementation. Madam, what I can share with the Member is that for a start, in the Ministry’s website, there is something that we are preparing that will help to articulate all the different considerations for suggestions that members of the public have put forward, which are really good suggestions to begin with but then they have some implementation difficulties. So that is something that we are working on. And I would also agree with her that if there are opportunities for us to go out and explain the different options that the Ministry has considered, we would be very happy to do so. At the same time, let me reassure her that this is an area that we will try and see if there are ways to refine. Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah) : Mdm Speaker, I thank the Minister of State for the response. As a follow-up question, and to raise the issue that I raised two days ago again, if there could be a reconsideration for those who treat the road as their livelihood. Therefore, commercial vehicles, companies, SMEs, who are requiring transport or transport of their workers and tools for their trade, and if there is a review of the COE system or a tweak of it, could priority or consideration be had to this group? I understand that there are two auction processes for the COE, but if that could be tweaked, I would be every grateful for that.
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Mrs Josephine Teo : Madam, again I thank Mr Christopher de Souza for raising this concern on behalf of especially small business owners. I do have a lot of sympathy for this group because they do need it for their livelihood. Yes, we have made the additional registration fee as low as 5% for Category C vehicle owners, as compared to 100% of the Open Market Value for car owners. So there is already a big price difference between what business owners will have to pay for goods vehicles and what individual owners are currently paying for the privilege of car ownership. But I take his point and it is something that we are very mindful of, and we are looking at some possibilities. Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Nee Soon) : Mdm Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister of State whether the review of the COE is on the way. If it is, then when will this review be completed? Mrs Josephine Teo : The COE system is actually quite complex with many different dimensions. One of the key things that we are trying to do is to ensure that whatever it is that we do to the COE does not distort the market inappropriately. I understand that there is a sense of urgency. What I can say to the Member is that we also very mindful of the urgency. Mdm Speaker : Order. End of Question Time. 12.38 pm

