Singapore GE2020: Vivian Balakrishnan refutes Chee Soon Juan on SDP's 10m population claim

Singapore’s population will not go up to 6.9 million, let alone 10 million, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday.

Responding to Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan during a live debate broadcast on TV and online, Dr Balakrishnan said the 10 million figure is a “strawman” and a “falsehood”.

During the debate, Dr Chee had taken aim at Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat for “toying with the idea” of having a population of 10 million people in Singapore.

He cited a dialogue held at the Nanyang Technological University in March last year, during which Mr Heng had said that Singapore’s population density is not excessive.

Mr Heng had noted that other cities are a lot more crowded in terms of living space, and cited former Housing Board chief executive Liu Thai Ker.

Mr Liu had raised the notion that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long term.

But Mr Heng did not say Singapore should plan for 10 million people – nor did he mention the figure.

Mr Liu, who is in his 80s, had raised the figure in 2013. In response to a controversial Population White Paper released that year, which projected that Singapore’s population would reach 6.5 million to 6.9 million by 2030, Mr Liu had said Singapore would do well to look beyond 2030.

He estimated that the population could reach 10 million by 2100 and said infrastructure had to be planned with this in mind as population growth cannot simply be curbed after 2030.

Singapore’s current population is 5.7 million.

The SDP has made the 10 million figure a key part of its election campaign message.

The “One No” in its Four Yes, One No (4Y1N) campaign slogan refers to saying “no” to what it says is the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) plan to increase Singapore’s population to 10 million by bringing in foreign talent.

SINGAPORE CORE

Let me state for the record: We will never have 10 million. We won’t even have 6.9 million. The Government doesn’t have a target for the population. What we want is a Singapore core that is demographically stable, able to reproduce ourselves, able to create opportunities and jobs for ourselves and able to stay as a cohesive whole. It is not a target, and it’s certainly not 10 million.

DR VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN

Yesterday, Dr Chee said Singaporeans are “deadly worried” about this proposal.

“Will you categorically tell Singaporeans right now that your party has no intention of raising our population to 10 million by continuing to bring in foreigners, especially foreign PMETs, into Singapore to compete with our PMETs for jobs?” he said, referring to professionals, managers, executives and technicians.

Dr Balakrishnan replied: “Dr Chee, just today, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued a statement advising people like you not to indulge in falsehoods.”

The minister added: “Let me state for the record: We will never have 10 million. We won’t even have 6.9 million. The Government doesn’t have a target for the population.

“What we want is a Singapore core that is demographically stable, able to reproduce ourselves, able to create opportunities and jobs for ourselves and able to stay as a cohesive whole. It is not a target, and it’s certainly not 10 million.”

The PMO statement noted that in March 2018, the Government, in an update to Parliament, had said that given recent trends, Singapore’s total population is likely to be significantly below 6.9 million by 2030.

“This outlook remains valid today,” it added.

At the close of the debate, Dr Chee called on Singaporeans to vote for the SDP and again cited the 10 million figure, prompting Dr Balakrishnan to interject that it was “nonsense”.

Dr Balakrishnan said in his closing statement: “I’m afraid I have to deal with Dr Chee’s falsehood again. No 10 million. Fact.”

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