A late afternoon presentation to a client wrapped up during the end-of-work-day rush hour and I found myself stranded in the heart of Singapore’s financial district. I waited for about 40 minutes but couldn’t get a cab back to my office.
Failing to out-queue the suits for a taxi, I decided to take the long walk to Clarke Quay MRT Station and prepared myself to slip into the sardine jacket that is our public transport since our population has burgeoned to the current 5.31 million from 4.59 million just under 5 years ago. And we are not stopping.
The recent White Paper projection of 6.9 million by 2030 has brought Singaporeans out on the streets to protest.
Having been a Singaporean for almost 4 decades, that was the first massive protest I can recall, crowding during last year’s hotly ‘contanted’ General Elections not counted.
What’s my stand on the government’s population ambition? When 69 ceases to be a position but a survival proposition, will we still be having fun?
Personally, I feel the world is so borderless now. We are kind of a global tribe. If population growth is identified as the way to go for economic sustainability especially for natural resource-poor Singapore, my question is whether do we have the long-standing power to attract high-calibre foreign talents to take root here in competition with other nations who are also tapping the same pool to boost their demographic reliant GDP (as opposed to an economy supported by agriculture, export and industry)?
We are not the only country facing the woes of a low birth rate and rapidly greying population. According to a 2050 projection by the Taipei’s Department of Manpower with data drawn from a 2009 population survey by the United Nations, Singapore is amongst the top 5 fastest greying population (also making the list are United States, Japan, Hong Kong and Taipei). Competition for young mouths seems perched to heat up. Why will foreign talents want to come here? Will they stay? Xenophobia is definitely not going to make Singapore attractive. So is congested roads, packed public transport, and living so close we can smell each other’s laundry.
Will Singapore end up as a country of massage parlours? They are everywhere now. Not that I’ve anything against legit businesses that knead and soothe our high-strung backs crushed by inflation and rising costs of living, but my concern is more of the make-up and credentials of foreigners being offered the Singaporean citizenship. I’m proud of my country and I just don’t wish to see our citizenship being lelong-lelonged just so we can meet a quota.
Anyhoo, I’m not a political analyst or population specialist. Not being able to get a cab, of which there could be many reasons not linked to our need for headcount, just ruffled my feathers since I had lots of work to complete. Singapore is facing another prosperity challenge, like it always had, and instead of protesting or asking questions, what solution/s can we as a people propose?
No wonder Yusof Ishak looks pensive on our dollars. He isn’t smiling. Who can when our nation’s growth, or any country for that matter, is dependent on foreign investment, trade and internal consumption. We have no natural resources such as land, produce, petrol, precious metals or gems to sell, remember? Ours is a people economy. If Singaporeans are not delivering more Singaporeans because of high living costs, long working hours and no fire to stoke the libido (pornography is outlawed and sex remains a taboo subject), how can we turn Mr Ishak’s blank stare into a triumphant glare? What’s our Vendetta agenda beyond anger?
Unknowingly, I’ve walked through a key part of our country’s history that started at the very mouth of this river where many of our ancestors first stepped foot on Singapura.
A vibration of the old, neo-colonial and modern footsteps of Singapore coursed through me. We have always been a population of immigrants. Our today is the light from yesterday, and tomorrow, is what we set aglow today. 🙂