A Sustainable Population for a Dynamic Singapore
(Motion)
Order read for Resumption of Debate on Question [4 February 2013] “That this House endorses Paper Cmd. 1 of 2013 on "A Sustainable Population for a Dynamic Singapore" as the population policy roadmap to address Singapore's demographic challenge, and Paper Misc. 1 of 2013 on "A High Quality Living Environment for all Singaporeans" as the land use plan to support Singapore's future population.”. – [Mr Teo Chee Hean]. Amendments proposed (5 February 2013) (1) in line 3, to leave out “population policy”; and (2) at the end, to add “projections; and supports maintaining a strong Singaporean core by encouraging more Singaporeans to get married and have children, supplemented by a calibrated pace of immigration to prevent the citizen population from shrinking; and recognises that the population projections beyond 2020 are for the purpose of land use and infrastructure planning, and not a population target; and calls on the Government to: (a) place priority on resolving current strains on the infrastructure, particularly in transport; (b) plan, invest in, and implement infrastructure development ahead of demand;
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(c) ensure that the benefits of our population policies, such as better job opportunities and salaries, flow to Singaporeans; and (d) carry out medium term reviews of our population policies and assumptions to take into account the changing needs of Singapore and Singaporeans, as well as changing domestic and external circumstances.” – [Mr Liang Eng Hwa]. Resumption of Debate on Question (5 February 2013), “That the words proposed to be left out be left out.”. Question again proposed. 12.29 pm Ms Mary Liew (Nominated Member) : Mdm Speaker, the White Paper has reinforced the reality and seriousness of our population’s demographic trend of a shrinking and ageing population as currently being experienced in most of Asia. From now till 2030, we will have more than 900,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 years of age. This is about a quarter of the existing citizen population entering their silver years. To contribute towards reversing the current trend of low birth rates, the recent enhanced Marriage and Parenthood Package, encourage young Singaporeans to get married and have more than 1 child is a commendable initiative. I would like to raise several concerns and make suggestions in four key areas to further contribute to the initiatives in the Population White Paper. First, holistic approach, infant care and childcare. I thank the Government for accepting some of the NTUC’s proposal to build a pro-family and pro-creation Singapore. While the new M&P Package including the enhanced Baby Bonus, encourages couples to have more children and helps alleviate child-raising costs, it is however a one-off incentive and does not take into account that child raising is a lifelong journey. In order to improve fertility rates, it is important that families have support throughout the years as the child grows up. Parents need to feel confident that they can adequately provide for their children a quality life while enjoying opportunities for personal development. Strong measures must be in place to ensure that women do not lose out at work when they take time off to start a family. We urge the Government to take bold steps to implement a holistic approach on Family Friendly Workplace practices. I would like to ask if the Minister would consider legislating on the right for employees to ask for flexible work arrangement similar to Australia and UK. The additional subsidies for infant care and child care are definitely a step in the right direction. It reduces the burden of infant care and childcare costs for working parents and is an incentive for full-time mothers to return to work. These enhanced subsidies are pegged to household incomes, and therefore vary depending on the family’s incomes. However, while these measures are welcomed, would the government consider taking a bigger step and moving towards the Scandinavian model which has improved their Total Fertility Rates to 2.1? For the Scandinavians, the affordability of infant care and childcare is just part of the answer. Equally important is that the network of facilities where fees and standards are equal across the board. This removes the anxiety of fighting for a spot at the best day-care centres and gives children the same preparation for school regardless of their socioeconomic status.
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I urge our Government to continue to work towards strengthening the infrastructures of our infant care and child care centres to provide quality services, so that parents are confident to raise their children without monetary worries and over reliance on domestic helpers. Instead of our current staggered system of enhanced subsidies based on household income, can we consider a similar model where infant care and child care is very much close to being state-funded? After all, children are our National Treasures and the leaders of tomorrow. What we spend on them today is an investment for our future. This would be in line with the current practice where the fees in our Government Primary and Secondary Schools are nominal and a flat rate for all Singaporeans, there is no discrimination and income differentiation. This simplified scheme further reduces the manpower required to administer the different tier of subsidies. We can further look into a longer and more flexible system of parental care leave. In Sweden, couples enjoy 13 months of paid leave, plus another three months leave at a fixed rate. The 13 months can be split between parents, so families can decide which parent would best perform the role at home. By law, employers have to hold a mother’s job during her maternity leave, so the job will still be there after one year. This is one of the contributing factors to the Swedish fertility rate of 1.9. I hope that the Minister will continue to look into NTUC’s request of a longer maternity leave of six months paid by the Government and if possible, up to another six months unpaid maternity leave. Although Singaporean working mothers enjoy maternity leave, there remains a segment of the women population, employed on short term contracts, who may not get their contracts renewed when their employers become aware of their pregnancy. While the Government Paid Maternity Benefit offers some income for mothers who are contract workers, if family’s support is inadequate, it will be a challenge for the mother to go out to look for employment, when no one is taking care of the newborn. In this instance, she would not be eligible to fully benefit from the infant care subsidies. These mothers find themselves without income when they need it most. A flat-nominal infant care fee would however be very beneficial in her circumstance. Second, Singapore women and serving the nation. As the Singapore population continues to age, there will be considerable demands for facilities for the elderly, including healthcare, rehabilitative care, retirement homes, and others. The Government is looking to build some 17 new and replacement nursing homes, 39 senior care centres and 56 senior activity centres by 2016, with facilities to be added in tandem with future demand and growth. Whilst work is being done to develop these national infrastructures to support our ageing population, is the same effort being made towards building a manpower base for these facilities? Healthcare is such an essential aspect in ensuring the well-being of our national population. Whilst our male population in Singapore are obliged to serve their National Service, the women can also contribute to our nation by being trained in healthcare and eldercare as part of a mere mandatory minimum of three month’s commitment similar to our men serving in National Service. They will become better caregivers for their immediate families and be equipped when they start families of their own. This will serve as an exposure as well as encouragement for women to consider healthcare as a career option but, more importantly, the skills and knowledge in medical care, healthcare and eldercare will remain a core life skill that will be embedded in our young women for life. This will contribute to the currently lacking manpower base of healthcare workers and help reduce our reliance on foreign talents. Madam, I am often being
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asked by male colleagues and Members lamenting to me why are we women not serving the National Service whereas they have to. I got to gently remind them that their mothers served life-long National Service because of them. Third, housing and transport infrastructure. In our Singapore journey to 2030, preliminary projections indicate that we may have some 2.5 million non-residents who are predominantly foreign workers, supplementing our Singaporean core in the workforce. To cope with our population growth, the Government has plans to add to our infrastructure with 700,000 additional homes, so that we can all live and co-exist in this high quality living environment. In this quest for quality living, I hope that decent quality living infrastructure will also be developed for our foreign labour in the form of better dormitories. Although some of our foreign workforce may be from the third world countries seeking better work opportunities, it does not mean that they only deserve third world standards of housing in Singapore. I therefore urge the Government to consider as part of the infrastructure development plans to also place serious consideration into how we can provide a comfortable living environment for our foreign workforce. They deserve decent work, decent wages and decent living environment, as with all workers all over the world. With regard to transport, I am heartened that the Government has also announced plans to implement a $43 million National Cycling Plan to construct dedicated off-road cycling paths that segregate cyclists from on-road vehicles and pedestrians, in HDB towns and estates to facilitate intra-town cycling, one of which would be through capitalising on the extensive park connector networks. It is a great proposal, as cycling is a mode of transport that has a reduced environmental impact and on a recreational level, promotes healthier living through exercise. However, I hope the Government will look beyond the recreational benefits of cycling, and recognise that cycling is an alternate mode of transport. Studies from Copenhagen concluded that after cycle tracks were constructed along the main roads, there was an increase in the use of bicycles and a decrease in the use of cars or other modes of transport for daily commute to work. When I was in Copenhagen last October, I was amazed to see so many well dressed professional men and women riding on a bike to and from work. Then I was told by the Danish Unionists that their Labour Minister cycled to work. I started to imagine our Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin doing the same. But I am not quite there yet. With our increased population projections in 2030, it would be worth to alleviate the crunch of cars on the road and the masses using our rail networks, by encouraging some of our citizens to embrace a healthier and a more economical way of transportation. While the National Cycling Plan is looking into off-road cycling path, would the Government consider the feasibility of implementing cycling infrastructures into the building of future roads, including bus lanes, or designated routes for cyclists to use in their daily commutes? Last, better pay, better jobs and better lives. In conclusion, Mdm Speaker, I must confess that like many others, I was concerned when I first read the headline of 6.9 million population in 2030. Looking at the current infrastructure, social tension and the competition we faced, it did not give me the assurance that Singaporean will be better off in 2030 with a 6.9 million population.
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However, I appreciate our prudent Government for being honest, for taking the bold steps in sounding the alarm and planning ahead before it is too late. On this note, I would like to join my brothers and sisters in the Labour movement to call upon the Deputy Prime Minister to focus on the following important areas: First, we must be mindful that the slowdown in economic growth could lead to higher unemployment and stagnation of wages. Whilst we recognise that as our economy matures, our economic and manpower growth will slow down, but we must not overdo it and lose sight of keeping unemployment low and fending off wage stagnation. At the same time, we must pay special attention to vulnerable workers to ensure that they too can have better jobs, better pay and lead better lives. Second, assure Singaporeans that the infrastructure of 2020 and 2030 will be better than the infrastructure of today. It is important to solve the problems of today decisively so as to build confidence and prevent the problem of today from snowballing into a bigger problem tomorrow; in particular, the availability and affordability of housing, reliability and adequacy of public transport, shorter waiting times and affordable healthcare. Third, Singaporeans must always come first as we grow our population. As we see more non-residents in Singapore, we must also see more babies born here. From education to healthcare, jobs and wages, we must ensure that the interests of Singaporeans come first. The standard of living and quality of life of Singaporeans must only get better and not worse. Putting Singaporeans first would also mean protecting our Singaporeans PMEs as well. I fully support the call by the hon. Member Patrick Tay for the Minister to look into setting up a quota for foreign PMEs so that our Singaporeans will not be disadvantaged. Fourth, a bigger population should not lead to higher inflation and a less sustainable environment. There will be greater demand for daily essentials. A bigger population will also put a greater strain on our environment with higher energy consumption, air pollution, and others. Steps must be taken to ensure the security of supply and a greener and cleaner environment. Last but not least, the journey towards Singapore 2030 should be a journey of all round engagement between the Government and Singaporeans. The five days’ debate in Parliament and the adoption of the White Paper should not be a one-off exercise. There must be periodical reviews and continued engagement. This will strengthen trust, co-ownership, confidence and involvement by Singaporeans in creating our Singapore 2020 and 2030 together. On this note, Madam, I support the motion as moved by the hon. Member Liang Eng Hwa. 12.55 pm Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Pasir Ris-Punggol) : Mdm Speaker, let me first speak in Mandarin. (In Mandarin): Singapore’s population policy should not only meet our development needs, but also promote social harmony. We must maintain Singapore’s vibrancy and build a quality home that all Singaporeans share. Recently, we have been discussing how large a population Singapore will have in the future. The reality is that Singapore does not have enough people and has a low fertility rate and an aging population. By 2030, seniors aged 65 and above will reach 900,000 and those who need care may reach 117,000. This is a serious challenge we are facing. To ensure a Singaporean core, we must first raise our citizens’ fertility rate. In this regard, we must have strong determination. We have talked about this enough during the last several days. Now I would like to focus on
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childcare and eldercare. Many families rely on maids to look after their children. It would be most helpful if the Government could reduce or waive the Foreign Domestic Worker Levy. At the same time, employers should adopt more pro-family measures. When a person’s family is harmonious, his productivity will also increase. This is so called “a harmonious family can lead to the success of everything”. Beside maids, many couples also hope their parents, that is, the grandparents, could help look after the children. If the elderly can help look after our next generation, our family and social cohesiveness would be strong. The elderly can play with their grandchildren and the latter can receive more love from them. Youngsters will be able to feel more warmth from the family. Grandparents are more experienced and caring; therefore couples will be more comfortable with leaving their children with them. Hence, the Government can subsidise the grandparents who help look after the grandchildren with childcare grant. This is a form of recognition of their contributions and will be seen as pro-family. The elderly have laid the foundation for today’s Singapore. Their contribution should not be forgotten. When drinking, we should remember where the water is from. We must take good care of them so that they can enjoy their senior years. Looking after the elderly means they can age gracefully. Quite often, we hear people say that they are not afraid of death but sickness instead. This shows how the elderly are worried about high medical expenses. I hope the Government can relieve the elderly of their worries and consider waiving GST for all medical expenses regardless they are subsidised by the Government or not, and relax the criteria for using ElderShield. Besides physical health, we should also look after the elders’ mental health. Aging-in-place is a very good proposal. There is a saying that nowhere is as good as one’s home. If the elderly could age in place and continue to live in a familiar environment, they will have better mental health. We need to expand the scope of Aging-inplace and build more pro-senior facilities in the community. By 2030, seniors aged 65 and above will reach 900,000. More caregivers will be needed to look after them. Hence, to import a certain numbers of foreign caregivers is necessary. In conclusion, to keep Singapore vibrant and to stay true to the Singapore spirit, we must have enough Singaporeans. I hope the enhanced Marriage and Parenthood package can encourage Singaporeans to have more children so that we can have the joy of three generations living together. At the same time, we can build a more gracious society. (In English): The White Paper aims to build a vibrant population with a strong Singaporean core. Its main goal is to provide Singaporeans with better lives, higher quality homes and wider career choices to pursue their dreams. It is pro-Singaporean and pro-Singapore. A Punggol resident, Tan Siang Meng, recently shared his sentiments with me. Singaporeans are our national resources. We should do all we can to encourage the birth rate, rather than vary the pace of immigration. I want to discuss how we can focus on the organic growth of our Singaporeans, what more we can do to support Singaporeans, to strengthen the Singaporean core. The Government is here for Singaporeans, along with Singaporeans and always on their side.
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We need to reassure them that housing, jobs, cost of living are taken care of, as we experience demographic challenges in 2030. We not only have to assure Singaporeans that the plans in the White Paper benefit Singaporeans, we must ensure that Singaporeans can feel the benefits and get the benefits of Singapore’s progress in 2030, without doubt. Housing, cost of living, job competitiveness and Singapore’s low birth rate are issues close to my heart. During my maiden speech in this Parliament last year, I offered some suggestions on improving Singapore’s low birth rate, in terms of HDB flat rebates and free infant care. Therefore, I welcome the recent Government initiatives that address the issues I had highlighted. We are on the right track in our population policies. Allow me to make three observations and suggestions to further strengthen our population policies. Firstly, the Government should continue to create as many opportunities for every Singaporean to be successful in life. In 2030, I hope all Singaporeans will live out their own “Singapore dream”, have great and good career options and excel in different pathways they wanted. To do so, I urge the Government to invest heavily in education. We must preserve our social mobility and allow every child to realise their potential to the fullest. Our investments in education should address our demographic challenges. Our ageing population will require more healthcare services. From NPTD’s Paper on Foreign Manpower Demand, the projected growth of foreign healthcare professionals and support care workforce is about 9,000 and 6,000 respectively. I believe that more should be done to encourage locals to join these sectors instead. I urge the three medical schools here can do more to attract and nurture medical professionals amongst Singaporeans. Most parents applaud the recent announcements on the enhanced child and infant care subsidies. Sharon, another Punggol resident I met, suggests that more cost subsidies should be given to early childhood teachers to upgrade themselves. This will increase the level of professionalism in this sector. Besides affordability of childcare courses, parents continue to be concerned by the accessibility and quality of early childhood development programmes. Could the Implementation Committee on Enhancing Pre-school Education give us an update? The rising cost of living continues to be one of the chief concerns among Singaporeans particularly the lower income group who have seen their real income stagnate. With rising income inequality a global phenomenon, we must help our low-income Singaporeans upgrade, take on good jobs and earn better wages. We need to attract better foreign investments so as to secure good quality jobs, better-paid jobs for our Singaporeans. I am heartened by the Government’s drive to create high value jobs, with two-thirds of Singaporeans holding PMET jobs by 2030. The rental costs for commercial and industrial properties also affect the rising costs of living among Singaporeans. I would urge the HDB and JTC to resume bigger and more active roles in controlling the rental for these properties. A good example is the role of the NEA and its active co-management of new hawker centres with non-profit organisations. Thirdly, we must continue to build good affordable homes and implement pro-family housing policies. On good affordable homes, I welcome MND's move to delink the prices of new flats from the prices of resale flats. This
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will address many young couples' anxieties. May I also suggest that MND continues to price future new flats at not more than five times of the eligible applicants' annual income of this flat type. We also can do more for three generations of families staying together. The new Multi-generation Priority Scheme allows parents and their married child to submit a joint application to purchase a studio apartment or 2room flat together with another flat in the same project. I suggest that MND looks at making bigger sized flats (4-room and 5-room) a priority to larger families to encourage them to live together. I am also encouraged by MND’s land use plan to build more regional centres, so that people can work and have leisure near their home. As a Pasir Ris Punggol Member of Parliament, I am pleased to note that Punggol will be developed further. The existing Punggol Town Centre will be expanded into Punggol Downtown with a Town Square and a Creative Cluster. I wish to ask about the Government’s plans for the type of creative cluster businesses it intends to attract and the estimated timeline for the redevelopment. I also wish to appeal to HDB to grant a few days’ grace period without penalty for each month of instalment payment to flat owners. This will help to ease the financial strain and burden for those families whose income barely made the household expenditure. On pro-family housing policies, I think we can go a step further than the newly introduced Parenthood Priority Scheme. We can also explore a special housing grant for HDB couples for each child they have subject to a minimum of two children. Young families also need the support of their immediate families, such as their parents and in-laws. We can do more for them. When Punggol is fully developed, the housing units in Punggol will be tripled to 96,000 units. As Punggol becomes one of the largest HDB towns under the Punggol Downtown, I would like to request that LTA expedite the building of the Cross Island Line. This will facilitate better connectivity for the larger number of residents from Punggol to towns in the central and western region. I hope LTA can look into opening the line in stages within the next decade, with Changi, Pasir Ris and Punggol as the first stops. While the population policy is of national concern, we must continue to adopt policies that are both proSingaporean and pro-Singapore. The organic growth of our Singapore core must be the utmost priority. Recently, I shared my experiences as a father with the parents at my Punggol’s Edusave presentation ceremony. To me, children fulfil the life of a couple. After a full day’s work, I feel energised just by the sight of my children at home. They remind me of my purpose in life and what I am striving for. The success of our population policies depends most importantly on the personal choices and efforts of our fellow Singaporeans. We can agree on some issues and will disagree on other issues. However, there are many parts to Singapore’s future in 2030 which we must work and create together as a family, as a community and as a nation. With that, Mdm Speaker, I support the motion with the proposed amendment, and the assurance by the Government that it will do its utmost to create a better and quality life for Singaporeans, and to also help Singaporeans to increase productivity to bring a better life for our children and our next generation. Last but not least, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the Members here and also my residents in Pasir Ris-Punggol and all Singaporeans a Happy Lunar New Year. 1.11 pm
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Ms Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade) : Mdm Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to speak in this debate. When the White Paper was released, I had strong reservations. I wondered how Singapore can accommodate 6.9 million, when every day we are faced with crowds in places such as the housing estates, wet markets, shopping malls, MRT trains, buses and carparks? How can I feel that this is still my country if Singaporeans are at the brink of becoming the minority with 55% of population being citizens in Singapore in 2030? Singaporeans shared these reservations. The White Paper evoked a strong reaction from many Singaporeans. The media headlines were stark and set the tone for the vigorous debate that was to come. The Internet was abuzz with concerns and critical comments. In essence, the pushback from Singaporeans was mighty strong. Many spoke to me, emailed me and left comments on my Facebook page. Let me share some of the comments I have received: First: “What is the purpose of a 6.9 million population? How fast can our infrastructure develop to meet with this increase in population? Are current citizens expected to pay more in terms of GST, transport fares, etc, in that case to let ourselves have less space in this country?” Next one: “It's never too late to stop and think – are we for "a healthy economy" or for "a healthy people"? Most important, what is the healthy balance we ought to achieve between national economic progress and meaningful personal growth for each citizen?” These comments are sensible, and I believe many Singaporeans share these sentiments as well. When the Ministers took turns to explain the intent, that is, our first priority is to strengthen the Singaporean core; that 6.9 million is NOT a target but a planning parameter; and that the infrastructure will be improved and built ahead of time, I felt more reassured. But still, I have some reservations and I will set them out here. First on infrastructure: With current pain points still stubbornly persisting, it is frankly difficult for anyone to imagine the vision articulated in the White Paper or the Land Use Plan. How much more can we build before collapsing our island nation? I appreciate that MND and MOT have released their respective master plans to improve services, prior to the release of the White Paper. However, I believe we should have first focused on resolving the current pain points quickly before considering the White Paper proposals. Can MND and MOT not continue to work at improving services until the current problems are resolved? When the problems are resolved, I believe that is also when Singaporeans can better imagine and have the confidence that we can accommodate the rise in population growth. Hence, I am glad that the hon. Mr Liang Eng Hwa has proposed an amendment which singled out and gave clarity to the need to prioritise efforts in resolving the current strains on our infrastructure. The Government also needs to plan ahead and invest in infrastructure beyond just housing and transport. This should include the adequacy supply of water, sustainability of energy use and effective waste management! Even at our present population size, are these sufficient and sustainable over the long term? Take waste management as an example. We have limited land. The land will grow but to house people and not waste. People, however, will continue to incur and produce waste on a daily basis. So, how are we going to manage that and how effective will the waste-to-energy incineration be in reducing the volume of waste produced
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in future by an expected larger population? The next concern I have is about maintaining a Singaporean core. A strong Singaporean core is essential to having a stable and healthy Singapore. This is also one of the stated aims in the White Paper. But are we doing enough to maintain and in fact strengthen the Singaporean core? There are a few points that I would like to make. First, it is critical to raise our demoralising TFR. Encouraging a significant increase in TFR within a short span of time will be challenging, but we need to continue to push hard at it. Yes, low TFR is a phenomenon observed in many developed countries around the world, but there are also matured economies which have seen a rise in TFR because of good efforts put in by their governments. Consider Australia. In 2007, Australia had a TFR of 1.9, which rose to about 1.93 in 2008 and has since stayed at that level. It is a positive example of a developed economy with a higher than average fertility rate. Some of Australia’s birth rates pick-up came from what it has called “recuperation”. This means that a significant number of women who had at an earlier stage (for example, at the age 25 years old) did not wish to give birth, and decided to do so only several years later. The report suggests that it is the accessibility of part-time jobs, reduced financial risks associated with childbearing and lowered costs associated with exiting and re-entering the labour market that have enabled this “recuperation”. Australia’s experience gives hope that Singapore too can in time increase our TFR. But we have to seriously address and overcome the barriers that deter Singaporean couples from starting families. Top of the list of factors that was explored is the affordability of supporting a child. This is based on studies both in Australia and locally. For example, a year 2000 Australian study pointed out that the financial and psychosocial costs of having children can be difficult to decipher, and that negative “unknowns” themselves encourage individuals to err on the side of caution and thus discourage them from having children. Locally, a 2012 study report by NTU Assistant Professor Shirley Hsiao also found that the top concern affecting childbearing decisions was the high and rising cost of living in Singapore, with 96 out of 165 respondents expressing this concern in the study. These studies make clear that the costs of raising a child is a major consideration and the Government needs to do more to help minimise the uncertainties surrounding the raising of a child. In addition, an interesting observation made in the local study was that incentives such as the Baby Bonus were no longer seen as an incentive, but as a form of compensation or reimbursement. Therefore, it is clear that while the schemes that have been offered by the Government have good intention, but it is not enough. Therefore, the Government must continue to monitor the effectiveness of its parenthood schemes and review the package of measures from time to time, to address the concerns of Singaporean parents, and assure them that the Government will help with the cost of raising their children. The slew of schemes announced in the recent Marriage and Parenthood package was comprehensive, and certainly a step in the right direction. However, it does not go far enough to address lingering concerns, such as the availability of childcare and the cost of hiring a foreign domestic helper. We must continue to do more in this area.
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I would also like to boldly propose the following measures for Government’s consideration: First, I think this is something that we have all been talking about – childcare. To ramp up, incubate and facilitate the set up of more childcare centres closer to the heartland so that parents need not worry about accessibility and availability. Second, transport. Make public transport family friendly in addition to simply creating capacity. For instance, by providing family friendly carriages on MRT trains for families travelling together with young children or elderly parents. There are only so many cars that the roads can handle and therefore, at some point, Singaporeans will have to rely on public transport. And we can help by making public transport more family friendly. Third, women workers. Introduce more measures to protect working mothers and mothers-to-be from discrimination at work. The MOM reported that an average of 70% of unfair dismissals - dismissal cases involving women worker that MOM has received involves pregnant women. Hence, we must work to ensure a fair working environment in Singapore so that women who wish to start families can do so, without fear of losing their career. It does not have to be a situation whereby you “gain one baby, and lose one career”. It should not be a zero sum game. Next, we can strengthen our Singaporean core by drawing from a pool of non-Singaporeans who are strongly affiliated with Singaporeans. I refer to the foreign spouses of Singapore Citizens. I had raised this and argued for them in the debate on the Immigration (Amendment) Act in August last year. We should not neglect the contributions of a foreign spouse, especially a woman, married to a Singaporean and who has raised Singaporean children. She is not going anywhere and neither will her Singaporean spouse and children going to forsake her. We need to understand that marriage is a lifelong commitment. It concerns people’s lives. These are Singaporeans who have decided to build a future with foreign partners. We should not make it any more difficult for such couples who have Singaporean children especially. In helping these foreign spouses, we are not just helping the individuals themselves, but really what we are doing is to strengthen Singaporean families, and therefore, nourishing our Singaporean core. When we talk about the Singaporean core, it is also about preserving our Singaporean identity. Being a Singaporean, a citizen should be beyond just holding a pink IC. There has to be a sense of togetherness and shared destiny. It is natural that Singaporeans worry if some of these new immigrants are opportunistic and will exploit us for their own gains. It is natural that Singaporeans want to know: Will they stay and fight with us if a war breaks out tomorrow? Can they speak our language? And will they sing our National Anthem with the same feeling that we have? Clearly, we cannot have zero immigration. However, we need to do more and try harder in our efforts to integrate new immigrants faster and better. And to prevent Singaporeans from becoming a minority in our own country, I hope the Government will consider setting a baseline percentage of Singaporeans that cannot be breached. That will ensure that foreigners will never be admitted into Singapore beyond an acceptable level and that Singaporeans can be better safeguarded. Finally, I would like to touch on Buy-in from Young Singaporeans. We could do more to communicate the White Paper proposals better. The Population White Paper is one of the most important issues considered in this Parliament. This debate concerns what is the soul of Singapore, and what it means to be a Singaporean and to build a Singaporean core. The White Paper that we debate this week will set the path for the next two decades,
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and for someone of my generation or younger, there is a lot at stake. I believe that the Government has good intentions. This is evidently an unpopular task; some may question if this is fool’s courage; some have even described it as “political suicide” for the ruling party. I would like to think that any political party in a democracy will not shoot itself in the foot; the Government would not have introduced this White Paper unless it believes that this is the best proposal, or at least the least bad for Singaporeans and for the future. However, the Government has to do much more to convince Singaporeans that the White Paper proposals are necessary and correct. Mdm Speaker, I am turning 30 years old this year. In all my years, Singapore has enjoyed high GDP growth of about 5% to 8% every year, except during the short periods when Singapore went into recession. Those of my generation Y would find it difficult to appreciate the perils of prolonged low growth or no growth, especially not when many of us are preoccupied with persistent pressures on a daily basis. Many of us jostle for space on the roads, in our buses and on MRT trains; many feel keenly and intimately the competition from foreigners; many are struggling to even catch a breather in the career rat-race. The goals we used to have are increasingly unattainable as the goal posts seem to have been shifted again and again. Moreover, to young people, beyond economic growth and good jobs, we have other equally, if not more, important but perhaps less tangible goals, for instance, happiness, meaningful life, fair opportunities and the space to lead the life we want to have. Each generation has its own needs, demands and character, and we need to recognise that. My generation is one which will not simply accept that the Government knows best. We need to be shown the facts and figures, and be convinced that the course of action is indeed the right one. For instance, in the case of the White Paper, what were the different scenarios that were considered? How are the measures implemented in other countries with similar challenges not applicable or not relevant in our context? Are there specific data or cases that can be explained so that we would know the tradeoffs and therefore, make an informed decision? For example, how will life change if we are having a GDP growth of 3% or even at zero per cent? How much higher will taxes have to be if we do not grow the population size? From now to 2030, young Singaporeans will be going through the prime of our lives, building our careers and raising our own families. Our generation will be profoundly affected by the White Paper proposals. Therefore, if the Government firmly believes in what it has set out in the White Paper, it will have to explain more and illustrate more, to persuade a generation brought up to think critically, speak out without fear, fight for our rights, and do what we believe is the right thing. Mdm Speaker, just a few words in Mandarin, please. (In Mandarin): Population is an important issue that we must pay attention to. This decision will bring about long-term implications. By 2030, I will be 47 years old and I should still be working. If I am lucky, I will probably have children and will be bringing them up. Therefore, today’s decision will affect my generation as well as the future of our children. For now, many of my peers are facing mounting pressure as there seems to be endless rounds of obstacles. There is no right or wrong about the definition of a bright future. And Singaporeans should decide for ourselves and be responsible for it. Several days ago on 5 February, a 17-year-old student Zhang Jiayu wrote in to Lianhe Zaobao to express her views. The article titled “What the post-90ers think of the White Paper” was not only well written but expressed the voices of many young Singaporeans. I hereby quote from her, “If my future children are to live in such a
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crowded environment, and face endless competition while living under financial strains, I’d rather not have children than to let them suffer. I believe many who are born in the 80s and 90s think the same way.” Of course, economy, work and money are important, but happiness, having a meaningful life and personal space are equally important. I understand that the responsibility of this Government is onerous. If we make a wrong move, we may lose the whole game. This is perhaps why the Government would rather be blamed by the people now for making an unpopular decision than risk being blamed by the people as the one responsible for bringing about the crisis later on. However, in life, there are also times when those on the losing end are happy while those on the winning end are sad. Therefore, I urge the Government to listen to the voices of young Singaporeans. If the Government believes that the White Paper is the correct solution, then I hope the Government will try its best to convince Singaporeans. Our future should lie in our hands. I hereby make a bold statement to the Government that sometimes if the Government can take a step backwards, we will all see the fuller picture and have that breathing space. (In English): Mdm Speaker, the end of the White Paper debate cannot be the last word on the matter. It should be an opportunity to continue an engagement process to explain, clarify, argue, adjust and then solicit buy-in and build consensus amongst the people. This White Paper is for Singaporeans and so it is only right that Singaporeans are brought on-board to support the strategies in the paper. Precisely because this concerns all of us, that is why, Singaporeans’ support is so critical. There is no need to rush an 18-year destiny in just one week. Therefore, Mdm Speaker, as hon. Member Mr Liang Eng Hwa has proposed and set out the amendment to the motion and therefore, provided clarity to the intent of the motion, I support the amended motion standing in the name of the hon. Member Mr Liang Eng Hwa. Otherwise, I would boldly ask that the paper be deferred so that there is more time for collective discussion, more detailed explanation and exploration of more options. 1.29 pm Asst Prof Tan Kheng Boon Eugene (Nominated Member) : Mdm Speaker, Point of Order. Can I confirm that we have a quorum in this Chamber? Thereaupon, a count was made. Mdm Speaker : We need 25 Members for the quorum. We have 23 Members in the Chamber. Ring the division bells. Members summoned into the Chamber as if for a division. Mdm Speaker : There are now 26 Members in the Chamber. A quorum is now present. I now call on Ms Janice Koh to take the floor. 1.32 pm
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Ms Janice Koh (Nominated Member) : Thank you, Mdm Speaker, for allowing me to join in the debate. In response to the White Paper, I would like to raise two broad areas of concern. My first concern touches on how serious we are about raising our citizen Total Fertility Rate (TFR) and making sure we will have a strong and not diminishing Singaporean core in the long term. The White Paper acknowledges that many East Asian societies and Western European countries have fertility rates below replacement levels, but it fails to present or consider examples of other countries that have been successful in gradually reversing their declining TFR. These include Norway, Sweden, France, Iceland, Ireland and the UK. Some of these more successful countries have relied, to some extent, on immigrant births to reverse declining TFR, but research also shows that as these nations become more developed, better systems are put in place to help families take care of children, such as extended paternity care and more equitable working environments. The reversal of declining TFR, most notably in the Nordic countries, is due largely to the adoption of womenfriendly and family-friendly social policies and labour market practices. Women enjoy relatively unhindered access to the labour market, and are able to easily withdraw from and return to it after taking parental leave. In Singapore, however, the women’s workforce participation rates decline and do not recover from age 30 onwards. This indicates that many who leave the workforce do not return. In Norway, on the other hand, women benefit from extended paid maternity leave of 46 weeks and their jobs are protected by law. Both partners, mother and father, are actively involved in child-rearing, with men being offered a minimum of 10 weeks paid paternity leave. There is access to high quality, heavily subsidised child care and a guaranteed place for every child. Companies are obligated to offer benefits to pregnant women and new mothers. For instance, expectant mothers get free medical check-ups and breastfeeding moms are allowed to leave early from work. In the Singapore context, these would be considered very bold measures. However, like several MPs in this House have stated, we need to implement bold measures if we expect a paradigm change. If this projection of 6.9 million people by 2030 is really “a worst-case scenario” to help Government plan for our long-term infrastructural needs, then, by the same argument, should we not explore all means and ways to raise the TFR of our resident population under worst-case scenario circumstances? Studies have shown that social policies that help women to reconcile work and family life have a positive effect on fertility. If we are serious about raising TFR, we need to support women who wish to continue working and making a living after childbirth, and give them the assurance that having more children will not have a negative impact on their and their children’s quality of life. We should do more to make gender equality a core value in all our policies in order to support shared parenthood. We need legislation to eliminate workplace discrimination against mothers and pregnant women, and provide greater job security for them. Like Ms Mary Liew, I would like to ask that Government also consider legislating companies to provide options for flexi-work arrangements for women after childbirth as well as advocate and incentivise them to support the needs of new mothers in the workplace. And, finally, we must ensure that all our children, no matter their economic background, have good and easy access to high quality and affordable pre-school education and childcare. My second and more pressing concern relates to Singaporeans’ capacity to embrace a much bigger foreign population into our midst.
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Singapore has a high proportion of PRs and foreigners who live and work alongside our citizens every day. The current ratio is about 38% of the total population. And by 2020, this will climb to about 40%. And by 2030, the number projected will be close to 45%. That is almost half! Is it any surprise then that there is so much anxiety and insecurity amongst Singaporeans over who will constitute this Singapore core in 2030? Reading MND’s Land Use Plan paper and after listening to Minister Khaw’s reassurances, one could argue that it is reasonable to trust the planners on the carrying capacity of our island. What is less clear, however, are our psychological, social and cultural capacities to absorb, accept, if not embrace, this continued flow of newcomers into our midst, and to live well and harmoniously together with them. First, our psychological deficit. Madam, I am not sure if Singaporeans are psychologically ready to accept a lot more immigrants. I believe we are not a xenophobic bunch. We come from immigrant forefathers and we have lived and grown together as a multi-cultural society over many decades. However, in the past year alone, there has been an outpour of anger both online and in the mainstream press over various incidents involving foreigners. It is out of our character, but I believe some of this angst stem from our worry over limited national resources. For instance, the prospect of more and more affluent foreigners snapping up private homes in the property market fuels fears that Singaporeans will soon be priced out of their dream homes. Sure, the 6.9 million figure is only a planning parameter, but psychologically, it is still a hard pill to swallow because Government has yet to convince citizens on how it intends to effectively deal with the serious infrastructural gaps and address the more fundamental questions related to the rising costs of housing and healthcare and the challenges of retirement faced by Singaporeans today. This has led to a growing sense of insecurity about our future, a break in trust between Government and the people, and a lack of confidence that what we work for counts for something. I would therefore like to echo Mr Inderjit Singh’s call for Government to focus first on solving the problems created by past policies of rapid economic and population growth, and on improving the lives of Singaporeans. Singaporeans need to feel confident and secure that, as citizens, we have equal opportunities to achieve our aspirations regardless of race, language or religion. We can start by looking at increasing social spending as a percentage of GDP to benefit and help a larger proportion of Singaporeans, and not just those at the very bottom-rung. Social spending in Singapore has decreased significantly from about 25% of GDP in the 80s to only about 16% of GDP by 2011, even less than in Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan. In this respect, I agree with Mr Seah Kian Peng that Government should review its bias against welfarism. We need to also assure citizens that they are not discriminated against in their own country. We can do this by ensuring that Singaporeans are not discriminated in favour of foreigners when it comes to employment, especially with the rise of more Singaporeans in PMET jobs. We can also make it easier for overseas-born Singaporeans to get their citizenship when they turn 21. I know of Singapore children, born overseas to Singaporean parents, who face an endless line of bureaucratic hoops and hurdles just to prove their right to citizenship. In the meantime, they are upset that there are foreigners who are wooed and courted, and then fast-tracked through the system to getting their citizenship. We should eliminate discrimination against our own citizens in our social policies. Childcare benefits, for instance, should be extended equally to all parents, male or female, unwed or married, with biological or adopted children.
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A Singaporean child, no matter the family situation or circumstances of their birth, should be taken care of and given the best possible start in life. In fact, even more so if the parent is single and struggling to raise the child on his or her own. In our minds, there should be no first and second-class citizens amongst Singaporeans. If, as citizens, we do not feel secure that Singapore is our best home, if we are not confident that we can raise a family, grow old and retire comfortably here, then we would not have it in our hearts and our minds to be open and accepting of our foreign friends. Second, our social deficit. Madam, in a recent letter to TODAY, someone warned that Singapore was in danger of developing into three broad enclaves: one, foreign workers living in dormitories; two, Singaporean heartlanders; and three, wealthy foreigners living in the central region. This does not sound like the Singapore we love and remember, where friends and neighbours of various ethnic, cultural and economic backgrounds, would mix and mingle despite our language differences. This sounds more like a Singapore that is at risk of racial and class divisions. The rapid PR and foreign population growth in the last few years has caused some of these fractures and reduced our empathy for difference. I like what Mr Arthur Fong said in his speech – we need to grow a “strong heart”, or better yet, a “big heart”. If we do not start to build the social capacity to accept difference and diversity in our society now, we will lack the ability to embrace people who are different from us in the future. We will remain in social deficit if we tolerate or close a blind eye to the exploitation of low-wage foreign workers, which downgrade the industries that rely on their labour. Singaporeans then do not want to take up certain jobs because they are seen as lower status jobs done only by foreigners. This creates a further dependency on foreign workers. The recent decision to grant our Foreign Domestic Workers a mandatory day off was a step in the right direction, but more can be done to protect the other labour rights of these workers. Policies and practices that place a lower value on the lives and well-being of certain human beings also lead to Singaporeans to devalue the lives of other Singaporeans. We will remain in social deficit if biased preference is given to certain immigrants from certain countries or sectors. We need a fair and transparent system of immigration so that a diversified pool of immigrants can become PRs, and eventually citizens, contributing to all sectors of society. In this way, Singapore is not just seen as a stepping-stone to other shores. Some resentment against foreigners is a result of bringing in large numbers of immigrants who may share similar ethnic backgrounds as us, but do not share similar cultural backgrounds, norms and values. We should enable the development of Singapore as a multi-cultural society where people are not simply pigeonholed into one of the four ethnic categories, but included as part of a diverse, cosmopolitan society. In this regard, perhaps it is timely to review our ethnic quota policies and how we implement them. We can also do more to educate our young at school by exposing our children, from an early age, to world cultures and world histories, so that they start to develop a healthy respect, empathy and understanding of those from foreign lands and cultures. Finally, our cultural deficit. Madam, the White Paper talks about providing a high quality of life, and celebrating and safeguarding our heritage, but adds this qualifier: "wherever it is practical to do so". It wants Singapore to be a "liveable, lively and well-loved" city, but does not earmark any new spaces for heritage, culture and the arts. In
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fact, in MND's entire 68-page paper on Land Use, "the arts" is only mentioned in one brief paragraph, and not much is said about preserving spaces for historical, cultural or sentimental value to Singaporeans. It is a glaring omission, and I refer to this lack of consideration as our “cultural deficit”. Culture, of which the Arts are its deepest form of expression, reflects who we are, how we see the world and how the world sees us. The Arts also entertain us, educate us, revive us, and provide the much needed leisure outlet to unwind and relax. Our cultural wealth and heritage are built on history, tradition and memories. It roots us, and gives us the tenacity to face change. It provides us with the necessary cultural depth to strengthen our Singapore identity. On this aspect, I have two points. First, a sense of shared history and a strong sense of belonging amongst Singaporeans make it easier for new citizens to actively connect with their new home. How do we develop empathy and mutual understanding of each other’s worldviews and differences if we do not continue to develop cultural spaces like museums and art venues where stories, traditions and memories can be shared? Several MPs have questioned the effectiveness of some of our integration initiatives. Mr Seng Han Tong felt that the citizenship ceremonies, grassroots events and audiovisual presentations may not have been as impactful as they should be. Integration efforts should not be a oneway street. Singaporeans, too, need to build these cultural capacities. A vibrant arts scene can provide far more enriching ways of encountering and bridging differences, and celebrating diversity. Secondly, public spaces to which Singaporeans have made long-lasting attachments help us develop a keen sense of home. It is an emotional attachment. There is no “practical” reason to safeguard it except to safeguard the hearts of our citizens and their sentimental connection to this island. Valuable historical resources are at a danger of being lost if a concerted effort is not made to assess them in detail, prior to any land use decisions. These decisions cannot be made as and when an infrastructural need arises. Madam, at the risk of sounding repetitive, I would like to recall MND’s response to the Bukit Brown issue at last year’s Committee of Supply debate. The Minister of State recognised that hard choices on how our land is used need to be made. He recalled the late Mr Lim Kim San’s words, “Do you want me to look after our dead grandparents or do you want me to look after your grandchildren?” It would be hugely ironic if, in order to make way for more people in 2030, most of whom will be new immigrants with no ancestral links to this land, we had to give up our own cultural and historical treasures and legacies. Worse still, if the 6.9 million figure is truly a stretched projection in a “worst case scenario”, then we need to ask ourselves, are we willing to permanently sacrifice, say, parts of Bukit Brown, for instance, to build infrastructure based on a figure we may or may not achieve? It is one thing to build a liveable city. The harder question is: how do we build a loveable one? Mdm Speaker, to conclude, I would like to remind the House of the wisdom and foresight of S Rajaratnam in 1967. He had written an article for the Petir newsletter entitled, “Preparing for the Seventies”. At that time, we were a society of transient immigrants, where many thought of Singapore, and I quote, “not as ‘our island’ but as a treasure island in which one stayed so long as there was treasure available”. He goes on to say, “To instill in them a deep concern for not just their personal future, but for the future of Singapore… This is partly a psychological problem.” Rajaratnam recognised that issues of national identity and integration have to be resolved before we can resolve the other important problems of economics, housing and education. Why? Because whether citizens or foreigners, we are all human. We are not productive units or economic digits. Because immigration and
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integration present serious social challenges, not just engineering ones. Just as we need to plan our physical infrastructure to accommodate a larger population, so will we need to develop our psychological, social and cultural capacities to accommodate the greater diversity and difference in our society. And these capacities, too, need to be built ahead of demand. Madam, on the basis that more consultation and debate is needed on alternative growth models and targets which have an impact on our infrastructure planning, and given that we have yet to strengthen our psychological, social and cultural capacities to accept a higher immigrant population, I find it hard to endorse this White Paper. Madam, I oppose the motion. 1.50 pm Miss Penny Low (Pasir Ris-Punggol) : What in the world is this Population White Paper about? Is it about how many people we should have in Singapore by 2030? Is it just about the economy? Or is it about the well being of Singaporeans in 2030? Upon closer examination, I realised that some one-third of the Paper deals with issues of jobs, family, environment, living environment which are the basic quality of life issues – the same issues that concerns us all. Hence, to be fixated on the 6.9 million figure is simply missing the wood for the tree. But then, why such strong response from the residents? Politics aside, there is a real concern if our tiny island of 500 square metres of developable land can actually accommodate 6.9 million people comfortably. Already there is congestion on the road, overcrowded public transport and hawker centres, rising housing prices and cost of living. These are clear and present challenges that residents are frustrated with today, so adding more people just does not feel right. Ironically, as the Government reiterated many times, it is precisely the responsibility to plan ahead of demand, and avoid the present day problems, that a planning figure of 6.9 million for 2030 was proposed. Hence, I rise in support of the White Paper and Mr Liang Eng Hwa’s amendment to the Paper – first we must place priority to resolving the current day and current strains on physical and social infrastructure. Do it now and if we over-project the number for 2030 by some margin, it is still much better than the overcrowded situation now. Let us have some buffer as all these projects have long gestation period – a situation we are struggling with today. However, this Paper cannot be cast in stone. We should pay careful attention to how things develop and review our progress after five years and adjust again if need be. This Paper is not just about population, it is about Singaporeans. What do I mean? If we frame our discussion around the strengthening of the well-being of Singaporean core, and we put people in the centre of this White Paper and debate, then it will be a plan to improve the lives of Singaporeans. I wish to explain this by citing the suggestion raised in this House that we tap on the latent workforce in Singapore in order to maintain a zero foreign labour workforce growth. I will also talk about what then must define the Singapore core and the Singapore Community and I will then share my own wish for how we plan the economy and our physical landscape to serve people and not the other way round. On tapping the latent workforce, I have been speaking in this House about putting in more measures to encourage tapping of workforce since 2005. According to the Report on Labour Force in Singapore 2011, it states that the resident labour workforce participation rate of people over 15 years old is 66.1% versus 64.4% in 2001.For older residents of age 55 to 64, the labour participation rate has, in fact, jumped from 45.6% in 2001
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to 63.4% in 2011 and the women workforce participation rate between age 25 and 54 also increase substantially from 65.4% in 2002 to 75.7% in 2011. This is very encouraging and I am sure that the Government has put in some measures to encourage it. But I believe that we can go higher and we have to do more. To do so, suitable incentive frameworks, part-timers/freelancers guilds and a supportive community are prerequisites. And if Singapore workplace is truly inclusive and if the social enterprise sector can develop further, then more needy and disadvantaged people will also be able to contribute to the economy, find good employment, achieve good livelihoods and achieve a sense of self worth and dignity. But for now let me put on focus on the question of seniors and working age women. Seniors are better educated and in better health. They are ready to reap the longevity dividend if the work environment allows. Women are as educated as men today, and they too, want fulfilment of their potentials and financial independence. Entering the workplace becomes a means to these desires. If you we put people at the centre of this discussion, we will also know that to truly meet the intrinsic and extrinsic needs of the individual Singaporean woman, the senior and the family, we must ensure that there is adequate provision of childcare and eldercare facilities - childcare so that working mothers and seniors are assured that the children, their grandchildren will be in good professional care, and eldercare because that will release more working age women from taking care of their old and frail seniors at home. The demand for foreign domestic workers may also rise if families prefer not to use institutional care but use home-based care instead. So, you see, actually we have a wicked problem. If we simply talk about the numbers, a rise on one side from tapping on the latent Singaporean workforce will mean the need for workers in building and running childcare and eldercare facilities. So, my point is this - the role of foreign workforce is closely intertwined with allowing Singaporeans to realise their full potential and enhance quality of life – at least until such time that innovations and robots can take over. Let me draw one more link – if we are all too successful at tapping the latent workforce, but do not address the demand for care, the flexi-work arrangements, then we may not see an increase in our fertility rates. Our women will be stretched every which way – they are not machines, and they do not live according to mathematical formula or financial spreadsheets! So, let us not make the situation worse on one side when we think we are solving the problems on the other side. It means we need a realistic and sensible labour force growth strategy. Let me move on to the Singapore core and its values which are at the centre of the White Paper. The Singapore Community values the extra hands it can attract from elsewhere. But I recognise that the physical congestion and the cross-cultural differences have strained our hospitality in recent years. However, the White Paper, as I said, must be viewed in the context of how it would allow our Singapore Community to thrive as a people. To do that, the White Paper must operationalise in a way that upholds the core values of our nation. So, what are some of the core values that are germane to today’s discussion? First, the celebration of diversity and hybridity – codified in our pledge, our multiracial, multi-lingual and multireligious landscape spurs creativity and variety - you can see how we enjoy Singlish, fish-head curry and even take pride in the Peranakan culture in our everyday lives. We must uphold this tolerance for cultural diversity and reject cultural chauvinism.
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Two, meritocracy – equality of chance for everyone so that everyone has a fair shot at moving up in life. Three, belief in self-reliance and resilience – hand-up and not just hand- out measures. Four, compassionate society. This should be at the core of the Singapore spirit. Fifth, problem-solving and forward-looking ethos – we are a people that is constantly on the look-out for what can be done better and we almost worry all the time about the future and whether life will be better. The White Paper is a manifestation of wanting to put right what is not yet right – problem-solving, forwardlooking. In the same way, our population policy must be implemented in such a way that it ensures that additions to our social landscape be they people from Asia or elsewhere, be they transient workers or immigrants, do not erode these values, otherwise our sense of well-being will suffer. If these are people from foreign shores who find these ideals appealing and opt to give up their previous formal affiliations to join our Singapore Community, then we should welcome them. If not, well then they should not be around. But it may take time for them to adopt this complete set of sensibilities of being a Singaporean, but let us not question their place in the core nor say that they can only join us only if they have been through our schools, national service, or done a fair amount of community service. I would grant though that the National Service scheme could be reviewed to address Singaporeans’ perceptions that there are free-riders amongst immigrants. Perhaps, a task force can be set up to address that. But more critically, when immigrants pick up their pink IC, we must expect and trust that they are committed to upholding our Singaporean way of life. If one does not accept these values, whether or not you are born in Singapore, it will grate on the rest of the Singapore core. There is no point in having shiny new infrastructure, 5.9 million or 6.9 million people, if we live in conflict and discomfort all the time. If the Singapore core lives out these values, this will translate to fair and just workplace practices; to respectful cross-cultural communications in the workplace. The workplace must be an extension of our Singapore Community – in that we will reject workplace discrimination, in that we will accept flexi-time arrangements and paternity and parental leave, and facilitate cross-cultural understanding. Now how else can the plans in the White Paper be informed by these core national values? Like the workplace, the broader economy should also be a more accurate embodiment of our core values, especially compassionate, meritocracy, social mobility, self-reliance, and so on. Here, I would like to bring up two examples. One, a Mr Nicholas Chee, a social entrepreneur who once shared this idea at a meeting at the Social Enterprise Association called “Unvoid the Void Deck”. He grew up in a 1room flat setting and wants to give back to that community. He asked if it is possible for the state and the community to develop a common tools room or workshop at the void deck so that social entrepreneurs may teach the skills to 1-room flat residents who can in turn make high value artisanal products using communityowned tools or machines which they would otherwise not be able to afford. A very much sharing culture. At the other end of the spectrum in Silicon Valley, a model has emerged. This is called a Tech Shop. It is a
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combination of this idea of a shared tool shop described above, and also just-in-time education. Gone is the idea that one needs to go through a three or four-year degree course in university for just-in-case education, but rather start adopting and learning just-in-time education. The Tech Shop is a place to receive the precise training that one needs to turn ideas for products into reality, using a tool library where again needed machinery or computer software can be rented to operationalise these ideas. Why have I shared these two examples? Research shows that beyond a certain level of national wealth or gross domestic product (GDP) where basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and transport are generally met, there is a diminishing marginal return for every increased dollar earned. Singaporeans are no longer interested just in growth but quality growth and how it translates into well-being. Just think about it – Singaporeans seemed quite happy in the 1970s when we were much poorer and people rolled up their sleeves to do chores within the house and also in the community. We were poor in the pockets but we had rich social ties. Today, we are more affluent, we have more things than we probably need while our expectations and wants have also skyrocketed. We lack the time and the settings to develop our social bonds with our neighbours and friends. Our young feel entitled to a better life than the past generation, and the working age parents are striving ever harder to deliver that. As Tom Wolfe, an acclaimed social realist and author noted, as people become richer, their sense of entitlement increases and so do their level of frustration. Is not that a paradox? So, as we design our physical, social and economic infrastructure, I urge that we find ways to create a collaborative environment that re-ignites the sense of connectedness within the Singapore Community; and inject a higher-order of meaning into our daily lives, much like the Nicholas Chee’s suggestion of the Tech Shop in Silicon Valley. If we succeed, we will find that the “social economy” can be used to generate a lot of what we need – car cooperatives, bicycle cooperatives, neighbourhood childcare networks and community home-care schemes, and so on, and so forth, entrepreneurship at the community level can also be given a boost. This will be a shift from the ownership and entitlement economy of today to one of a shared social economy that could potentially lower the cost of living while increasing social capital and strengthening the Singapore core. I will elaborate more on this during my Budget speech. Mdm Speaker, at the end of the day, the White Paper is about the well-being of our nation. It is about Singapore that we want to call home. This is not just the responsibility of the Government, but the responsibility of all Singaporeans. I urge that we give this White Paper a chance for us to be future ready but also collectively in whatever we do, let us put people in the heart of all these efforts. 2.05 pm Asst Prof Tan Kheng Boon Eugene : Mdm Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to take part in this important debate. Our declining fertility rate, coupled with an ageing population, political and economic anxieties and vulnerabilities, presents significant political, economic, social and cultural consequences. The angst, anger and anxiety on the ground and within the Government is palpable. A leap of faith is asked of this House and of Singaporeans.
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This House will successfully carry this motion. But that is probably the easiest part for the Government. Securing a strong buy-in from Singaporeans is far from being a foregone conclusion. The White Paper on Population should be the start of a renewed effort towards continued and deep engagement with all stakeholders. It should not be a document to end consultation and discussion. We should not be afraid to robustly revisit the assumptions and the parameters in the White Paper over the next 17 years and beyond. I sincerely hope that the Government will take a nuanced and open-minded approach to the objections and concerns expressed in this House and not look at them along partisan lines. I can safely say that this House agrees with the imperatives of economic growth, immigration, integration and infrastructure development. We may differ on the methods but the end-points are largely similar. I am all for a population and Singapore that is both sustainable and dynamic. I am also for a sustainable and principled immigration policy, one that truly puts Singaporeans at the centre of all considerations and policies. The population policy must serve Singaporeans, not Singaporeans serving the population policy. Madam, I have deep reservations about the “operating system” behind the proposed roadmap. While the proposed amendments to the Motion do assuaged some of my concerns, the White Paper is primarily an economic roadmap. And the themes of vulnerability, fear, crisis and doom are reiterated. It is not a hopeful document, and the interventions by the front bench, in my mind, reinforce that. As such, I am unable to endorse the White Paper. While we aspire to a global city, a metropolis that is relevant, appealing to Singaporeans and the world alike, we cannot forget that we are, and need to be a nation-state as well. To be more specific, we cannot forget that we are a city-state – there is no hinterland that is within our jurisdiction that you and I can retreat to if we do not like the bright lights of a global city. An American who does not like the global city of New York City can retreat to upstate New York or the Mid-West. The White Paper is disappointing in that, to all intents and purposes, it presents us with only one option. That in order for us to have the requisite economic growth levels by 2020 and 2030, we need to have a certain requisite population, something in the region of 6.5 million to 6.9 million by 2030. The White Paper has, unwittingly, heightened the vulnerability and fear factor since it presents, depending on your vantage point, the best or worst options for Singapore. It reminds me of then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s T-I-N-A slogan: That “There is no alternative”. How do we create a sustainable and dynamic population and Singapore if we take that as our starting point? Let me deal with the three pillars of the White Paper. First, that “Singaporeans form the core of our society and the heart of our nation”. What happens in the privacy of the bedroom has significant national consequences. As such, I welcome the latest enhancements to the Marriage and Parenthood package. I hope they work this time but I am not so optimistic. We have moved to the norm of one-child or two children family as a result of the strong anti-natalist policy in the 1970s and our dalliance with eugenics from the mid-1980s, which turbo-charged the natural contraceptive effect of education, wealth and more opportunities for women. As we continue to have more tertiary educated Singaporeans and new citizens on this island, I do not see how the TFR is going up significantly. I remained puzzled that we did not act affirmatively early enough since our TFR dipped below the replacement level as early as in 1976-1977. Small was beautiful then; but now big is beautiful. More crucially, does our poor TFR reflect an innate and inchoate fear of the future? The White Paper does accentuate this fear.
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The state can help with the costs of raising a family – that is the easy part. More difficult is the task of engendering a genuine pro-family culture and environment. Money cannot get us there. It is about substance not form. This requires a whole and radical mindset shift, and not more talk or money. We need to move more resolutely on this front, especially in our schools and workplaces. Stress levels are high and we should look at the concern that our children do not have much of a childhood, and that many parents run home schools after they finish work. Yes, our schools may be teaching less so that our children may learn more. But it seems like they are studying more and have even more homework. I see the self-esteem of young people increasingly being defined or deflated by their academic grade point averages (GPAs). Mdm Speaker, not only must we encourage more marriages and procreation, a pro-family environment must try require us to reduce the “leakages”. Abortion, at about 12,000 annually over the last decade, is one major leakage. We have a very liberal abortion regime. Can we do more for pregnant women, especially those who are married, to keep the unborn child they do not want? Another leakage, which has been much discussed, is that we must do even more to get the economically inactive Singaporeans into the workforce. Have we done enough or is it mere lip service? How do we have Singaporeans at the core, the heart of the nation if the complexion of our society will change significantly with Singaporeans, including new citizens, forming only 55% of the population? By 2020, we may have 3.5 million or 3.6 million citizen hearts beating but warm bodies alone do not make for a national soul. It is not a numbers game, of course, but just as the Government speaks of maintaining the racial composition, a disproportionate number of non-citizens and new citizens in a short span of time on this island will dramatically alter the Singaporean identity. In essence, nation-building is about this national soul of ours. Do we impoverish it or do we sustain it with our population policy? The White Paper may turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy of a weakened nation not because of a poor economy but more likely because we continue to dilute what it means to be Singaporean. Mdm Speaker, I am well aware that we are almost about to fall off the demographic cliff and as such we need to outsource our fertility. Immigration is and will remain an imperative but how we go about it matters tremendously. We need to ask the “how” questions a lot more and manage the downstream effects and the lived realities that ordinary Singaporeans encounter on a daily basis. We will continue to need immigration – ranging from transient workers, permanent residents and citizens – but this immigration must ultimately be of benefit to Singaporeans. This relentless search for foreign talent has marginalised Singaporeans. I fear that a re-invigorated immigration policy will mean that more Singaporeans will be short-changed even more. As it is, a growing number of Singaporeans feel disenfranchised that we are second-class citizens in our homeland. Mdm Speaker, let me give an example. In some tax-payer funded institutions, foreigners are paid more than equally-qualified Singaporeans for doing the same job. This comes about because foreigners are given housing allowances and education allowances for their children below 21 years of age. This was necessary perhaps two, three decades ago when these institutions were seeking to build their international reputations, the Singapore dollar was not as strong as it is today, and Singapore was probably regarded as a hardship assignment. But things are vastly different today. And yet we perpetuate this differential treatment. What signals are we sending to Singaporeans with this blatant discrimination?
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On Monday this week, the Acting Minister for Manpower noted that the SMRT’s PRC drivers’ total package includes transport and housing costs. However, at the other end of the spectrum, as I have just narrated, such allowances to foreigners are not seen as part of the total remuneration package for them when comparing Singaporeans to non-Singaporeans. Recently, given the increases in rental and property prices, the foreigners in one tax-payer funded institution were given higher housing allowances. However, no similar adjustments were made for Singaporeans who are also affected by the property price increases. Never mind that some foreigners were also collecting rent on their homes in their home country. Some years back when employers’ CPF contributions were no longer compulsory for some foreigners, some Singapore tax-payer funded institutions decided to make direct payments to the foreigners in lieu of the employer’s CPF contributions. The thinking was that the foreigner should be entitled to the benefit of equivalent of the employer’s CPF contribution even though there was no statutory requirement to do so. So, pay equalisation works in one direction only: What the Singaporean gets, the foreigner must also get. However, what the foreigner gets, the Singaporean need not or cannot get. We hear increasingly of discrimination at the workplaces. How foreigners prefer to employ their own kind; how Singaporeans get passed over because being local is not good enough, and is being held against you. I know of many Singaporeans who would like to come back home with their families but, professionally, they are better-off being away. This “foreigner-is-better” mentality is real not apparent. As a foreign Caucasian academic once declared to an academic friend of mine, when explaining why a Caucasian was used in the cover-photo in a publicly funded local educational institution admission brochure, that foreign Caucasian academic said, “It makes us a world class school”. Is it any surprise that our liberal immigration policy is also resisted by Singaporean PMETs since the operation in some of our tax-payer funded institutions results in unfairness and injustice? What does it mean to be Singaporean in this case? It is a badge of dishonour in some of our tax-payer institutions when the Singapore nationality is seen as not being good enough. To compound the palpable concern in all quarters, the challenge in getting citizens to embrace a national policy like immigration is not that every citizen gains from it – at least at the personal level. It is not unusual for foreign workers and new immigrants to be blamed for a local job lost, stagnant wages, high property prices and public infrastructure not keeping up with the influx of immigrants. In short, the opportunity cost of a liberal immigration regime is perceived by the average Singaporean to be very high. The concern at all levels of the workforce is that local talent are being passed over given the preference for “foreign talent”. There is also a strong perception that Singaporeans are doing the “heavy lifting”. So the societal ambivalence, angst, and increasingly, anger towards immigration is to be expected. Singaporeans do not ask for preferential treatment but just fair and equitable treatment, a level playing field. In particular, Singaporeans regard National Service as a crucial marker of commitment and loyalty. But operationally ready national servicemen are feeling that National Service is indeed a liability. Some employers prefer non-Singaporean male employees because there is no issue of their being away from work for operationally ready National Service. To these employers, let me say that we Singaporeans provide the security umbrella for your businesses and your comfortable and secure lives here. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves, especially the Singaporean employers.
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Mdm Speaker, like it or not, many Singaporeans are not so much concerned with transient immigration as conventional wisdom may have it. Much as sometimes our treatment of transient foreign workers holding work permits and S-passes leaves much to be desired, they do the jobs that Singaporeans are not prepared to do. Where there is deep concern relates to jobs for PMEs, here our liberal open-door immigration policy is seen as compromising the prospects of Singaporeans. Employers often do not do enough to develop local talent since it is much easier and quicker to seek an “off the shelf” solution in a foreign professional. The second pillar of the White Paper is at best encapsulated in the following statement: “… our population and workforce must support a dynamic economy that can steadily create good jobs and opportunities to meet Singaporeans’ hopes and aspirations.” In this regard, the Government has stated that it is not growth at all costs. But I am discomforted by the thinking that the population and workforce must support the economy. Should not it be that the economy should support the population and the workforce? There is a fundamental difference between the two approaches notwithstanding that the economy and workforce are interlinked. In the former, which is what the White Paper advocates and our current approach, if the economy is growing at red-hot pace, then the population and workforce must be up to the task of facilitating that. The economy leads the way. This is where if we need 6.9 million on this little red dot to support the economy, we jolly well proceed full steam ahead to make that happen. But are we letting the tail wag the dog? Are we putting the cart before the horse? Let me emphasise that economic growth is crucial. It is what that has made my family progress much all within one generation. But the economic considerations cannot overwhelm our policy responses. In the latter approach of the economy supporting the population and workforce, we determine the population size that is optimal and the economic growth that can be supported by such a population. This approach does not preclude immigration at all. We will need immigration so long as our TFR is below replacement level. Even then, I question the planning parameter of the need to augment our population using a TFR of 2.1. The White Paper’s emphasising the need for immigration — or the alternative scenario of a lower quality of life — remains quintessentially material and pragmatic. There is limited appeal to and a lack of definitive assurance of the affective dimension that a contested major policy like immigration is so badly in need of. A consequence of close to half-century of nation building, Singaporeans are beginning to imbibe an aspirational approach towards citizenship. This precipitation of a Singapore national identity and belonging means that a hyper-rationalistic justification of immigration is not likely to nurture an affective acceptance of the immigration policy and regime. As it is often said, the longest distance is between the head and the heart. Singaporeans’ growing sense of national identity has made them more protective of the home turf; the economic and other rationalistic justification seem all too expedient and enervating of the national spirit, identity and ethos. The immigrant is seen quite often in mono-dimensionally terms, as an economic immigrant. A vibrant economy is our shared purpose but what are the shared values that will discipline the shared purpose? There are a few ways to a vibrant economy, each with its own price tag. But we cannot be penny-wise and pound-foolish. A vibrant economy cannot be sustained if there are no shared values. And a strong Singaporean core can provide those shared values. The White Paper’s third pillar states that “we must continue to keep Singapore a good home. Our city must
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continue to be well-managed, well-planned, and well-developed”. To that end, infrastructure needs of a changing population and economy have to be met in a timely and efficient way, while preserving and enhancing a green environment. Madam, no one can disagree with that. However, the White Paper was deafeningly silent on the question of affordability given the larger population numbers which will put pressure on the costs of living and the quality of life. What about the income divide? The overwhelming focus in the White Paper on the hardware means that the crucial software bit was left out in the cold. How do we endow a soul amid the sprouting of concrete and glass around us? We must not confuse stateor economy-building with nation-building. We have heard a lot about the benefits that come from a larger population but what about the costs that come with a larger population? What happens beyond 2030? The White Paper, however, jam brakes there. How are we going to support the increase in population when the new citizens themselves reach the end of their working lives in 2050 or 2060? The White Paper does not tell us. Are we kicking the can further down the road, a can that will only get larger with each kick? Are we going to require substantial population top-ups every generation such that the Singaporean identity becomes meaningless? We should assume that we are unable to raise our TFR to replacement level. We have to do more smartly and with less. Yes, immigration will continue to be a prominent feature in Singapore’s political, economic, and sociocultural landscape. This means that immigration will continue to be politicised and remain a contested issue. Regardless of the pace of immigration, more openness over the direction of the immigration regime can help secure buy-in. The Government and Singaporeans should not shy away from a frank discussion over the pluses and minuses of immigration. Singaporeans will be persuaded, at both cognitive and affective levels, if it can be shown that the overall welfare is increased, our interests adequately looked after, and our identities secure and safeguarded. More importantly, special efforts will have to be made for those affected negatively by the immigration policy. In particular, Singaporean workers whose wages or prospects have been or will be depressed by the large numbers of transient foreign manpower at the low-skilled and even at the skilled levels. Let me touch on immigration. I have reservations about how integration can be meaningful given the rapid influx of immigrants not just between now and 2030 but in the past decade. Our immigration policy must strive to ensure that the average Singaporean is not made to feel inferior or that they are taken for granted. The “Singaporean First” policy must not be mere lip service. It must have substantive merit and meaning. For a start, the Government should completely drop the use of the term, “foreign talent”. Used in official discourse to reinforce the message that newcomers add value to our society, this superlative buzzword is terribly marginalising and patronising. Mdm Speaker : Mr Tan, you may want to wind up your speech. Asst Prof Tan Kheng Boon Eugene : Yes. Mdm Speaker, let me conclude. Foresight is seldom 20/20 whereas hindsight is always 20/20. Right-sizing our population is not an exact science. But we must have our hearts and souls in the right place. We cannot enervate the national spirit or else if we achieve the economic growth targets in the next 17 years, Singapore will just be a place to make a living but not a home. And that will only hasten our collective peril. Our global city aspirations must be tempered by the hard-nosed reality that we have to be a home, rather than a
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hotel. If non-Singaporeans and Singaporeans alike view Singapore as a hotel, then our sovereignty is not worth fighting for. Madam, it is with a heavy heart that I oppose the motion and the amendments proposed. 2.26 pm Ms Denise Phua Lay Peng (Moulmein-Kallang) : Madam, emotions of many Singaporeans range from surprise, despair to anger, when they read the media headlines of “6.9 million in Singapore in 2030” in media headlines. Many could not go beyond the emotion and decided the entire paper is not worth reading, and depended very much on commentaries as the source of information. To me, the Population White Paper is a paper that exposes the awkwardness of the Government in engaging Singaporeans in the new normal. In its eagerness to meet some self-imposed deadline for land use and infrastructure planning; in its anxiety to offer a framework to curb Singapore's ever-growing foreign labour workforce, the White Paper was launched in a hurry. It was not circulated in its draft form for public consultation when this important step was what Government would typically do when tabling bills in Parliament. Good intent; bad execution. The Government missed the precious opportunity to engage the public and garner the views and suggestions of Singaporeans to address the hard truths the White Paper surfaced. Hard truths such as: One, the alarming rates at which the foreign workforce is growing; two, the alarming rate at which Singaporeans are ageing; and three, the alarming rate at which birth rates are declining. The tone of the White Paper comes across as prescriptive, without offering the different planning scenarios and how they impact the lives of Singaporeans. It gives the perception of offering a shared vision of Singapore when it does not. It offers little other lifestyle choice to Singaporeans, except that of an urbanised setting. It is the outcome of forms of engagement such as town halls and traditional meetings that do not cover deeper sparring of ideas and options. It should have taken reference from the pace and more updated methods of citizen engagement currently used in the ongoing National Conversations initiated by the Prime Minister and led by Minister Heng Swee Keat. Madam, many MPs have fed back to the Prime Minister on the responses of the ground to the White Paper. As MPs, we are the proxies of the people we serve and represent their voices, we must. Madam, although our constituents' voices do not often come in one united tune; in this case, many people in the Singapore of 2012 have spoken. An overwhelming majority said "no" to a 6.9 million Singapore in 2030. The moral of the story Government must learn in exercises of this nature are these – one, more haste, less speed; and two, unless people know how much we care, they do not care how much we know. They do not even want to hear that 6.9 million is not a target. On a more robust planning tool, Madam, when I was a young Product Manager in the fast IT industry, products then took one to two years to develop. Today, some products are obsolete within months. Many of the planning assumptions one holds for product or service development, whether in the private or public sector, can quickly become obsolete. Such is the pace of change and the level of unknowns we are dealing with in this 21st Century. I, therefore, find it hard to fathom the confidence in which the future is being predicted -- both in the White Paper by Government and the alternate proposal put together by the Workers' Party. The ability to gaze into the crystal
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ball and generate firm strategies for even three-year windows is very rare these days, not to mention an 18-year forecast into 2030. The White Paper is repeatedly punctuated by qualifiers, claiming that the roadmap is subject to many factors such as the external environment, productivity, workforce growth, creativity and how citizens will respond to the incentives in the last Marriage and Parenthood Package. Even the Workers’ Party’s attempt at crystal-ball gazing is unconvincing. It has hastily put together an alternate proposal to target a sexy 5.3-million to 5.9-million number, below the 6-million psychological threshold for most Singaporeans. This alternative proposal is also premised on a planning assumption that it would be able to slap and whip the Government to work harder to increase the TFR (Total Fertility Rates) of couples; to get more elderly folks and women to join the workforce; to force SMEs to re-structure their business models now; and to turn off the tap of foreign workers with immediate effect for the next seven years. Madam, there are foreign workers and foreign workers. Some we do not welcome. But some we need. What does the immediate turn off of the tap of foreign workers mean to people like me who serve in the social service sector? Those of us who run nursing homes and for me personally, day activity centres for the more severely disabled? What if local Singaporeans continue to shun these jobs not because of pay but because it is just plain hard, unpleasant work? Madam, I believe there are too many unknowns for everyone, for anyone to be truly confident about the population trajectories -- whether they are Workers’ Party's 5.9 million, NMP Laurence Lien's preferred 6 million or the Government's “worst-case-scenario” of 6.9 million. Madam, the thinking model applied in the White Paper and subsequently also adopted by the Workers’ Party in the alternate proposal is way too rigid and simplistic for the 21st century. I would suggest developing a more robust forecasting tool that computes a few population scenarios starting from the current 5.3 million and a desired Singapore core; a more robust and sensitive tool that will inform strategies as a result of regular data inputs updates on variables such as the number of citizen babies; the number of new citizens; local work force strengths; and how firms are doing at the productivity front. One young man, a high-functioning young man with Asperger’s Syndrome, suggested to me that perhaps, Ms Phua, the population can be managed like the systolis and diastolis – the heart muscles that relax and contract when they take in blood and release it to the arteries. Do not be rigid, he said. Depending on the performance of both external and internal factors, pull back when it gets higher than expected, and push forth when it is lower. By all means, play safe and ring fence the land and resources that need to be reserved so that we will not be caught under-providing one day. But let us not be over-zealous in our planning because no one really knows it all. Think three to five years! One of the reasons why Singaporeans could not emotionally move beyond the media headlines of 6.9 million is that their concerns with the hot-button issues of the day – some of these issues are deep-rooted and quite difficult to solve; but address them, we must. As the parable goes, one would be made ruler over many when one can be entrusted to look after the few. So let us apply what today’s amended motion says, settle the current strains on the infrastructure. Next, 10 suggestions. Madam, the issues of Singapore today cannot be solved with the mindsets and solutions of
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the past. We need to seriously engage other Singaporeans to inject more innovative and more lateral thinking in addressing the hard truths surfaced by the White Paper. I suggest 10 ways to enhance workforce participation, TFR and productivity, for Government’s consideration. (1) For the senior Singaporeans, remove ageism practices such as CPF cuts from the age of 50 and annual employment extensions from 62. (2) Start a jobs creation and clearing house for seniors to innovatively design or redesign jobs that will match the skills, physical wellness and preferred hours of the seniors. Include Stay-Home-Parents if they so wish to take on some flexible job postings. (3) For persons with disabilities, put up added incentives to have corporations collaborate with disability groups to start Social Enterprises to train, to employ and to coach those who are able to work. Do not give up on those who cannot work at full productivity. Many of the people with special needs can still contribute in the workforce and welcomed by employers if they are paid by employers based on their productivity level. Do not let what the world calls “Minimum Wage” or “Progressive Wage” deprive them of a chance to work. Make the Special Employment Incentive already launched in Budget 2012 for the disabled a permanent feature. (4) For foreign domestic helpers already here, increase their productivity whilst ensuring they will not be exploited. Some small families or those with grown children do not need full-time helpers. Let employers share on the condition that these helpers are compensated better and the working hours transparent and conditions favourable. (5) For National Servicemen, tap on them to take on assignments in projects in education, healthcare and social service sectors as well -- projects that will not only improve their resilience physically, emotionally but also give them exposure to know what they are defending. Bring Total Defence to the next level! (6) Seriously consider closing one casino to divert manpower from the IRs to the SMEs. I fully agree with NMP Mr Teo Siong Seng's observation that the IRs have now become contributors to the manpower crunch in the service industry. (7) For couples who cannot conceive, aggressively help to facilitate child adoptions. Provide family education trainings to help them become better parents; in addition to the good adoption leave incentive that was announced under the Marriage and Population (M&P) Package. (8) For Singaporeans with foreign spouses and Singaporean children, relax the criteria for approval, especially the criteria relating to academic qualifications. Comb through and approve past rejection cases where the foreign spouse of Singapore children were rejected even if they have lived in Singapore for many years. And please, especially look out for my past appeals which were rejected! (9) For SMEs, rank them and assign productivity coaches to those with higher-potential of scalability and increased national regional or even global footprints. Do not only write cheques; groom them, help them. (10) In education, seriously study the Finnish system and adapt it for Singapore. There is serious merit in piloting models that take away the high-stake exams such as the PSLE to allow students a through-train to Secondary 4
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or Secondary 5 within the same school. Stay far away from the South Korean system which is a worse pressure cooker than Singapore in education. Next, on putting the horse before the cart. Madam, the amended motion now provides for medium term reviews of the population policies and assumptions. The White Paper on population needs to be updated. I propose doing that after the next phase of the National Conversations. So far, more than 16,000 Singaporeans have given their views on the kind of society and the kind of people they would want to become in 20 years’ time. More than 130 unpaid volunteers helped out in these conversations. The scope of the National Conversations covers more than just population and infrastructure. It is bigger than the scope of the Population White Paper. Participants in the National Conversations dream of a home of hope and heart -- of shared values, of strong families, of other ways to define success, of giving a leg up to those who are disadvantaged, of active and dignified ageing. There are some common and shared aspirations; but there is extreme difference in some areas too, for example, between the conservatives and those of us who are more liberal. But these aspirations must be the horse that comes before the cart. They must form the foundations of the White Papers of the future. Phase Two of the National Conversations will look at a consolidation of the key inputs that Singaporeans have for 2030. The data consolidated in this Population White Paper would serve as excellent contextual information for meaningful discussions and better idea-generation. I urge the Opposition MPs and especially the Workers’ Party to join in crafting a shared vision together. As part of the Singapore family, do not withhold your participation; do not withhold your ideas to use them as fodder for Government bashing. In fact, stop the Government bashing; enough of it already. Stop repeating the narrative that the PAP Government is a heartless common enemy of the people that has brought Singaporeans nothing but misery. The narrative has continued from political rallies to this House. Oftentimes, both its tone and content are not constructive. It discourages good people, whether they are public servants or volunteers, who have contributed to try to make Singapore better, imperfect though they are. The narrative has divided and polarised our country, pitting one against the other and prevented the healing that some of us were hoping for after each political election – so that we can come back and focus on nation building. As MPs of the incumbent ruling party linked to Government, we promise to try harder and work harder for the people. The only thing that we cannot promise, the only promise we cannot make, is to turn our cheek every time we are slapped. In conclusion, Madam, the people have spoken through their MPs and through their direct valuable feedback. Unless the Government acknowledges and acts on it, we may win the battle in this House but lose the war for the hearts of our people outside this House. I am heartened that the Prime Minister has listened -- loud and clear. And yes, the Government is not gunning for the 6.9 million and will do all it can to address the top concerns of Singaporeans, I hear. The original motion has been amended. Had the motion not been amended, a number of us PAP MPs would find it very difficult to support it. When some of us say “Aye” later, we are supporting a motion that: one, acknowledges that 6.9 million is not a population target of the Government; two, a motion that supports a Singapore core with top priority in encouraging Singaporeans to get married and have children, with a calibrated
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pace of immigration to prevent our citizen population from further shrinking; we support an amended motion that recognises and places priority on resolving the infrastructure problems of today; we support an amended motion that will improve the current White Paper by carrying out medium term reviews of the population policies and the assumptions. Let us do all of the above; engage not only our heads but our hearts and our hands and work towards a dynamic population for a dynamic Singapore! On this note, I support the amended motion. 2.43 pm The Acting Minister for Social and Family Development and Senior Minister of State for Defence (Mr Chan Chun Sing) : Mdm Speaker, the White Paper before us is not just about population numbers nor is it just about infrastructural plans. It is fundamentally about the lives of our families and the values we hold dear. It is about how we relate to each other and to the rest of the world. How we respond to this challenge will reflect our values and shape our identity. The roots of our challenges lie in our ageing population and our families. How do we care for our growing numbers of elderly? How do care for our lower income families? How do we care for our young? Many have spoken on the growing income gap. It is an issue of concern. It is something close to our hearts. We want a more equal society. In the many, our Singapore Conversations that I have attended, this has been consistently highlighted. The question is how to achieve this? We know and we accept that not all can progress evenly in a society. We cannot ensure equal outcomes but we can maximise opportunities for our people to fulfil their potentials and diverse aspirations. We should not hold back those amongst us who can progress faster or further. Just to pretend that we can thus achieve equality. Instead we should let the stronger ones flourish and bring back a bigger harvest for all of us to share. We must imbue in our more successful ones the sense of responsibility and care to help those who are weaker amongst us. We must agree as a society, that those who have the least must be given more help. Growth will give us a better chance to help our people to improve their lives over time. Growing slower does not mean that we will have a more equal society. In fact, if we grow below a certain rate, the low income in our society actually suffers negative income growth in real terms. We saw this first hand in the first five years of 2000. During Monday’s Parliamentary Question time, I shared with this House that while the average real income for Singaporeans has increased by more than 2% per annum for the last ten years, it only increased by 0.1% for the lowest income group. For this group, the more rapid growth in the last five years did not and failed to make up for the negative growth or low growth in the preceding five years. We closed the gap with various assistance schemes. We could only afford to do that with overall net growth for our country. So when we call for a slowdown or no-growth, please have a care for those who are in the lower income groups. It matters very little for a rich person whether his income is growing at 4% or 5%. But for the poorer ones amongst us the difference could be 1% or -2%. How do we care for our increasing number of elderly and disadvantaged? This is not an academic debate about the theoretical possibility to improve resident workforce growth. I have the privilege to serve in Tanjong Pagar and the Ministry of Social and Family Development. I frequent the areas of Bukit Merah, Tanglin Halt and
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Commonwealth. If anyone wants to see the future population profile of Singapore in 2030, I have already seen it there today. I regularly visit the old folks’ homes and disability homes across our island. I see for myself the increasing number of elderly without caregivers. I see more and more adult disabled outliving their caregivers and parents. I always bid them farewell with a heavy heart. Besides the management level, almost all of our care staff in these homes are foreigners. They stay in these homes 24/7 to care for our elderly and disabled. What will we do without them? Where can I find more in the coming years to care for them? Yes, every one extra Singaporean that I can get is one less foreigner I need. But I cannot assume that increasing the labour force participation rate will solve the problem. Our male labour force participation rate has already reached the OECD level. It is likely to fall in the coming years as we have more old people and less young ones. From the OECD experience, our women labour force participation rate has at most another 6% to grow. So it is not that we are not trying to get more locals to join the workforce. As Acting Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said yesterday, we will continue to try all ideas from both sides of the House. But we have to be realistic of what we can achieve. But please also do not do a disservice to our stay-at-home-moms and assume that they are not doing anything useful and can easily join the workforce if we just increase their salaries. Many of them are already taking care of our old and young. So please have a care when we say no more foreigners to help care for our old and weak. If there is no more increase, I will have to take the quota from other sectors -- SMEs, construction, retail, shipyards and others. If I take from these sectors, what will happen to them? The numbers I need in the health, eldercare and disability sector are not small. Neither are the skill sets required the same as those in the F&B, retail or construction sectors. I need to start more community healthcare schemes; build 100 senior activity centres, 50 senior care centres; extend the Wellness Programme to every constituency; fund more innovative approaches like tele-medicine; encourage more senior befriender services; build more senior homes; build more studio apartments with integrated care services; and, as a last resort, build more institutional homes. Productivity improvements alone cannot fund this manpower that we need. Other big cities do not have this problem. Their old, their weak retire outside the city. We are both a city and a state. Whether you stay in Hougang, Jurong or Woodlands, we are all fellow Singaporeans. We have to take care of our old, our weak, and our disabled. They are our people. We have to care for them. So, again, please be mindful about what we say about foreign manpower and slower growth. These choices affect our poor much, much more than it affects the rest of us. Mdm Speaker, over the last week, many have raised concerns about whether we have done all that we can, to promote families. Many in this Chamber have also given their valuable inputs and suggestions on how to raise our TFR. We will certainly follow up on all these suggestions made by Members.
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We agree that families lie at the heart of our solutioning. Even though none of the major East Asian cities have achieved our TFR, we nevertheless still study them to see what good ideas they have. Similarly, we look at the Scandinavian models even though their culture and social norms are different from ours. We find good practices in their models: Having fathers play an equal and active role in parenting; having shared parental leave; providing affordable and accessible childcare support; providing family-friendly work environment and practices; having child-friendly practices in restaurants; strengthening family education from young. There are many things that we can learn from. The recent M&P Package reflects many of these but we are still learning. We will need a whole-of-society approach to embrace this family-first philosophy. We hope Members of this House will support us when we roll out more pro-family measures. We hope businesses and employers will support us even though it requires them to make difficult and sometimes painful adjustments. Most importantly, we want to focus on early childhood development. We want to ensure that the next generation will have the best possibility to move up. I have always said even if this generation is poor, we must make sure that the next generation has the best opportunity to move on, that the children from our less privileged backgrounds will not start too far behind their peers in school. We will do more. We will build more centres, make them more accessible, help them provide higher quality for the mass market. We will push out even more programmes to support teachers training, curriculum development and operators management. At the same time, we want to educate parents that the most expensive course may not be the most suitable one. We need to ensure that there is age-appropriate learning according to each child’s needs and not add unnecessary pressures and stress to the family or children. Many Members in this Chamber and people outside have also pointed out that having families and children go way beyond money. The most important and difficult piece has to do with our values and perspectives. Recently, I visited an old couple in a 3-room flat. They used to stay in a 1-room flat and brought up their six children there. The children used to share one mattress and some of them often slept underneath the altar in the house. I saw a family photo. At least four of them have made it to the university. All of their children have their flats now: 3-, 4-, 5-room flats, like the typical Singaporean family. The elderly couple was very proud that they have all made it without any Government help all these years. As we talked, they told me that they have only three grandchildren. When I asked if they would want more grandchildren, they asked me back, “How to have more?” Their children feel that their houses are not big enough to give their grandchildren their personal spaces. They worry about the high cost of living. Their children worry if they can afford tuition and enrichment classes for the grandchildren; their children worry if they have to make adjustments or give up their careers. They acknowledge that the Government and society have been doing much more to provide help nowadays than ever before. But they still have many worries. This is not easy. Our society has changed. Our perspectives and expectations have also changed. But we must keep trying. On another Saturday morning, I visited a family when everyone was around. I was pleasantly surprised. I asked if the children did not have CCAs or other lessons. The mother shot back at me with a reply: weekends are family time; protected time; time to bond as a family; time to do things together as a family. No overtime for parents; no extra lessons for kids. This family has made another choice. I hope we have more families like this.
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Clearly, having a family goes beyond monetary and housing considerations. Having a spouse and children cannot be evaluated like a financial balance sheet. It is a commitment to care for each other. Neither marriage nor parenthood necessarily has a linear or positive correlation with one's material wellbeing. Ultimately, personal choices reflect our priorities and sense of values. We will continue to do what we can, to help our families to grow from strength to strength. Yet the summation of all our personal choices will have an impact on the future of our country, Singapore. Mdm Speaker, I used to chair the National Integration Council. We are keenly aware of the challenges in schools, National Service, at the workplace and in the community. Integration is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It is also not true that only the People’s Association is making efforts to promote integration. The schools, the workplaces and the community are all doing their part. All our schools, polytechnics and universities have programmes and systems to encourage integration. All our community partners are chipping in. They all want to play an active part to integrate the newcomers amongst us. They all have plans to do even more and better. For the majority who are transient workers, our aim is to share with them our social norms so that we can live alongside each other with less friction. Hopefully, they leave us having positive memories of their times with us and become a supporter of our cause in their own countries. For those who intend to sink their roots here, we have higher expectations. We want them to have shared memories, shared values and most importantly, a shared vision with us. We want true engagement for both old and new citizens and citizens-to-be. We want quality and not just quantity engagements. We want to provide multiple platforms to nudge people to contribute to the community and in the process identify and bond with the community. We also know that we cannot force the issue or make it overly transactional. The White Paper proposes to slow down the intake of foreign labour and new citizens. Not just bringing in fewer immigrants each year, but allowing more time for adjustment. This will help strengthen our integration efforts. We acknowledge that some of these people in the queue are foreigners who have married locals, and it would not be fair for families to face the constant uncertainty in staying together. Any inflow of foreigners will need to consider the capacity of our infrastructure. We need to achieve the balance, we need to try harder and that is what we are going to do. But, what is our identity? When I was in the army, I had a unit where there were only eight out of 32 soldiers whom some in the House would call “true-blue Singaporeans”. The rest were either not born here or raised here. I asked why they would fight together. None of them gave me a high-brow answer like how many per cent of Singaporeans are there in Singapore. They fight because their buddies fight alongside them. They will defend this place because this is home – where they share common experiences, common values and most importantly a common vision for a better tomorrow. Our job is to do our best to support our NSmen in their duties to our country. Our job is not to constantly talk down their motivation, deflate their morale and question their sacrifice. Will Members of this House fight for Singaporeans and Singapore if there are X or Y million foreigners living here amongst us? If our answer is yes, then the answer from my NSmen will be an unequivocal yes as well. But if our answer is no, then I do not need to ask my NSmen any further. This is not politics. This is leadership.

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It is not easy. Our NSmen sacrifice time and effort to uphold our defence. Often, our NSmen feel the competition from the foreigners here and they wonder if they will be disadvantaged. It is a heavy price to pay for our independence. But I am confident that they understand this price that we pay, because this country belongs to us. Let us not start drawing lines to divide who is a true Singaporean and who is not. Is someone born a Singaporean, having lived 15 years overseas, speaks with a foreign twang, comes back to Singapore to serve his NS, any less a Singaporean? Or is a foreign child who came here at the age of ten, embraces our values and systems, speaks Singlish and goes on to serve NS any less Singaporean? We have always been an open society. We draw strength from this. Unlike others who define their nationality by their tribal lineage, or those who define their nationhood through many years of history and perhaps persecution, we are a young country with fifty years of history. We have come to be proud of our unique heritage because of what we have achieved over time − defining our identity through our common values, common experiences and shared future. This is a more positive and uplifting way to define nationality than the division by place of birth, race, language or religion. If we believe that the Singaporean Dream of multi-racialism, meritocracy, incorruptibility, rule of law, society before self, are all values that we want to hold dear to, then we have the ingredients to build our nation. Economic success can never be the glue that bonds us together. Economic success buys us time to forge a common bond, develop a set of common values, form a system of governance and define a common future together. If economic success is the only glue, then will our people stay when times are tough, or when we have many years of recession? Or will our people, like the 1965 generation, stay and build a nation that we are proud of, in spite of our inadequacies, in spite of our imperfections and all our inability to promise them anything except blood, sweat and tears? The 1965 generation taught me an important lesson. Nationhood is not defined by what this country can give us. It is defined by what we can give, and what we can contribute and how we can overcome our challenges together. We are now similarly at a crossroad where our challenges are no less daunting. We need to make tough decisions on how we care for our old, our young, our weak, our children and our families. I urge Members of this House to rise to the occasion and seize this chance to bond as a nation. Let us speak not to divide. Let us not focus just on the numbers. Let us focus on our shared values and identity. Be it left or right, what matters most is that we choose the same path and walk it together. Let us choose the option that properly provides for our poor, our old, our young and our families in Singapore so that we can all build a better home together. Mdm Speaker, on that note, I urge Members of the House to support this motion and the amendment, so that the planners can go forth and get the work done, while we do our best to manage our economy, take care of our people and provide the best future that we can for the next generation. 3.05 pm
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Dr Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol) : Mdm Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to join the debate. I rise in support of the motion and the proposed amendments. I support the principles and the intent of the paper, but I have a problem with some of the details. First, I would bring Members’ attention to footnote 12, on page 40, where reference is made to nursing as a low-skilled job. Madam, this is inaccurate and inappropriate. My nursing colleagues are dedicated, hardworking skilled professionals, doing a challenging job in difficult conditions. They take pride in their work, they have specialised knowledge, specialised skills. They are not interchangeable warm bodies and pairs of hands. Many have degrees and years of post-graduate training. We need to inspire more Singaporeans to join the caring profession, and to label it in this way serves no one. This should be fixed. I believe an amendment and an apology would be appropriate. I have further concerns. As has been pointed out, the growth of our population will require extensive building and redevelopment. The Land Use Plan clearly explains how and where we will obtain land for building more homes and amenities. Instead of emphasising the parts of Singapore which will be built up, developed and redeveloped, is it possible that we can have lists of more sites that will be preserved, identified as such, and protected? There are many plans for green spaces. How many will be permanent? Would the Government be prepared to identify more areas which will never be redeveloped? Would we be able to reassure citizens that they can enjoy specific green or open or communal spaces in perpetuity? Preserving the old and the familiar spaces is important as it ensures that people do not feel constantly displaced, which is likely to happen when their physical environment keeps changing. The Land Use Plan does detail the many parks, and park connectors that we have and that are planned. But it fails to specify to what extent these and other shared spaces are protected, and to what extent we commit to preserving our surroundings. Surely we can find a few more sites within our wonderful 715.8 square kilometres, where we can boldly say, "Your grandchildren can enjoy this as much as you do, please take care of it?” Grandchildren are my next concern. There is a severe shortage of childcare places, nationwide 20,000 more childcare places are being planned by 2017, four years from now, but I have childcare centres that are now struggling to recruit staff. How is the Government planning to deal with the severe shortage of labour in this sector, in the face of plans to further restrict foreign labour growth? What plans are there to ensure that these places will be operational in good time? Our towns, especially our new towns, are populated over a relatively short time. If we ramp up childcare capacity too aggressively, in about 10 years or more, some of it is going to be oversupply. Would the Government consider solutions to significantly increase the provision of childcare facilities at the workplace instead? The proportion of employees within a company or cluster of businesses that need childcare is less likely to vary significantly over time, as compared to within a new housing estate. This approach will address the issue of over-demand for services in a young housing estates as well as the later oversupply when the children grow up. It will also make it easier for working parents, rather than having to rely on the grandparents. With our changing demography, the age gap between a grandchild and a grandparent is increasing. For some families I know, the grandparent is unable to care for the child, nor take their first-born grandchild to the childcare centre. I am suggesting that we augment the current capacity with a different emphasis, to serve the needs of families with different challenges.
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Similarly, the Government has put forth proposals to increase our infrastructure, and has defended these with confidence and certainty. Minister Khaw has repeatedly said "Don't worry" and reassured us that "It will be awesome". Madam, the plans are indeed awesome, but I do worry. How will this infrastructure get built on time in the face of a tightening labour pool? To what extent will the cost of providing this infrastructure rise, as the cost of labour rises? Madam, one further concern I have is the lack of explicit discussion in the White Paper of its possible inaccuracy. Population science is not exact, and as past experience has shown, forward projections can turn out to be off the mark, sometimes by a very significant margin. We have in the past reached particular milestones of population size or fertility rate drop way ahead of the forecast. The presentation of facts, statistics and projections with such confidence has given rise to the perception that many of these factors are under the direct control of the Government, when they are not. As Acting Minister Tan Chuan-Jin alluded to yesterday, there is no master control for GDP, nor for migration numbers. There are instead hundreds of daily individual decisions to serve specific purposes: Do we support this company? Do we support this business? Do we allow this family to bring in their relative? Do we allow this person to stay in Singapore and become a citizen? An explicit statement of the bigger uncertainty would be a completion of the commitment to transparency. Madam, some have suggested that today is not the end of the debate, but rather the beginning. Others have suggested that if we are still debating these issues in the future, we will be in trouble. Respectfully, I disagree with both. These issues and the way we struggled with them have defined us since independence. We have discussed and debated them time and time again. How we deal with these challenges and issues going forward will continue to define us as a people. We should not shy away from debating these matters in the future, and we should not pre-suppose that we can set in motion a single path that will solve all our problems for the future. Madam, while I support the principles described and the intent of the White Paper to secure a future for Singapore and Singaporeans, I find the confidence with which the numbers are described unnerving, and I would like to propose that we need a regular review along the way to see if the projections are accurate, and if we need a course correction, perhaps in the middle of the next term of government may be an appropriate point. I also have concerns about the Worker's Party’s proposal. I agree that it is likely to jam the brakes on our economy, to drive away jobs, to increase unemployment and to reduce opportunities for our young. But they have also committed the error of unswerving confidence in their calculations. There is no way that they can predict the effects of their proposal with such accuracy. I think both sides of the House should be more forthcoming with the uncertainty associated with the numbers that they have presented to the public. Speaking on this, to expand on the analogy from my colleague, Dr Chia Shi-Lu, both sides of the House need to admit that they are performing this surgery for the very first time. Madam, this debate has seen a significant ideological shift on the part of the Government. Building ahead of need, slowing down the pace of economic growth, reducing the inflow of foreign labour. This is on top of recent other ideologic changes, such as the institutionalisation of Workfare, making permanent GST vouchers. But, amazingly, in this House, in this week, we are not debating the fundamental ideology, we are not debating the fundamental positions, we are not debating where we want to go. As has been pointed out, repeatedly, largely we all agree on what we all want. Instead, if we strip away the rhetoric, if we look past rewriting slogans, look past the sound bites and throwaway one-liners, we are debating what to be optimistic about and what to be pessimistic about. Antonio Gramsci, an
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Italian writer, who was a communist jailed by the fascists, his most famous quote attributed to him is "Pessimism of the intellect and Optimism of the Will". 1n 1929, writing from prison, he went on to explain and expand upon this, as that "The challenge of modernity is to live without illusions and yet without becoming disillusioned". The balance of heart and mind, hope and reality. If we look at the White Paper, the Government is pessimistic about its ability to affect some things, perhaps the falling fertility rate, the ageing population certainly, the labour participation rate. Conversely, it is very optimistic about delivering infrastructure, restructuring the economy, and maintaining a standard of living for all Singaporeans. The Opposition seems to be pessimistic about everything, but that is the role of an Opposition in our democracy. If we examine their position closely, however, they do have hope and they do have faith. The Opposition believes that the Government, the PAP Government, can turn around the TFR. The Opposition has faith that MOM policies will be able to increase the labour force participation rate. The Worker's Party believes that business will survive the restrictions on foreign labour. They have hope and they have faith. They are pessimistic, however, that Singaporeans cannot adapt to the changing realities of the world. They believe that Singaporeans cannot be happy in the Singapore of today. They cannot imagine a bright future for Singapore and Singaporeans. We are a participatory democracy. This White Paper has sparked a national interest and citizens from every walk of life have joined in. We are a thriving democracy with the security and freedom to debate such important matters in peace and walk out of this Chamber as friends. That in itself is a remarkable achievement. This is the bright future that was imagined for Singapore many, many decades ago. In this House, this week, we have been presented sometimes with a series of dichotomous choices. In the rhetoric and the debate we have been asked to choose. Choose between survive as an Exceptional Nation or wither away into irrelevance. Choose between preserve our way of life or change beyond all recognition. Choose between growth or happiness, hope or reality, heart or mind, us or them. These are false choices. These are not the only way forward. Ours is an exceptional nation, a remarkable state and an incredible city. Ours is a story told with disbelief, excitement and wonder, all round the word, a story that is still being written. We should not be writing the last chapter now. We should choose to reject the false choices on offer. We can do what needs to be done. We can do the right thing. We can discuss uncomfortable, unpopular issues and still build a consensus. We can choose to preserve our way of life and embrace change and diversity. We can choose growth and happiness. We can embrace diversity and yet remain one united people. We can choose to have our eyes open to reality, our heads clear and our hearts full of hope. That is what has got us here today and that is what will take us all forward together [Applause].

Time Limit for Deputy Prime Minister’s Speech
(Suspension of Standing Orders)
The Minister for Health (Mr Gan Kim Yong) : Mdm Speaker, may I seek your consent and the general assent of Members present to move that the proceedings on item No. 1 in the Order Paper for today be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order 48(3) to enable the Deputy Prime Minister who have spoken to speak more than once in the debate. Mdm Speaker : I give my consent. Does the Whip have the general assent of the hon. Members present to so
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move? Hon. Members indicated assent. With the consent of Mdm Speaker and the general assent of Members present, question put, and agreed to. Resolved, that nothwithstanding the Standing Orders, the proceedings on the item No. (1) In the Order Paper for today be be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order 48(3) in respect of Deputy Prime Minister speaking more than once. – [Mr Gan Kim Yong].

A Sustainable Population for A Dynamic Singapore
(Motion)
Debate resumed. 3.18 pm The Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Teo Chee Hean) : Mdm Speaker, thank you for your indulgence. I would first like to thank Dr Janil for his inspiring speech and also for drawing our attention to footnote 12. Our friends in the nursing profession and the unions had also earlier brought the matter to my attention. I would like to inform Members that I intend to make a corrigendum to footnote 12 on page 40 of the Population White Paper, to delete this segment: “Certain low-skilled jobs like personal services, retail and nursing are hard to offshore. They will still be needed even as the economy upgrades.” This classification of low-skilled jobs is not correct. I would like to apologise to those whose professions have been unintentionally misrepresented. I personally have the greatest respect for those in the nursing profession. This is a noble and caring profession which all of us and our loved ones depend on and appreciate. Thank you, Madam. 3.19 pm Mr Nicholas Fang (Nominated Member) : Thank you, Mdm Speaker, for allowing me to join in this debate at a slightly late juncture. There are many tough acts to follow, and I was a bit concerned about not having enough to cover that would be new. But the opportunity has also been presented for me to follow the debate with great interest over this White Paper, both in the House and in the broader public domain. It has been a heated debate, high on emotion, with diverse voices being heard and difficult questions being asked. This in itself has been heartening because, as we have seen from the issues raised, this White Paper is really not just about population, but about the future of Singapore and our way of life. Many of us feel deeply about the questions raised in the Paper, and I have many passionate discussions with both Members of this House as well as of the public. I think this reflects the fact that, while the premise of much
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of the Paper stems from hard facts and numbers and involves complicated formulae and policies, at heart, we are talking about the soul of our country. Children, ageing families, foreign neighbours, quality of life – these are things which touch an emotional chord with all of us, and go far beyond political rhetoric and grandstanding. I for one am glad that we are addressing these things at this time, because there are clear signs that we have reached an inflexion point in our growth as a nation, with evolving social norms, economic challenges and shifting political trends becoming more commonplace. There have been disagreements about the need to place a hard economic growth target like gross domestic product (GDP) as the basis for projections about our population’s future. In a recent editorial by Bloomberg published in the TODAY newspaper, the use of GDP as a measure of progress was questioned, given that it measures output, without any insight into the quality of that output. It can obscure growing inequality and depletion of resources while focusing on a very narrow band of factors. But I think it is not a bad place to start. History has shown that, as countries move along the path to becoming more developed, slower and slowing growth becomes increasingly inevitable. We have no natural resources to speak of. Our people are our true assets. If that engine fizzles, we will face the very real possibility of slow or no growth in a few short decades. Much of our debate so far has centered around the trade-off between growth and quality of life, and whether we can stave off a crowded, congested future while maintaining a defined rate of economic growth. Worryingly, some Members have suggested that we can turn off economic growth or slow it down while population issues are dealt with, and then turn it back on once society is ready. But economic growth, foreign investment and confidence from companies and investors from abroad do not work that way. If we slip in terms of our international competitiveness, we have many rivals ready and waiting in the wings to take our place. Slow or no economic growth may sound acceptable when contrasted with overcrowding, an over-taxed infrastructure or a greater number of foreign strangers living amongst us. But would we be acceptable it if it means less jobs for our future generations, lower salaries and a bleak economic outlook for decades ahead? Is this what we want for our future and for our future generations? I think most of us would say, no. There has been talk that such scenarios are part of fear mongering. It is easy to say that when there still is growth. How the calculations from which the estimates for population size in 2020 and 2030 are derived are not spelt out in great detail in the White Paper. These are understandably complex and complicated, but if there were attempts to better explain the formulae involved, it might make for more informed public debate. Instead, the figure that has caught the most attention is the 6.9 million that lies at the far end of the range of estimates for population size in 2030. The clarification that this number is the worst-case scenario is juxtaposed against the fact that it includes estimates of foreigners in Singapore -- something that the White Paper emphasises can actually be controlled by policies. The strains on the current infrastructure have made many questions whether we can in fact accommodate an up to 30% increase in the number of people living here. But we have to bear in mind that much of this perspective is based on our current understanding and impressions of the existing infrastructure. This will surely change and hopefully improve by 2030.
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A question that has also been raised is the impact a larger population, which potentially includes a larger proportion of permanent residents, will have on the concept of National Service (NS). With second-generation PRs having to serve NS, and many of them not necessarily growing up in Singapore during their young and formative years, what is the likely effect of having these individuals serving in NS in defense of a land which they may feel not a significant tie or connection with? Should they choose to return to their countries where they were born or grew up in in subsequent years, would this have a significant impact on the force of operationally ready NSmen which plays a major role in Singapore’s defence? Mdm Speaker, I would like to turn now specifically to the issue of marriage and parenthood. As a single 30something, I am part of the demographic that the White Paper addresses when it exhorts Singaporeans to settle down and have children. Not that I am welcoming even more difficult questions in the Lunar New Year festivities this weekend. While the hard facts and data certainly struck a chord with me, I must say I felt something was missing, a sentiment that many of my peers have echoed. Judging by views expressed in the media, both online and traditional, it would appear that others share it as well, and that is that facts and figures can only take us so far. Singaporeans are becoming more concerned with the quality of our growth, not just the quantity. The White Paper acknowledges this when it echoes the Prime Minister’s National Day Rally last year in listing Hope, Heart and Home as the three key pillars for a sustainable population. But I cannot help but wonder if this would have resonated more effectively with more people if the transition from this to hard GDP targets and economic estimates was made more gradually. While critical to a nation’s growth, an overly obsessive focus on economics can obscure the importance of other less tangible values and factors that can play a key role in the decision to settle down or to start families. When I talk with my friends who are single like me, or married without children, the conversations of late have tended to focus on quality of life, work-life balance, the need for a healthy, clean environment to raise children, a society that exhibits and champions values that we all believe in. At the same time, we also wonder if the Singapore of our children will be a place that we recognise, with distinct features and characteristics that are unique to us, somewhere that we feel is home. Or will it be a place that resembles the office of a multinational corporation – clean, efficient, with people from all over the world here to live and work, but not necessarily to lay down roots, like Dubai, as one hon. Member mentioned, a city with no soul but lots of spending money. Will we be pushed to find ways to continue working past the current retirement age to shore up the dwindling workforce in a bid to ensure a strong Singaporean core? Or will we eventually be able to aspire to early retirement so that we can enjoy time with our families, to travel a little bit and experience the broader world? Will the Singapore of the future be a clean and healthy environment, with an emphasis on green sustainability, fresh air, places of nature to be enjoyed by both young and old, that is uncongested and beautiful? Will it offer options for leisure and entertainment, with art, culture, sports and music lending greater texture to the social fabric, something that the White Paper does not address at length? Or will our drive for continued progress see these aspects being swamped by an overwhelming focus on productivity and efficiency gains?
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The White Paper states that Singaporeans share certain key values and aspirations, including meritocracy, a fair and just society, and respect for one another’s culture. But it does not spell out how we will ensure these values continue to be transmitted to younger generations who are born and grow up in an environment where such things could be taken for granted, much less to foreigners who are new to our shores. If the White Paper is anything to go by, it looks like financial incentives will again be the main levers that will be used to hopefully achieve the population growth deemed necessary for our long-term success. This does not address some key issues, among which is the point of reproduction in the first place. Minister Grace Fu touched on this earlier this week when she explored the reasons for having children. Besides for the sake of carrying on our bloodline, or the security for parents that offspring can provide later in life, many people actually have children to enjoy being in a family unit and to create a relationship with their young ones. One would assume that most of us would hope to give a good life to our children, one that is stable, secure and safe. From a policy perspective, financial levers are probably preferred given that they are easier to design, plan and implement, compared to the less tangible elements that go into the shaping of multi-faceted environments, replete with values and value systems. But perhaps the greater value of the White Paper is that it has inspired us to look at those intangibles and, hopefully, to find solutions that address them. Mdm Speaker, we have not had much time to debate this White Paper – five days to consider measures which reach 18 years into our future, and beyond. We have heard views from both the PAP and the Workers’ Party and other Members, and we seem to be heading in roughly the same direction, with some differences in numerical targets. Regardless of 5.9 million or 6 million or 6.9 million, I think the important thing is for us to keep moving forward. As we do so, I would like to ask the Government to be responsive and flexible and to consider a yearly review of the trends, and the effects of the measures laid out in the White Paper, so that we can know if we are on track, or we need to adjust. As interest shifts from the White Paper to red packets this weekend, I am sure the broader debate on this White Paper will continue long after our debate in this House ends. I hope the Government will also continue to listen to that discussion, as closely as we have this past week. The answer to the questions in the White Paper lie not just with this House or anyone party, it lies with all of us, all Singaporeans. Looking back on our history and what we have overcome, I am hopeful for the future. Perhaps, I am optimist but while many of my fellow Members have supported the motion with heavy hearts, I choose to support the Motion and its amendments with a hopeful one [Applause]. Mdm Speaker: Order. I propose to take the break now. I suspend the Sitting and will take the Chair at 3.50 pm. Sitting accordingly suspended at 3.30 pm until 3.50 pm. Sitting resumed at 3.50 pm [Mdm Speaker in the Chair] A SUSTAINABLE POPULATION FOR A DYNAMIC SINGAPORE Debate resumed.
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The Senior Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for National Development (Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman) : Mdm Speaker, thank you for allowing me to join in the debate. I have the unenviable task of being the last speaker for one of the toughest debates in this House. Toughest because it is dealing with the tension between balancing and winning the hearts and minds of Singaporeans, with regard to the complex economic, demographic and social challenges. As the last speaker, I had the opportunity to listen to what everyone else had to say, ponder about why certain people said certain things, and where they were coming from. I saw how Singaporeans responded, be it through face-to-face discussions, in dialogue sessions, in the forums and social media, and again, wonder why they respond in those ways. Through my experience as a social worker, I know that such reflection is an important part of the debate. Often, the process and the dynamics are as important, if not more than, the outcomes. When the White Paper was first released, the negative reactions came fast and furious. I recalled having very mixed feelings myself. Instinctively, I could understand why Singaporeans were up in arms. At the same time, it was difficult to understand how the sincere desire of the Government to share with Singaporeans its assessment and challenges that we will face and what we need to do, is being met with perceptions that the Government is all out to bring in more foreigners and make Singaporeans strangers in their own land. I remember thinking, why is this so? We are all Singaporeans! We are all here to serve in the best interest of Singapore and Singaporeans. The employees that we want to ensure have and keep their jobs, are Singaporeans. The employers, many of whom are owners of SMEs, are Singaporeans. The families we want to support are Singaporeans. Why would people think that the Government would propose solutions that are detrimental to Singaporeans? It just does not make sense. If we can put the emotions aside for a while, what is this debate about? Is this debate about planning for our future? Yes. Is it necessary to do so? Yes, as we expect this to be the preoccupation of any responsible Government. Who are we planning this future for? Singaporeans. It has to be! Although some segments are saying it is not meant for Singaporeans. I wonder why. Is it about ensuring that our children continue to enjoy a high quality of life in 20 years time? Definitely! As parents, we want the best for our children. Is it about making Singaporeans lose their jobs to foreigners? No! Again, why would a responsible Government want to do that? It is about ensuring Singaporeans in 2030 continue to have jobs, not just jobs, but jobs that meet their aspirations. How can this happen? We need to make sure there is sustainable growth to meet the aspirations of our young generation. And then there was this whole question why discuss such a sensitive topic that the Government knows will only raise the emotional and political temperatures? The Government could have chosen to be short sighted and just focus on one election cycle at a time, as in many other countries. Why not? It is logical and makes sense. Why risk political capital and incur more unhappiness to talk about such hot topics when all it needs to do is just to focus on the here and now. But as I sat listening to such arguments, it struck me that whichever positions we all started out with, we stuck by them. We dug in, we made impassioned arguments. So after five days of debate with almost every member of this House speaking, have we covered all the different viewpoints? To a large extent, I think we have. But I still wonder, what is missing in our effort in connecting with Singaporeans? It is a process we must continue to be
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mindful of, otherwise, we will always struggle to understand why good meaning intentions are often easily misunderstood. Madam, I can understand the sentiments of Singaporeans. I share many of the concerns Singaporeans that have been articulated, especially their concern about over crowdedness and with more foreigners competing for jobs and space. At the same time, I also hear, quite loudly, the cries of our Singaporean businessmen on their concerns about their own business survivability. As a Member of Parliament whose ward comprises 75% private estate dwellers, I have met many of my Singaporean residents who are business owners. Recently, I organised a dialog session as part of the “our Singapore Conversation” series with these SME owners, who are my residents, all of whom are Singaporeans, and many raise these manpower issues, seeking MOM’s understanding on their need for foreign workforce to ensure their business survive. Yes, we should encourage them to restructure. We should support them more to innovate and improve the productivity of their local workers. One young restaurant owner almost came to tears when she came to see me one day saying she has to close her restaurant for a couple of weeks as she could not get approval for her foreign staff application. I felt sorry for her. I know how much she aspires to make her dream come true. She is a Singaporean who has a dream and is pursuing that dream. In that, she hopes for support, for the Government agency to understand her struggle to employ Singaporeans. She was prepared to pay reasonable wages. She advertised for weeks. She is one of many SME owners whom I have met and they share the same struggles. At this point, it is interesting to note the differing mental models of the two groups. For many businesses, they honestly believe that they have tried to be as productive and have tried to recruit Singaporeans but to no avail, and they honestly believe that foreign workers are their only solution. But Singaporeans have been shouldering the stresses and burdens of an increased population for the last 5 to10 years. Many will ask, “Where is the promise of productivity where businesses will do more with less? And why must Singaporeans be the ones who must continue to face the burden of an even larger population, without being convinced that all else has been attempted and tried to no avail?” More importantly, Madam, the tensions above reflects a more fundamental challenge. The Government seems to be the arbiter of the interests of all its citizens – the business owners, the employees. It is expected to hear both parties and try to please. Can the Government instead, facilitate the conversation between them? Have the businesses informed Singaporeans what they have done, or are doing to restructure, to put in place new systems that will enhance work processes and productivity, that the gains from these will go to Singaporeans, that their HR practices or policies favour all efforts at employing Singaporeans and the challenges they face in doing so? These are ingredients of the new social compact not just between the Government and Singaporeans, but also among Singaporeans, taking ownership of this very important aspect of this debate. I think we all agree that we cannot not do with supplementary foreign workforce. The question is how much should we depend on? That is why one of our key answers is to increase our TFR.

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Some have argued that we have been barking up the wrong tree – that giving more bonuses will not reverse the TFR. I think we can agree that bonuses alone are not sufficient. The Government has been hearing the feedback – thus the recently announced enhancement to the Marriage and Parenthood (M&P) Package certainly goes beyond the bonuses – making homes available and affordable early, better social infrastructure for families etc. Madam, are these measures enough to reverse the TFR? Can we do more? Herein lies the tension – what should Singaporeans do? Is the enhanced M&P Package attractive enough to tip the balance and reverse the trend? When the White Paper was first released, I had a chance to speak to many young couples. To my surprise, a common reaction to the White paper was that they will not have more children as they are concerned over the pressures and uncertainties of the Singapore of 2030, with its larger numbers and higher congestion. They were afraid they cannot give the best for their children. They were not prepared to subject their children to the pressures and stressors of living in a competitive society like Singapore. They worry that their children cannot afford to buy their own homes when they grow up. It is almost as if the M&P Package announced just a week before had already lost its impact even before it was given a chance to find its footing. Madam, what should be our social compact with our young Singaporean couples? Do we as a society see this issue as an issue of our own survival, as our earlier generation did following the early post independence years? And do we have the tenacity to overcome the tension of almost becoming a minority in our own homeland? Can our citizens see child bearing as a duty to ensure the survivability of Singapore and the sustenance of the Singaporean core? Or is this the wrong question to ask? Interestingly, I was told that there is a school of thought circulating out there, supported by research done elsewhere that suggests that TFR may be inversely proportional to population density. I am not familiar with the research in this area, but this seems to correlate with the reactions of the young couples I have met who are concerned about having more children. Having emerged from the academia, I have always appreciated the importance of keeping our minds open. When evidence of such research is thrown up in the midst of our discussion of such sensitive issues, how do we respond? Do we see these as disruptive derailers to be cast aside? Or, are we prepared to look at alternative data and scrutinise the evidence, so that we are clear where we are heading? Because if the research on TFR and population density were true, what might be its implications on our strategies to increase TFR while at the same time bringing in more foreign workers to supplement the local workforce? Perhaps it would be good for the NPTD to review the research to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how else we can turn around the TFR tide. Madam, we have spent the last five days debating one of the most sensitive issues affecting Singaporeans. Beyond the rhetoric, beyond the rationalisation, beyond the economic numbers, beyond the 5.9 million or 6.9 million – Singaporeans ask – is this really for me? Have you listened to me? Can I be certain that this will make my life and my children’s life better in 20 years’ time? Have we convinced Singaporeans? Even if we have not fully, I hope we would have at least convinced Singaporeans that we will continue to improve on our efforts at connecting and communicating with them, closing the gap and seeing it in their perspective. At least we would have convinced Singaporeans that the Government is honest and prepared to present the bitter realities and hard truths – that the Government is not afraid to admit previous shortcomings and is resolute to overcome and not repeat them.
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Madam, thus the motion before us is not just about endorsing the White Paper on Population. The motion asks that the House supports the maintenance of a strong Singaporean core by encouraging more Singaporeans to get married and have children, supplemented by a calibrated pace of immigration to prevent the citizen population from shrinking; and that the House recognises that the population projections beyond 2020 are for the purposes of land use and infrastructure planning, and not a population target. The amended motion calls on the Government to also place priority on resolving current strains on the infrastructure, particularly in transport; this is critical as many Singaporeans want to see short-term results of what the Government has promised. It also asks that the Government plan, invest in, and implement infrastructure development ahead of demand. This is so that we have sufficient buffers and not be caught off guard again. More specifically, the amended motion before us also asks the Government to ensure that the benefits of our population policies, such as better job opportunities and salaries, flow to Singaporeans as they should; and that the Government carry out mediumterm reviews of our population policies and assumptions to take into account the changing needs of Singapore and Singaporeans, as well as changing domestic and external circumstances. Madam, the motion sets an agenda and dictates the deliverables for the Government both in the short and longer term. It reminds the Government if Singaporeans are to trust us with their future, we must convince them with immediate and medium-term results. W we must evolve in our ways of engaging so that the processes and dynamics are as important as objectives and outcomes. Indeed, the social compact moving forward is about consensus building and trust. It is more than telling Singaporeans “we know best” or “trust us”. I also hope that Singaporeans will be fair to the Government. Despite the shortcomings, this is the Government that has taken us through thick and thin. It is a Government that truly cares for Singaporeans – young and old, rich and poor. At the end of the day, Madam, I hope Singaporeans will see the sincerity that is in every one of us and everything that we do, we do with the best intention of making life better for all Singaporeans – People, Businesses and Government. That is a promise that I hope all of us will strive towards.

Time Limit for Prime Minister’s and Deputy Prime Minister’s Speeches
(Suspension of Standing Orders)
Mr Gan Kim Yong : Mdm Speaker, may I seek your consent and the general assent of Members present to move that the proceedings on the item under discussion be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order No. 48(8) to remove the time limit in respect of the Prime Minister’s speech and the Deputy Prime Minister’s reply. Mdm Speaker : I give my consent. Does the Whip have the general assent of the hon. Members present to so move? Hon. Members indicated assent.
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With the consent of Mdm Speaker and the general assent of Members present, question put, and agreed to. Resolved, that the proceedings on the item under discussion be exempted from the provisions of Standing Order 48(8) in respect of the Prime Minister’s speech and the Deputy Prime Minister’s reply. – [Mr Gan Kim Yong].

A Sustainable Population for A Dynamic Singapore
(Motion)
Debate resumed. 4.08 pm The Prime Minister (Mr Lee Hsien Loong) : Mdm Speaker, in Malay. (In Malay): This Debate is ultimately about our long-term future. Our shared goal is to sustain the Singapore story into future generations, and strengthen our Singapore core. Our most important priority is to encourage Singaporeans to marry and have more babies. None of our ethnic groups are replacing ourselves, even the Malays. We hope you will take advantage of the latest Marriage & Parenthood package and have more babies. We are supplementing our population with an inflow of foreigners. But we are slowing down the numbers, to a pace that we can manage more easily. We will preserve the Singapore character of our society. In particular, we will maintain the ethnic balance in our citizen population. The proportion of Malays in the citizen population will not change, even over the longer term. We will not change it. Singaporeans will always be at the heart of all we do. That is our responsibility. We will continue to give priorities to Singaporeans, including Malay Singaporeans, in all our policies. Meritocracy will ensure our people succeed because of their abilities, but we will continue to take care of those who need help to get back on their feet or to reach the same starting point in life. By working together, we will create more opportunities for all communities and we will strengthen our multi-racial and cohesive community. Our future depends on strengthening our Singapore spirit – the will to survive, the desire to succeed and the commitment to improve our lives. I hope the Malay community will support our population policy and work with us to build a brighter future for Singaporeans together. Mr Lee Hsien Loong : Mdm Speaker, may I now speak in Mandarin. Mdm Speaker : Yes, please. Mr Lee Hsien Loong (In Mandarin): Mdm Speaker, since the Population White Paper was released last week, there has been a lot of heated debate within and outside this House. The Government knows this White Paper is not popular. Many people had voiced their dissatisfaction. The common view is that the Government
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should try to solve the more pressing and immediate problems first, rather than long-term problems. It should get the problems before us out of the way before setting its sights on the long-term ones. Many people also said that Singapore is already very crowded, and asked why the Government still wanted to increase its population? I understand why people feel this way. Today, I want to explain the objectives and intent of this White Paper – why we want to do this, why we want to do an unpopular thing. First, let me clarify again that 6.9 million is not a target. This number is a planning parameter to help us plan for future infrastructure. When we expand our MRT network, hospitals, public housing, parks and other amenities, we use this number as a reference. We want to prepare for more, to plan for the just-in-case. And if we do not have the need, at least we have a fallback. We do not plan to increase the population to 6.9 million. This is not our intent. The Government’s reason for proposing this White Paper was to spur Singaporeans to look into the long term and start implementing some solutions. We are facing problems such as an ageing population and low birth rate, which would bring about negative consequences. If we do not start tackling these problems now, our population would dwindle and our economy would lose its vitality. I feel that we should not leave this problem to the next Government to solve because that would be irresponsible. Some Singaporeans feel that we should slow down the pace of life and strive for a better life instead of being too concerned with economic growth. I agree that we should not focus only on economic progress and neglect other important aspects of life such as building a better living environment, narrowing the income gap and building a more harmonious society. In fact, we are already doing so. We have deliberately slowed down the influx of foreigners, which will slow our economic growth. We have accepted slower growth so that we can achieve our larger objectives. But the economy is not like a tap which we can adjust to vary the speed of growth. Policies which are too tight may stall the economy; or we might overheat the economy and cause bubbles to form. Many countries face this problem. And an open economy like Singapore would be especially vulnerable. If we look at other countries, we will find that countries which have slower economic growth are usually not the happiest, most united or harmonious countries. The experience of the Western economies shows that a slow-growth economy tends to have higher unemployment, which affects young people the most, with youth unemployment reaching 30% or even 50%. We have seen this happening in Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. There are many other examples. This White Paper proposes a compromise between economic growth and giving Singaporeans a high quality of life. Our solution is two-pronged: to encourage more births and raise productivity, and at the same time, bring in an appropriate number of immigrants and foreign workers. Actually this is a three-pronged approach. A specific suggestion in the White Paper is to reduce the influx of foreign workers from now to 2020. This is in line with public expectations and would help reduce congestion and the sense of unease. At the same time, it will also help us maintain economic stability and create good job opportunities. From 2020 to 2030, which is very far from now, the picture is less clear. Nevertheless, we will further tighten the influx of foreign workers. We will monitor and review the actual situation and put down more specific policies then. Therefore, we are introducing the White Paper to look into the long-term interests of Singaporeans. We are not pursuing economic growth blindly, neither are we are blindly growing the population. These are the means and not the end. Our eventual objective is to ensure that this generation and our future generations can continue to live happily and peacefully on this island. Every generation can continue to do well and lead better lives than the preceding one.
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I know that Singaporeans hope that we can first solve the more pressing and immediate problems. I would like to assure Singaporeans that the Government is already doing our best to tackle various bread-and-butter issues. These measures are already being implemented. I am sure that you will see the results soon. HDB has already gone full steam on building more flats and we will keep prices of new flats affordable. The rail network would double by 2030, and more trips will run during the peak hours to make it more convenient for everyone to travel to and from work and play. Public transport will be more convenient everywhere you go. The Government will provide more training opportunities for workers to increase their productivity and wages. We will strengthen our social safety net and help the less privileged, building on our important first step in our Budget last year. However, when we deal with our more immediate problems, we cannot ignore our long-term concerns. And one of our most important longer-term concerns is the population issue. It is not some abstract or theoretical concept. We are worried about it because we are worried for Singaporeans. Which group of Singaporeans are we worried about? First, we are worried about our elderly. It is obvious that the baby boomers, those born after the Second World War, which include me and some of my fellow Cabinet Ministers, are entering old age. In the next 20 to 30 years, we will all be retired and become retirees and senior citizens. We will need to be taken care of. We hope to lead a peaceful, stable and healthy life. This is a major shift in our demographic profile. How to take care of this group of Singaporeans is a big challenge. In other words, how Singaporeans of today can take care of old Singaporeans 30 years from now is a very big issue. Of course, we can talk about this later but time waits for no man. I know that many Singaporeans are filial and willing to take care of their elderly parents. But I also know that this is not going to be easy, especially when their parents are very sick, or when they have few siblings to share the load, or when their parents are very old and immobile. We all know that being filial is a child’s duty, but it is easier said than done. They have parents and children to take care of. They have heavy burdens, both mentally and financially. One way to help them is to bring in foreign workers, particularly domestic helpers and nurses. The other group I am worried about are the low-income earners. The Government is helping them to increase their income because they are facing the most pressure from competition. And the most practical way is to increase their skills and employability. However, they need jobs and companies to hire them. If we allow companies to have foreigners as part of their workforce, it may help these companies lower business costs and maintain competitiveness, so that they can continue to employ Singaporean workers. In this way, lower-income workers can be protected and cushioned from the impact of globalisation. Minister Lim Swee Say pointed out yesterday that if companies are affected, our workers would ultimately be the ones who suffer. These are words from the leader of the union movement and he knows the real situation. Many Singaporeans either work in SMEs or are owners of SMEs. Our SMEs need time to adapt, upgrade and expand into new markets. If they cannot survive because of a shortage of labour, the first to be affected would be low-wage Singaporean workers. Therefore, when we think of the interests of Singaporeans and try to help them solve their problems, we not only have to deal with the direct issues but also need to consider the indirect factors and economic issues. And foreign labour is one of these factors. Besides elderly and low-income Singaporeans, we also have to think about the prospects for younger Singaporeans. We have to keep our economy vibrant so that younger Singaporeans can fulfil their potential. Without economic growth and opportunities, younger Singaporeans may just decide to migrate to other places, and leave behind the elderly folks here to take care of themselves.

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Therefore, because we are worried about the future for elderly Singaporeans, younger Singaporeans and lowincome Singaporeans, we need to be very careful when dealing with immigration and foreign worker issues. When we bring in new immigrants, we are concerned about whether they can integrate into our society. Singapore today is very different from our pre-independence days. Back then, we were not yet a country. Since independence, because we have gone through the trials and tribulations during the colonial period, the merger and the early years of independence, our society has become increasingly mature. The different races have gradually developed a sense of identity, with unique social norms and values. Under such circumstances, it is more difficult for new immigrants to integrate into our society. As such, the Government will have to double our efforts to help these new immigrants adapt to our society, and ensure that Singaporeans can live harmoniously together with them and integrate the new immigrants as part of us. But at the same time, the Government will also control the number of new immigrants to ensure that it does not go beyond what we can accommodate. Mr Low Thia Khiang said that only Singaporeans who are born and bred here can make up the strong Singapore core. Foreign immigrants, unlike us, cannot form the Singapore core. I do not agree with this. I think that this is very pessimistic and narrow-minded thinking. We have all heard of this classical Chinese saying: “The ocean admits all rivers, thus achieving greatness”. Chinese wisdom accumulated over thousands of years has taught us that accepting talent from all over the world is the way to build a strong nation. No matter which era we live in, no matter where we live, foreign immigrants, as long as they have the determination, can integrate into the society they migrate to and make contributions. We will consider carefully the number we would take in and how we would bring them in; we will make our policies more comprehensive, but our principles remain steadfast. I believe that in time to come, these people can become “true-blue Singaporeans” as well. On the whole, this White Paper discusses long-term issues and explores solutions to tackle these problems. The White Paper proposes a basic blueprint and solution so that we can plan for the long-term, particularly in terms of infrastructure development. The overarching principle in our population strategy is very clear. The Government will always put Singaporeans first. Singaporeans will continue to make up the majority of the population here and form the strong Singapore core. All along, the Government has given differentiated treatment to citizens and non-citizens. Singaporeans enjoy preferential treatment in education, housing and healthcare so that they can enjoy the fruits of our economic growth. In recent years, the Government has sent a clearer signal by further differentiating the benefits of citizens and non-citizens. This is necessary and the right thing to do, as Singapore citizens are the owners of this society and the Government is elected by Singaporeans and has to be accountable to Singaporeans. However, Singapore’s success cannot rely on the Government alone. Singaporeans need to be the mainstay of our society. They need to strive for the best and be the driving force for the progress of the country and themselves; they cannot be mere passengers. Singaporeans also need to help one another and move forward together as a nation. The Population White Paper is built on this principle. It is drafted to safeguard the interests of this generation and future generations of Singaporeans, to ensure that Singapore continues to develop steadily and become an even better home for all Singaporeans. The White Paper has set out the various challenges we are likely to face, as well as the policies and solutions to tackle these challenges. But a White Paper cannot solve every problem. Therefore, I hope that Singaporeans will continue to discuss these issues, so that the Government can continue to improve on our policies and better prepare Singapore for its future. (In English): Mdm Speaker, I support the amended motion. The White Paper and the debate are the culmination of a year-long process. We have consulted stakeholders; we have published Occasional and Issues Papers; we have engaged many Singaporeans; we have received feedback from thousands of people and
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distilled all these strands into the White Paper; laid out the issues comprehensively, and what we need to do to address these issues. The White Paper has triggered some strong reactions which MPs have reflected in this House. Some are upset that we are talking about long-term problems before solving immediate issues. Many fear that the way we are going, Singapore will no longer be Singaporean that we will be overwhelmed by immigrants and foreigners. Many MPs raised this. Many, many people have objected to the figure of 6.9 million and hence, the passionate and difficult debate in this House this week. Why has the Government introduced this White Paper now, or even introduce this White Paper at all, knowing that population and immigration is such a difficult and unpopular subject? Because I know that we – all Singaporeans – face a very difficult problem together that is growing day by day. As your Government, it is our duty to share this problem with you. We are producing too few babies, our society is ageing, and if we do nothing our population will soon start shrinking like Japan’s. What does that mean for all of us? What must we do about it – and when I say we, I do not just the Government, I mean also individuals, groups, companies, SMEs – how do we prepare ourselves, how do we try to avert some of the problems which we can see coming? We have to make choices, make adjustments, accept trade-offs which will fundamentally impact our country, our society, our children, our lives. For example, do we allow SMEs more foreign workers to grow their businesses, or choke them off and force them to upgrade or die? Do we let in more construction workers to build more HDB flats and MRT lines faster, or do we cap the number of construction workers and make Singaporeans wait longer for HDB flats and MRT trains? So, the discussions last year, and so the White Paper and this debate, so that we are upfront with Singaporeans and we can face our challenges together. It would have been easy for me to “kick the can down the road” -- to borrow a phrase from the Workers’ Party -- and leave the problem to a future Government or to a future Prime Minister, or to propose a bogus solution which does not really solve the problem, but buys you some political time. For example, declare that we are “setting KPIs for our TFR”. And then by the time you find out that nothing has happened, well, perhaps the awkward moment has passed. But it would be irresponsible for me to do so and I hope Singaporeans understand why after considering this carefully, we have decided to bring the matter out into the open and discuss this sincerely, openly, and frankly, even if you may not agree with the proposals or the solutions which we have put out. Our purpose is to do the best for Singaporeans. Singaporeans are at the centre of all our plans and everything which we do is to improve Singaporeans’ well-being, their security and welfare. And everything else -- whether it is economic growth, whether it is population policies, whether it is your housing, your trains -- those are means to this end. This White Paper is not just a discussion of a difficult problem. It is really an affirmation of faith in Singapore’s future. Believe that Singapore has a future which is worth building, protecting, striving for. Believe that Singapore can grow from strength to strength and the next generation deserves to live better lives than this generation. All human beings have this desire to build on what you have inherited, to pass on to your children something better than what you have. I think Singaporeans share this deep human desire. They want to do this individually in their families; they want to do it in their work; we want to do it collectively as a society. We want tomorrow to be better than today, otherwise why are we striving? And to make tomorrow better than today, we have to get our
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population policies right, so that we give ourselves the best chance of success. This is a long-term issue. Tomorrow against today, it is a small difference. Next year versus this year, it is noticeable. Ten years from now, compared to today, the trends have built up and accumulated; another 10 years, they may become irreversible. Therefore, we cannot wait till the convenient moment. We have to work hard to address the problems. To address the long-term problems at the same time as we are addressing the current problems which preoccupies Singaporeans, whether it is housing: aggressively building HDB flats, as Minister Khaw Boon Wan has tirelessly been explaining and doing; whether it is transport: accelerating the construction of train lines, bringing in more bus services, and spreading out peak hours as Minister Lui Tuck Yew has also tirelessly been doing; whether it is job competition -- reducing our reliance on non-Singaporeans, helping our workers to upgrade, ensuring fair treatment for citizens as Acting Minister Mr Tan Chuan-Jin has been working at and explaining to you; or tackling the cost of living and social safety nets for our lower income groups especially -through many schemes , whether it is Workfare, ComCare and other schemes also to help not so low income groups, but people who may have fallen into difficulties temporarily and who have exceptional circumstances who deserves support. Like families who need to hire foreign domestic workers to look after bedridden seniors. We have schemes, we have arrangements and we are developing more ways of doing these things. Progressively step-by-step, whether it is houses, whether it is trains, whether it is cost of living, we are determined to improve things progressively. In parallel, we have to deal with this population issue. This is a multi-faceted problem. First, it is a problem of numbers: How many babies are born, how many people immigrate, how many people emigrate, how many foreign workers we need, what is our TFR? At that level, it is an exercise in spreadsheets and arithmetic. Anybody can do the sums. Does not mean anybody can make the sums work and solve the problem. But that is only one aspect of our population problem. Another aspect is identity. Many MPs have spoken about it. I think just now Asst Prof Eugene Tan was one of them. Who are we? To our children, to immigrants, to people who are working here, people who are visiting here, who are Singaporeans? It is more complicated for us because we are a cosmopolitan city -- unlike say Japan or China -- where the population all look the same, speak the same language, and it is quite clear if you are Japanese, you are Japanese. But in Singapore, who are you? We have to be open, we have to be varied, we have to have all sorts of people here. At the same time, we are not just a city – we are not just like New York or London. We are a nation. So we need both that vibrancy and openness, but also the sense of identity and the sense of belonging among citizens that we are Singaporeans together. That is a very difficult combination to create – to be cohesive without being close, to identify with one another and not be xenophobic; to be open and yet not be diluted and dissolve. But that is our karma and we have to keep a balance between the two. The third aspect of the population issue is the economy: How do we keep thriving and prospering? I almost hesitate to make this argument because everybody in the Chamber -- or many people in this Chamber -- and many people outside too have taken the view that economics is not so important and that we have overemphasised economics as a Government. I think I should make my position quite clear. We are not pursuing growth at all costs. We are trying to juggle many different objectives including population, including cohesion, including our social tensions. And we are trading off -- reducing immigration, reducing foreign worker inflows, slowing down the economy significantly so as to deal with these tensions and pressures, and so as to address other issues which we want, whether it is quality of life, whether it is income equality, whether it is the
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environment. We accept this because we want the growth to be sustainable, we want high quality growth and we want workers and families to benefit. Finally, it is for Singaporeans. Growth is not for its own sake. But growth is not unimportant. We can only afford to say that it is not, does not matter because we have already got it. If we did not have it, we would not be so blase. You need growth to improve education and healthcare, to build better homes and towns, to invest in reliable and convenient public transport. If we do not have the resources, you will not have the means and you will not have that quality of life. We also need growth to improve incomes and I say this advisedly, incomes are important. If you are in the top five, 10 per cent of the population, you may say, well, I have enough, I manage, I can live within my means. If you are at the bottom 10% or 20% of the population, or even the medium Singaporeans – not poor, not rich – I think it would be patronising and cavalier for us to say they do not need more; growth is unimportant. It is important for us to raise income of the low-income Singaporeans. It is important that we are able to have growth which enables a broad mass of Singaporeans to improve their lives. When people say that the cost of living is high, I want to help with cost of living. Really the best solution is if your incomes can go up, and you have more means to afford the things that you want, then you will be under less pressure. But for the incomes to go up, unless the economy grows, I must rob Peter to pay Paul. Somebody has to volunteer, take the money from me, give it to them. It is not a sustainable solution. Our experience has shown that in fact when the economy is growing, the low-income Singaporeans benefit; their incomes go up. When the economy crashes or slows down, it is the low-income Singaporeans whose salaries stagnate. And at the top, quite often, incomes continue to rise. It is a problem with us; it is a problem with many countries. And so, that is why, while although we have many objectives and we are trading off, growth still counts, together with sense of belonging and nationhood, together with work-life balance, together with familyfriendly environment. One of the things we must not forget is we need to make a living for ourselves. So when I think of population and the future, we are trying to look at it from different perspectives. But finally, you are trying to look at it from the angle of how does it affect Singaporeans? And which Singaporeans are going to be affected when you are talking about population? I think there are three groups which I specifically like to mention. First, the older people. Older Singaporeans, not just today’s old people which you can see and are no so few already, but tomorrow’s Singaporeans. That means some of us who are here today who still consider ourselves approaching middle age, but in 18 years’ time, 2030, we will say, well, this is the new 50. And that is a very big group of Singaporeans. The numbers are growing rapidly because we are the Baby Boomers, the bulge of kids borne after the Second World War. I can see this on the ground. All MPs can see this on the ground. In Teck Ghee, when I first became an MP, I used to attend a lot of baby shows. Today, there are still baby shows once in a while, but far more senior citizen activities. Just last weekend, I opened a Seniors Activity Centre – very popular, lots of old folks playing bingo, exercising, socialising, and asking for more facilities. That is the face of Singapore tomorrow. What do we do with it? Today, there are six working citizens supporting one senior citizen. By 2030, without immigration -- if we freeze everything and just depend on the citizens -- it is going to be 2:1. That means the burden, the responsibility on each working-age person is going to triple. We have to look after the seniors. Yes, they have their CPF. That is very helpful. Yes, the Government is there with HDB schemes and with Medisave, Medifund Silver and with all sorts of schemes, to help the senior citizens look after themselves. But finally, we also need an economy which
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works; we also need the young people to provide the services to look after them. As an MP, I see many old folks who have no children or whose children are not supporting them, for one reason or another. They come to me and they ask me for help. And I say well, “What about your family?” They say my family – so many reasons – “I have lost touch with them or you know young people these days”. Sometimes, a family is helping, the family comes to see us and they do not have a very easy time because they have aged parents, they have young children and they are trying hard to be filial sons and daughters. Not so easy looking after parents, children and work; sometimes, looking after siblings who have special needs -- with healthcare expenses, caregivers feeling emotional stress. We are doing a great deal to help them with Medifund Silver, active ageing programmes, barrier-free neighbourhoods, all the many schemes which we are coordinating through all of different ministries. But that is today’s 6:1 support ratio. When it goes to two young people to one, I think the pressures on the families and on the society are going to be much higher. It is easy to say, we stop immigration, we stop foreign workers coming in, as I think Mr Chen Show Mao did. Ageing is a triumph of development. But is it so simple? We will all get old one day and we will need healthcare and support one day, hopefully, later rather than earlier. But can we solve this problem with re-employed retirees becoming caregivers in old folks’ homes? Can one child look after two elderly parents, whether financially or physically? Is it sustainable? Is it fair? So, that is the first group I worry about when looking at their demographic trends. The second group is the low-income Singaporeans. They aspire to a higher income and to a better life, as do all of us. And the Government is also doing our best to help them through better pay and upgraded skills, through Workfare and all our productivity schemes; through vouchers -- GST Vouchers and U-Save and many other schemes to cope with the cost of living; through ComCare, Medifund to provide for families and children. But the best way to help them is to create opportunities for them – opportunities for better jobs, opportunities for earning more, and opportunities to live dignified and fulfilling lives. And they need good jobs. They do not want handouts, in fact. They prefer to stand on their own feet, learn a new skill and provide for themselves as Mr Zainal Sapari and Mr Zainudin Nordin reminded us. But to do this, we have to be able to have a pie which is expanding and the low-income people cannot be burdened heavily looking after senior citizens and old folks at home. Low-wage workers do fear competition from foreigners, but they also benefit from a controlled inflow of foreign workers because with a controlled inflow, the company has a mix, the foreign worker lowers their costs, the company is viable, it hires the Singaporeans. Otherwise, if they close, it is not the foreign worker who has the problem. He goes home but it is the Singaporean who has lost its job, and the employer, the SME boss, who has lost his business, as Mr Inderjit Singh vividly reminded the House. So, that is the second group we worry about. The third group are young Singaporeans -- young today and young, not yet born because we have a responsibility to the Singaporeans to be born. They have many different aspirations. You have heard some of them, as the MPs have spoken over the last few days, Mr S Iswaran talked about Khoo Xue Ni, who wants to become a forensic pathologist; Ms Grace Fu talked about Joelle Ng who wants to be a cartoonist; Mr Baey Yam Keng talked about hawker-preneurs, who have a vision, a dream and a passion.
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And you see many others like them and TODAY published a population supplement last year, talking about people in law, in social service, people who want to grow their hearts and souls, actualise themselves. And I see them in my constituency – young people from Nanyang Polytechnic, come to help me do community work – clean up, paint, tidy up rental flats. They do not have to do it. It is community engagement. They get satisfaction and I think the people who are helped, are very, very pleased. I see other young people. I was at Zion Riverside Hawker Centre one evening, and ran into a bunch of them – turned out to be Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) students – full of life. They were from the Rotaract Club on an orientation and bonding camp; passionate about their education, passionate about what they are going to do next in Singapore, looking forward to boundless opportunities. When you are young, all possibilities are opened and it is a marvellous feeling. We have a responsibility to them, to make sure they have those opportunities in Singapore. They want fulfilling, well-paying jobs that is not so surprising. But they also would like an exciting, dynamic city, space to pursue diverse interests and the opportunity to go and change Singapore and change the world. We have invested heavily in them -- developing their potential, especially through education, so they can thrive in many places, not just in Singapore. We have educated them, so many of them are going to come out as PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives, Technical staff). Educating them as PMETs is not so hard. Finding PMET jobs for them to do, to match their education, is not so easy. And in many countries, people come out as PMETs and end up in unskilled jobs because the jobs are not there. It happens in China, in Europe, in America. We are going to have two-thirds of our young people, PMETs, who will be their complement working with them. Some of them will be either Singaporeans but if we just go on that balance, it is not going to work. You have to complement them with others who can work with them and that means foreign workers to do jobs, whether it is construction, whether it is as a domestic maid, whether it is in manufacturing, jobs where we do not have Singaporeans and jobs where Singaporeans have graduated out of. So, we need to do this for Singaporeans’ future, for the young people’s future. To have a city which have opportunities and buzz, to be forward-looking and to be on the move. We have Singaporeans all over the world. I think from the last number, it is about 200,000, at our best estimate, who are overseas. Many of them are children of parents who are still in Singapore. If you ask around, look around your constituencies, your grassroots, your friends, you will know that many of them have got children living, working and studying overseas. They are part of our global community. It is fine. But if Singapore sputters, stagnates, and if we become a giant retirement home, then our young, with nothing to look forward to here, they will move, as Mr Arthur Fong has pointed out. And with two old folks, there will be an empty nest at home. That has happened in many countries where the opportunities are not there, people have moved. The Irish used to have that happened to them. The Greeks have many young people who have gone all over Europe. I think it will be very sad if that happens to Singapore. So, for the sake of the young, for the sake of their futures, we have to think what sort of Singapore we want to see beyond the immediate, beyond the here and now. Getting our population policy right is important to looking after these longer term needs of Singaporeans. Having resources; having caregivers to help the elderly; uplifting the low-income, who are the hardest hit by a stagnation; creating opportunities and hope for our young, so that they are anchored here. In other words, all these discussions are about our people, our children, our future. That is why we have to deal with immediate problems, infrastructure and so on, and the long-term population issues together, to create the most promising future for Singaporeans.
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The motion as amended by Mr Liang Eng Hwa makes this quite clear, what it is we are asking Parliament to decide. It sets the objective, to maintain a strong Singaporean core by encouraging more Singaporeans to get married and have children, and to supplement this with a calibrated pace of immigration to prevent our citizen population from shrinking. The motion also lays out the priorities and approaches which the Government should take to resolve the current strains on infrastructure particularly transport; to plan and develop our infrastructure for the future, ahead of demand; to make sure that the benefits from our population policies flow to Singaporeans. The motion also sets out what we propose to do between now and 2020, and beyond 2020. There are two clear phases because between now and 2020, we have some clearer idea of what the world will be like; beyond 2020, we have to wait and see. So between now and 2020, we are slowing down the inflow significantly and we expect to slow down growth significantly. We are reducing the intake of foreign workers; we are moderating the inflow of new citizens and immigrants to top up the population. We are maintaining Permanent Residents’ numbers at about the present size, half a million or so. And in my judgment, this is the most viable path for Singapore to balance our different objectives, to slow down our ageing, to make up for the shortfall in our babies and at the same time, to keep our economy healthy and create jobs and push companies to upgrade. It is a significant move, it is a calibrated move. I think this is a judicious thing to do. There is a saying attributed to Laozi. In Chinese, it says, "治大国若烹小鲜” – “Govern a great nation as you would cook a small fish”. In other words, very carefully, gently, do not overdo it, you may ruin it. I think that we cannot overdo things. This is what is judicious and I think this is what is workable. Beyond 2020, in the next decade to 2030, things are much more uncertain and open. We do not have 20/20 vision of what is going to happen there. The Opposition laughs at us why we do not have 20/20 foresight. Nobody knows what is going to happen in 2030. Even in 2020 you cannot be sure. How would the world be, how would Singapore be? What would we need to do? It will depend on many things; on our TFR, how much progress we make in restructuring? On the global situation, what happens in the world around us? Is it peace, is it war? Is it prosperity, is it a recession or depression or worse? And therefore, we cannot decide on a population trajectory beyond 2020. That has to be left to a future Government and future Singaporeans to decide. And in particular, especially, we are not deciding on a population of 6.9 million for 2030 now. The White Paper actually made that clear but the number got taken out of context and it took on a life of its own. Six point nine million is not a population target; it is a basis for us to plan our infrastructure for the long term because we need to build ahead of demand and give us options for the future and buffer. We have to start building now and we cannot push that off to the future. If we want new housing estates, if you want new train lines, it takes many years to build and once completed, it is going to be there for many, many more years. So, beyond 2020, things are still vague, uncertain. And therefore, nearer 2020, we will review the population projections and our policies again. Then we can decide how much further we should slow down in that next decade. To reduce workforce growth to 1%, which is what the White Paper projects, or to cut even further? The more babies we have, the faster we raise productivity, of course, the fewer foreign workers we need. We know that. We have to work hard at it but we would have to wait and see how things turn out. All these are clearly set out in the amended motion and I hope that this reassures many Member of Parliaments that it is a wise thing for the Government and for Singapore to do.
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Many MPs have asked, “Where are we heading ultimately? What is the maximum population which Singapore can hold, not just 2030 but in the long term, forever, beyond 2030? What is the final number?“ Do we see the population growing indefinitely? No. The island is finite. We can reclaim, we have another few hundreds or another 100 square kilometres, 10,000 hectares possibly. But reclamation does not push my international boundary. And even if I went all the way up to my international boundary and fill up Raffles Lighthouse, that is just that and it will fill up. So, it is finite. Eventually, we must reach zero population growth. Already the White Paper projects slower growth to 2020 in the population, and even slower growth beyond 2020 in the decade beyond that. Eventually, we will reach zero population growth. When and where? Time will tell. It depends on our physical limits but it also depends on our circumstances and on attitudes of future generations of Singaporeans. What they choose. If you look at the resident population, it is easier to tell what will happen. With the resident population, we can roughly estimate how many babies we are likely to get at the most optimistic calculation and what we think is a sustainable rate of inflow of new citizens. Now, 3.8 million of resident population -- citizens and PRs -- and if you go by the White Paper projections, it will stabilise at most 4.2 million to 4.4 million eventually. That is it. After that, it is flat. We will have a population pyramid, which we hope is about a cylinder. Balanced between the old and the young, and not over-balanced with that big heavy bulge of old people supported by very narrow neck of younger Singaporeans. The resident population is going to stabilise, so that means the non-resident population will also eventually have to level off. Otherwise, we will have more and more non-residents per Singaporean and I do not think that is acceptable. As many MPs have pointed out, this is what the Gulf states accept. And they have ratios of 10:1 or may be even more; people are not quite sure. But that is not Singapore’s model. What will the total population add up to eventually? In my view, if you look at 2030, I think 6 million will not be enough to meet Singaporeans’ needs as our population ages because we have this problem of the Baby Boomers and that bulge of ageing people moving through the system. I believe that the total population in 2030 should be significantly below 6.9 million and beyond 2030, in the very long term, it should not increase beyond that. So the final number should be significantly below 6.9 million. That is something for future generations to decide. Meanwhile, we should build up our infrastructure ahead of demand so that people do not feel the sort of strains which they feel today. Good infrastructure is critical to ensure a high quality of life for Singaporeans, as our population grows. All Singaporeans would like to see affordable homes, clean and modern neighbourhoods. Families would like to see more parks, more childcare facilities and more integrated townships. The elderly would like to see more Senior Activity Centres, more healthcare facilities and the young would like fun new developments, example, *Scape Youth Park, extreme sports, thrilling things and buzz. Quite a number of MPs have pointed out that the living environment affects TFR. I accept that. I believe that. One reason is that I can see among young people, a very, very strong norm now. House first, baby later. Couples want to move in to their own flat before they marry and having babies, even if they are registered, they will wait till their house is ready, which means waiting three to four years from now. Before they move in, I think then they have tea ceremony and so on, then they are formally living together and then we hope the baby will come before very long. We are ramping up the supply of BTO flats. We hope this will help. I think priority for first-timer parents should
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help and hopefully will change patterns of behaviour and maybe they will say, “Why do we not start a baby and then we can get a flat faster?” But this is not just a matter of incentives and rewards. It is really mindsets and values and priorities. I hope that Singaporeans will make families one of their core priorities and would be flexible when thinking how and when they want to start families and how they can fit their families into their lives – flexible in their careers, flexible in their aspirations, flexible in their arrangements – with parents, with in-laws, with childcare centres. We will help overcome all these structural impediments but finally the couples have to want to have the kid because otherwise if the kid is born unwanted, it will create more problems. Ministers Khaw Boon Wan and Lui Tuck Yew have presented, over the last few days, our plans for transport and housing. The developments are well underway and I am confident we can, with planning, imagination and creativity, transform Singapore. Punggol will be replicated, but there are also many other towns, each with its own charms and when I am on leave in Singapore, I visit and walk along the park connectors to see and to enjoy for myself what we have built. Last December, I took a walk at the Bukit Panjang Park Connector, all along the Bukit Timah Expressway parallel but beautifully planted nature, well used by residents. Then I went to the Sungei Pang Sua Park Connector. Open, there is a canal on the other side is the railway line, old railway line which is going to be a special green neighbourhood once we get our plans done – also very well patronised by the residents. Lots of residents, lots of dogs; all kinds. In fact there is a special signboard showing all the different kinds of dogs which need to be muzzled. And there were about 20. I did not meet any of them but I saw the signboard. It means that people are using it, people are enjoying it. The quality of life is there and we can create that quality of life for all our Singaporeans. We will do that. But it is not just improving the physical environment. It is also strengthening the sense of belonging and place – what Ms Janice Koh said – not just a liveable, but a loveable city. I agree with her. That is what we are trying to build but love cannot always be built. Love has to blossom. And that means that this needs many, many different people to be involved to lavish care, attention, passion, to nurture to develop, to curate, to conserve and to tell the story. I think we can do that. Common spaces to bond Singaporeans, whether it is a Community Club, whether it is a neighbourhood park, whether it is at the hawker centres – places which have old memories and places where we make new ones, whether it is the Punggol Waterway Kelong Bridge which is aligned with old Punggol Road, or the new Dawson Estate in Queenstown, or the National Art Gallery. Icons that make us proud to be Singaporeans – the Marina Bay skyline, still new but I think it is something which we all should be proud of and can be. Changi Airport – an icon not just because it looks pretty but because it works well. The Government will give extra emphasis to this hard ware. But as I said, the Government cannot do it alone. We can build a house but only us, the people, can build a home. We can provide the common spaces, but it is up to all of us to nurture the healthy, vibrant communities. We can create the opportunities, but it is up to us, the people, to define who a Singaporean is. Ultimately, our population policy must strengthen our Singapore identity. Almost every Member of Parliament talked about this. It was not in the White Paper because the White Paper focused on the tangible aspects, but it is very much in our thoughts. I met a young lady in Teck Ghee market last Sunday and she asked me a very pertinent question. She said, “What is the Singapore core?”
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Let me share my thoughts. The Singapore core is really made up of people, of us. People who have our families and homes here; people who embrace our values, ideals, who have sunk roots here, who has given their loyalty to Singapore – for whom when you say the pledge, when you see the helicopter flying past National Day, it is a special moment. Many would have been living in the heartlands, been to school together. We will share memories and experiences. Emeritus Senior Minister Goh talked about some recently in this debate: National Service, SARS, the global financial crisis, 9-11. Fears as well as joys; People willing to defend our nation, our families and friends, our way of life because we feel as one together. We share sorrows together even if they are not our own personal and immediate family. When two young boys were knocked down in Tampines, we all grieved with Mr and Mrs Francis Yap. We celebrate successes together. When our Special Winter Olympics speed skating team did well and came home with a haul of gold, silver and bronze medals, we rejoiced. When Nickson Fong, who is a Singaporean IT expert in animation, won an Oscar for a new technique to make 3D animated faces and characters, we celebrated with him. We feel together and we are in a cause together – committed to create a brighter future for all of us. Many of these people will be our children or will be children of Singaporeans born and breed here. We want Singaporeans, please, have more children. In fact, please get married and then have children. To inherit what we have built and to build on what we will inherit, to create a community which can trace its roots back to the generations. And so, we have the Marriage and Parenthood (M&P) Package. We have tried our best, squeeze our brains dry, put in all the ideas which after testing and talking to people we think we work. But I am sure that there are further ideas and we have to keep on welcoming ideas from all sources and trying to raise our TFR. But not every member of the Singapore core will or has to be born here. Some will be born elsewhere but have embraced our values and decided to make this their home and nation. Immigrants have been critical to Singapore’s success. And over the years, many have embraced Singapore’s cause and made important contributions to Singapore, been the fiercest defenders of Singapore and the most able propounders of our cause, pushing our story worldwide. Rajaratnam was just one of them. That is how we became a shining red dot. As Mr Rajaratnam said, and many of you have quoted, being Singaporean is not a matter of ancestry; it is conviction and choice. I accept that the situation today is different from what it was at Independence in the 1960s. The founding generation was brought together by an accident of history at a time of great change. They were bound together by a cause of survival and building a nation. Because of them they built a nation with a distinctive Singaporean identity. So, you can recognise a Singaporean – you do not have to wait for him to speak; you do not have to hear him. You just look at him, see how he walks, his body language – there is something about him that says, “I know he is one of us.” Not in Singapore but you can be in America, you can be in India, anywhere in the world, he is distinguishable. Therefore because we are distinguishable and identify with one another like that, it is harder for a new arrival to come in and become like those who are born and breed here. Never quite the same; the accent will be a bit different; the body language will be a bit different. Over time, the accent maybe will become more like Singlish – especially if you come when you are young. But the first generation immigrant has something not quite the same about him -- which is also why he is valuable to us because he or she adds something to us. We still need them
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to strengthen our core, to reinforce our talent pool and to make lives better for Singaporeans. We expect the new citizens to make the effort to integrate into our community, to commit their loyalty to Singapore. Indeed there are non-Singaporeans who have lived and worked here, who deeply appreciate what Singapore stands for and they want to contribute to the Singapore story by being Singaporeans. They have seen the world; they have seen how things work elsewhere; they have seen how Singapore is and they say, “Yes, let me make this my home and nation.” I say, we should have a big heart and the open spirit to welcome such people and help them become Singaporean. Let their children grow up in our schools; let their children be part of the next generation of Singaporeans. The US has such a philosophy of citizenship. The ideal is the Statue of Liberty and the peom, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” And in fact, they have brought in successive generations of emigres – Irish, Germans, Scandinavians, Polish, Russians, Jews, Asians – and greatly enriched their society, not without difficulty, not without indigestion sometimes, tensions, but it has made America what it is. It is still not easy and immigration is a vexed issue today – us against them. They cannot get a good immigration law passed in Congress. As Mr Obama says, “A lot of folks forget that most of us used to be them.” And I think, sometimes, we forget that, “Most of us used to be them.” But this is the US’ great strength compared to many other countries. Japan is the opposite. Very difficult to absorb immigrants, even people who are partly-Japanese who have lived overseas and came back to Japan do not find it easy to integrate into their society. They have people who are half-Japanese – born of American GI fathers after the war – they could not fit in and they were shipped to live in Brazil, which is a much more mixed and tolerant society. Then, the Japanese were short of population. They brought some of them in to live in Japan and try to integrate – it did not work. In the end, they gave them free one-way aeroplane tickets, and said, “Please go back to Brazil and please do not come here again.” It is sad but that is the way their society is. One Japanese who is the director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute says, “America manages to stay vibrant because it attracts people from all over the world. On the other hand, Japan is content to all but shut out people from overseas.” Those are two extreme models. We are neither the US nor Japan. The US is a continent. If you bring in a few hundred thousand of a new ethnic group, there are some who can melt into the population, or there is some corner of America where they can fit in. Singapore is not like that. But Singapore cannot be like Japan either. Otherwise, we will suffer the consequences which Japan is now suffering, and which you have heard discussed over the last few days. We have to be open in a controlled way and if others accept our values and commit to building a better Singapore for all of us, can make a contribution and can integrate into our society, then we should accept them as one of our own. Around the Singapore core our society will need a pool of transient non-residents – people who come to live and work here for a time, not to retire, not permanently. They serve Singaporeans – build our flats and MRT lines, take care of our elderly, bring skills and experiences that we ourselves lack. This is the other aspect of the problem which vexes people. If the non-residents outnumber the core, then the core asks, “Are we being diluted?” And the young Singaporeans – like the young girl whom I met in Teck Ghee market – will ask me this question. I did not give her such a long explanation but after a short explanation, she asked a supplementary question. She said, “Will there be a Singapore core in 2030?”
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I said, “That is the whole aim of this exercise. That is what we are trying to achieve! If your generation have more children, then I think it will be easier for us to have a core.” She is a teenager now; by 2030, she would be well in child-bearing age. There is a lot of discussion over the percentage. If you go to 6.9 million, then only 55% will be citizens, and is that enough? I think the numbers do matter. We will track and control the numbers of non-Singaporeans and the inflow of immigrants so that we are not overwhelmed just by the sheer flood of people coming in. Whether the core is strong or not, and how the transients fit in, also depends on the role which the different groups play in Singapore. How they fit into our society. For example, if a big group of the transients are construction workers here -- which is a fact today; I think have about 250,000 or 300,000 construction workers – temporarily for a project, to do something for us, I do not think that that will weaken the Singapore core. They are here, they do a job, we are grateful to them, the job is done, they go home. Provided we can house them and transport them suitably and provided that the numbers do not cause problems in our housing estates or in our public transport. If we can manage that, this is a transient population. We are not expecting you to integrate. You are doing a job and we are grateful for what you are doing for us. So we will watch the numbers but the Singapore core is not just about the numbers. It is about the spirit. I talked about the spirit earlier. If the spirit is strong, we can manage. It is critical to imbue the younger Singaporeans with the Singapore spirit. We will always out Singaporeans first and make sure that the benefits of our population policies flow to Singaporeans. First of all, in our society, we make sure that Singaporeans are clearly in the majority so that our identity is not diluted by new arrivals. Secondly, in our policies, treating Singaporeans better than nonSingaporeans especially when it comes to healthcare, education and housing. And thirdly, in our workforce, giving Singaporeans every opportunity to upgrade and take up good jobs and enjoy fair and equal treatment from employers. I know there are grouses; I heard Asst Prof Eugene Tan talk about his specific issues, and Mr PatrickTay raised this from a union point of view. We will make sure that Singaporeans are fairly treated. It has to be so and will always be so because the Government is elected by Singaporeans and responsible to Singaporeans. Let me add also that at the same time, Singaporeans cannot afford to be just here for the ride, passengers. We are not an oil state where citizens can live on the oil wealth and non citizens do the work. For Singapore to thrive, we Singaporeans must always stay lean and hungry. If we lose our drive, we will lose out. Mr Teo Siong Seng, Mr Liang Eng Hwa and others talked about this but I would like to underline this point that there would be privileges to be Singaporeans. It is a special status which we should be proud of but we should not think of it as a perk. It is also a responsibility because we are not just the beneficiaries of the country’s success. We also need to be the architects and the builders of our future success. We have got to fulfil our duties as citizens, defend our country and fellow Singaporeans against danger especially if you are an NS-man in the SAF or the Home Team, help one another to build a strong community and work together to help Singapore succeed. If we retain this spirit and work together, we can create a much better tomorrow for our children. That is my promise to all Singaporeans. You are at the heart of all our policies. You are the reason why my team and I entered politics. To work for a better Singapore, to work for Singaporeans. And we want Singapore to do well so that Singaporeans can do well.
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This conversation on population does not end today. Based on the public views and based on the MPs’ speeches, I think it is clear that there are at least three areas which we need to talk about further. “Further” meaning not just over the next few months but over the next few years. First, marriage and procreation. What more can we do to encourage Singaporeans to have more babies? Secondly, economy. How to strike that balance between a vibrant economy and our other objectives; how do we restructure our economy to rely less on foreigners; how do we benefit Singaporeans more through economic growth especially beyond 2020 when the economy is going to be slower? Thirdly, the question of identity. How do we strengthen Singaporeans’ identity even as we keep our society open? These are deep questions, they are important ones for us and we will have to continue and we will have to continue to discuss them. I encourage Singaporeans to continue to discuss them over the next few years including in Our Singapore Conversation. We are all in this together, as Emeritus Senior Minister Goh reminded us. This is an issue not just for the Government or the PAP but for all Singaporeans including all political parties. We have to go beyond the rhetoric to develop actual plans that address our challenges and improve our lives. I ask for your support in doing this. If we make the right choices, our future is bright. We are in a strong position with a high international standing. We have overcome long odds before with creativity and fortitude. In our darkest days after Separation in 1965, Mr Lee Kwan Yew vowed to Singaporeans, “Ten years from now, this will be a metropolis. Never fear.” And we did it. Together, we built a nation. So never fear. We can build an even better Singapore for all Singaporeans. Mdm Speaker, I support the amended motion [Applause]. 5.32 pm The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Teo Chee Hean) : It has been an intense five days. Seldom have I seen Members on both sides of the House rise and speak with so much intensity and passion. We have heard more than 70 Members share their views, concerns, and suggestions on this important issue of population. This is the longest debate, in my memory, that we have had on any single motion in Parliament. And so it should be. It reflects the importance that Members have placed on the far-reaching implications of our population challenge, as well as Members’ concerns about resolving the current issues facing Singaporeans today. At the core of the challenge we are facing is the ageing population. This is happening at a scale and a speed that is unprecedented for us. Nine hundred thousand Singaporeans, or one quarter of our population, will have crossed the 65-year-old mark by 2030. It is going to be a one-time occurrence in our population profile in Singapore. After that, the bulge would have moved through. The senior population in Singapore will stabilise and eventually, it will decline. But how do we deal with this very large and very fast ageing of our population in Singapore over the next 18 years and still maintain our stability, our economy, our drive and most importantly, our ability to support these seniors, and make sure they have the life, the dignity that they deserve because they built Singapore? Our population challenge is complex and multi-faceted, with many inter-linked parts – raising birth rates, taking care of our ageing population, creating good jobs for Singaporeans, ensuring a good living environment. In drawing up the White Paper, we sought to balance many demands and constraints. There are no simple or easy solutions. And we need to find the right balance. Mdm Speaker, over the past year, as we worked on the White Paper, my mind could not help returning to my daily experiences as a Member of Parliament in Pasir Ris. I have been in this House for 20 years, about 16 of
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them representing Pasir Ris. Pasir Ris was a young town then. There were babies and prams wherever one went. We faced the challenges that new towns today face – childcare and kindergarten places close to home; enrolment in primary schools of choice. About six months ago, I met a young lady now in secondary school. She happily showed me a photo of her receiving a prize from me when she was a baby at a baby show. We both looked younger then. Now, just 16 years later, whenever I visit a food centre, market or neighbourhood centre. Or attend a block party or some other event, I meet at least one or two senior residents, some of whom I have known for some years, on wheelchairs. I feel a little sad for them, but on the other hand, I am also heartened because they are out and about, able to take part in community life and keeping active with their neighbours and their friends. Our lift upgrading and barrier-free access programmes allow them to come out, on their own, or with their families or care-givers, instead of being confined at home. I visited a resident last week. I have known him for a long time. Just two days before this debate started. Let us call him Mr B. Mr B has had a difficult year. He lost one leg. But he has got a positive attitude to life. He is happy because he is right-sizing from his current flat to a new studio apartment in familiar surroundings in Pasir Ris, which will be completed later this year. He will live in a smaller flat which he can manage himself, and has unlocked some money from the sale of his larger flat for his living expenses. And he continues to volunteer regularly, taking a wheelchair-friendly public bus to the church in Pasir Ris. Two weeks ago, I visited the Apex Harmony Lodge for dementia patients in Pasir Ris, of which I am the patron. Mr G is one of the 198 residents there. There are another 22 on day care. For the 198 residents, there are 110 staff. Eighty per cent are nursing and support care staff, and of these, 80% are non-Singaporeans. The other 20% are administrative staff or support staff, and all are Singaporeans. Apex Harmony Lodge is the only facility in Singapore, admitting only people with dementia. The nurses, who are very professional, in consultation with family members and allied health staff draw up an individualised care plan. The Lodge is now at full capacity. It has plans for extension, to at least double its capacity. It will need more staff, both Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans, to take care of the residents. Mr G draws wonderful pen-sketches. He gave me this beautiful sketch of the Lodge [referring to the slide on the screen], but as he gave it to me, he seemed very attached to it. So I wrote a few words to wish him good health, and asked him to keep the sketch safely for me. Mdm Speaker, my constituency is still considered young. It was developed only about 20 to 25 years ago. I think of the seniors and how we can take care of them, and help them stay active, healthy and engaged in the community. I think of the young lady, now in secondary school who has her life ahead of her. We need to make preparations now, so that she can have an exciting and fulfilling career in Singapore. So that she can be near her parents to be there for them in the same way as they are there for her today. So that she can have the support she needs to help care for them, and her own family and children too. So, Mdm Speaker, it is with families and Singaporeans like this, all over Singapore, in mind that we debate this key population issue. Members will agree with me that it has been a good, passionate debate. As Members debated the roadmap for
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the future, they also raised important concerns, reflecting the views of Singaporeans and the issues they face today. The Marriage & Parenthood package was widely welcomed by Singaporeans and Members of this House. We will continue to study and consider all good ideas. Members from both sides of the House asked for greater clarity and assurances that the population range for 2030 was not a population target, but was only to be used for infrastructure planning. They called upon the Government to give priority to addressing the current bottlenecks, implement the long-term infrastructure plans, and ensure that the benefits flow to Singaporeans. They also asked Government to carry out a medium-term review of our population policies and assumptions. These are all important and useful points, which reflect the views and interests of our colleagues in this House, and of Singaporeans. Therefore, I welcome their addition, via an amendment from Mr Liang Eng Hwa, to the motion. These additional points in the amendment indeed are in line with the intent of the Government, and help to clarify this intent, and reassure Singaporeans that discussion and conversation have to continue. Mdm Speaker, we have spent the last five days discussing this issue of population in Parliament. In a moment, we will vote on the amended motion. Madam, I had asked the Clerk to distribute copies of the amended motion for Members during tea break, and invite Members to refer to this sheet now. Mdm Speaker, what are we voting on today? First, the motion as amended: “supports maintaining a strong Singaporean core by encouraging more Singaporeans to get married and have children, supplemented by a calibrated pace of immigration to prevent the citizen population from shrinking.” Madam, Members from both sides of the House agree to this in principle. We agree on the number of PRs to be taken in per year, at a rate significantly lower since 2009. We differ on the exact number of new citizens we should take in each year but we agree to this in principle. Second, the motion calls on the Government to attend to the current concerns of Singaporeans to: (a) place priority on resolving current strains on the infrastructure, particularly in transport; and (b) ensure that the benefits of our population policies, such as better job opportunities and salaries, flow to Singaporeans. And I think we all agree with this and the Government pledges to do so. Third, up to 2020, the White Paper is proposing a major shift – a significant slowdown in our rate of workforce and population growth, and GDP growth, compared to the path that we were on. This is a carefully balanced path between two extremes – neither carrying on with the rapid growth rates of the last three decades which would take us beyond our capacity; nor having a freeze which would stall the economy, and be harmful to Singaporeans. Hence, supporting the motion is supporting making this significant shift, but in a balanced way, and signals that we should not take either extreme. Fourth, beyond 2020, we are not deciding now on any specific population size. The amended motion from Mr Liang makes clear that the population projections beyond 2020 are for the purpose of land use and infrastructure planning, and not a population target. The motion calls for the Government to plan, invest in, and implement
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infrastructure development ahead of demand. Major infrastructure takes years to build, and once built will be there for decades. Preparing the infrastructure ahead of time and ahead of demand provides Singaporeans with more options in the future. Under-providing will give Singaporeans less flexibility in the future, and risks facing the sort of bottlenecks that we are facing today when plans are not properly aligned and meshed. Fifth, finally, and most important, the motion calls on the Government to carry out medium-term reviews of our population policies and assumptions to take into account the changing needs of Singapore and Singaporeans, as well as changing domestic and external circumstances. The Prime Minister has said that we should carry out this review before 2020. Hence, voting for the motion does not mean that the conversation stops. The conversation continues. And so it should. The conversation on population did not start this week in this House. It started slowly but earnestly, about a year ago, when we started consulting Singaporeans of all ages, from different walks of life. Similarly, the conversation does not end in this room today. The end of this debate does not mark the end of the discussion on this very important issue. The discussion should, and must continue. The White Paper and this debate has focused the minds of Singaporeans on this important subject, painted out the challenges we face with an ageing and shrinking population, the scenarios, the consequences and possible pathways. It is a subject which affects all of us. I would thus like to call on Members to support the amended motion before you. For those who would like to see more discussion and exploration of possibilities, there is no need now to come to a final decision, yes or no. I invite you to keep an open mind as the conversation on the future pathway continues. We must continually review our approach and adapt our strategies depending on Singaporeans’ changing social and economic needs, and how our domestic and external circumstances change; while always putting the interests of Singaporeans at the heart of everything that we do. The amended motion calls for a medium-term review and for the discussion to continue. Mdm Speaker, I would like to thank all Members for sharing their insights, and debating this motion with such energy and passion, with our focus on building a better future for Singaporeans. With leaders, business and people working together in a concerted manner, I am confident that we can truly have a Sustainable Population for a Dynamic Singapore for many more generations of Singaporeans to come. Let us all come together to build a better life, a better home and a better future for Singaporeans, now and in the future. Mdm Speaker, may I take the opportunity to wish all those celebrating the new year, a very happy Chinese New Year and a bountiful year ahead for everyone. Mdm Speaker, I support the amended motion [Applause]. Mdm Speaker : We have now come to the conclusion of the debate and I shall put the necessary Questions to the House for a decision. There are two amendments proposed by Mr Liang Eng Hwa as indicated in the Order Paper. I shall put the Questions on the amendments in the order in which they relate to the text of the original Motion. The first amendment by Mr Liang Eng Hwa is that, in line 3, to leave out the words “population policy”. Question, “That the words proposed to be left out, be left out”, put and agreed to. I now come to the second amendment by Mr Liang Eng Hwa. The second amendment is that the words
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proposed by the Member be added at the end of the motion. Question, “That the words proposed to be added, be added”, put and agreed to. Mdm Speaker : The Original motion, as amended, is now before the House. The Question is: “That this House endorses Paper Cmd. 1 of 2013 on "A Sustainable Population for a Dynamic Singapore" as the roadmap to address Singapore's demographic challenge, and Paper Misc. 1 of 2013 on "A High Quality Living Environment for all Singaporeans" as the land use plan to support Singapore's future population projections; and supports maintaining a strong Singaporean core by encouraging more Singaporeans to get married and have children, supplemented by a calibrated pace of immigration to prevent the citizen population from shrinking; and recognises that the population projections beyond 2020 are for the purpose of land use and infrastructure planning, and not a population target; and calls on the Government to: (a) place priority on resolving current strains on the infrastructure, particularly in transport; (b) plan, invest in, and implement infrastructure development ahead of demand; (c) ensure that the benefits of our population policies, such as better job opportunities and salaries, flow to Singaporeans; and (d) carry out medium term reviews of our population policies and assumptions to take into account the changing needs of Singapore and Singaporeans, as well as changing domestic and external circumstances.” As many as are of that opinion say "Aye". Some hon. Members: Aye Mr Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied) : Mdm Speaker, I call for a Division. Mdm Speaker : Instead of claiming a Division, would the Member wish for his dissent to be recorded? Mr Low Thia Khiang : Madam, I wish to call for a Division on the motion. Mdm Speaker : Will hon. Members who support the Division please rise in their places? More than five hon. Members rose in support of the call for division. Mdm Speaker: Thank you. You may be seated. Clerk, please ring the Division bells. After two minutes -Mdm Speaker: Serjeant-at-Arms, lock the doors, please. Question put on the motion as amended. Take a Division. Before I proceed to start the electronic voting, Members are advised to read the instructions for voting which are found in the left compartment of their seats, where the earpieces are placed. Members, you may now begin to vote.
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There is one Member who did not vote. Yes, Mr Chen Show Mao, would you like to vote now? Please indicate your vote. Mr Chen Show Mao (Aljunied) : Yes, Madam. “No” for me. Mdm Speaker : There is one more Member whose vote is not recorded. Mr Pritam Singh, would you like to indicate your vote? Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied) : I have. Mdm Speaker : But it is not recorded on the screen. You can indicate your vote orally. Mr Pritam Singh : The light is not coming on. Mdm Speaker : It has passed the time for the electronic voting. Mr Pritam Singh, would you like to indicate your vote now? Mr Pritam Singh : I have pressed “no”, but Mdm Speaker, it is an unequivocal “no”. Mdm Speaker : There are 77 Ayes, 13 Noes, and one Abstention. Division taken: Ayes, 77; Noes, 13; Abstention, 1. Ayes Ang Hin Kee Ang Wei Neng Baey Yam Keng Chan Chun Sing Chong, Charles Christopher de Souza Dhinakaran, R Fang, Nicholas Fatimah Lateef Fong, Arthur Foo Chee Keng, Cedric Foo Mee Har Fu Hai Yien, Grace
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Gan Kim Yong Gan Thiam Poh Goh Chok Tong Halimah Yacob Hawazi Daipi Heng Chee How Heng Swee Keat Hri Kumar Nair Intan Azura Mokhtar Iswaran, S Janil Puthucheary Khaw Boon Wan Khor Lean Suan, Amy Lam Pin Min Lee Bee Wah Lee, Desmond Lee, Ellen Lee Hsien Loong Lee Yi Shyan Liang Eng Hwa Liew, Mary Lim Biow Chuan Lim Hng Kiang Lim Swee Say Lim Wee Kiak

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Low, Penny Low Yen Ling Lui Tuck Yew Mah Bow Tan Masagos Zulkifli B M M Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim Neo, Lily Ng Phek Hoong, Irene Ong, David Ong Teng Koon Phua Lay Peng, Denise Seah Kian Peng Seng Han Thong Shanmugam, K Sim Ann Sitoh Yih Pin Tan Chin Siong, Sam Tan Chuan-Jin Tan Soon Neo, Jessica Tay Teck Guan, Patrick Teo Chee Hean Teo Ho Pin Teo, Josephine Teo Ser Luck

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Teo Siong Seng Tharman Shanmugaratnam Tin Pei Ling Tong Chun Fai, Edwin Vikram Nair Vivian Balakrishnan Wong Kan Seng Wong, Lawrence Yaacob Ibrahim Yam, Alex Yeo Guat Kwang Zainal Sapari Zainudin Nordin Zaqy Mohamad Noes Chen Show Mao Chiam, Lina Faizah Jamal Giam Yean Song, Gerald Koh, Janice Lee Li Lian Lien, Laurence Lim, Sylvia Low Thia Khiang Muhamad Faisal Bin Abdul Manap

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Png Eng Huat Pritam Singh Yee Jenn Jong Abstention Tan Kheng Boon, Eugene Original motion, as amended, put and agreed to. Resolved, “That this House endorses Paper Cmd. 1 of 2013 on "A Sustainable Population for a Dynamic Singapore" as the roadmap to address Singapore's demographic challenge, and Paper Misc. 1 of 2013 on "A High Quality Living Environment for all Singaporeans" as the land use plan to support Singapore's future population projections; and supports maintaining a strong Singaporean core by encouraging more Singaporeans to get married and have children, supplemented by a calibrated pace of immigration to prevent the citizen population from shrinking; and recognises that the population projections beyond 2020 are for the purpose of land use and infrastructure planning, and not a population target; and calls on the Government to: (a) place priority on resolving current strains on the infrastructure, particularly in transport; (b) plan, invest in, and implement infrastructure development ahead of demand; (c) ensure that the benefits of our population policies, such as better job opportunities and salaries, flow to Singaporeans; and (d) carry out medium term reviews of our population policies and assumptions to take into account the changing needs of Singapore and Singaporeans, as well as changing domestic and external circumstances.”

Adjournment
Resolved, "That Parliament do now adjourn to a date to be fixed. − [Mr Gan Kim Yong]. Adjourned accordingly at 6.01 pm to a date to be fixed.

Written Answers to Questions for Oral Answer Not Answered by 3.00 pm Written Answers to Questions
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Installation of Noise Barriers along Key Expressways
1 Mr Zainal Sapari asked the Minister for Transport whether concrete noise barriers can be installed along certain stretches of key expressways that cut through residential estates given the high volume of car traffic. Mr Lui Tuck Yew : LTA will be installing noise barriers at selected stretches of road viaducts as part of a trial. The trial will allow LTA to assess the effectiveness of such barriers, as well as ascertain the challenges in their installation, maintenance and design. The trial locations are being finalised and LTA will engage specialist contractors to propose appropriate noise barriers for the trial.

Annexes Vernacular Speeches

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