Singapore envisions 30% population jump as discontent rises
By John O'Callaghan and Kevin Lim ,ReutersSINGAPORE -- Have more babies to build the ranks of Singaporeans and get set for a construction boom but accept heavier congestion and more foreign workers as the crowded Asian city-state grows into a global center with 30 percent more people.
January 30, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
That is the vision for Singapore set out on Tuesday by the long-ruling government, just days after it lost a seat in parliament in a by-election defeat that reflected rising discontent over soaring costs and an influx of immigrants.
The white paper on population, released after months of public consultation, seeks to address concern about affordable housing, good jobs and quality of life while trying to boost a chronically low birthrate as the workforce ages rapidly in the wealthy country of 5.3 million people.
By 2030, the population could grow to between 6.5 million and 6.9 million, the government said, stressing the importance of keeping Singaporeans as “the core of our society,” supporting a dynamic economy and meeting infrastructure needs.
“Many Asian cities are modernizing rapidly, and catching up on us,” it said. “Singapore must continue to develop and upgrade to remain a key node in the network of global cities, a vibrant place where jobs and opportunities are created.”
With a stern, technocratic approach, the People's Action Party (PAP) has built up Singapore from a postcolonial outpost into a major business hub during its five decades in power.
Since suffering its worst election showing in history in 2011, the government has sought more input from citizens and has ramped up social spending, restricted lower-skilled foreign workers and taken steps to cool property prices.
But Saturday's by-election defeat may be a harbinger of the public reaction to its latest plan for the economy and society.
“This will be very negatively perceived and ultimately I believe have to be reworked to be politically viable,” said Bridget Welsh, an assistant professor of political science at Singapore Management University.
“Singaporeans feel a sense of betrayal with the larger share of the population comprised of foreigners and a dilution of Singaporean identity.”
Immigrants now make up nearly 40 percent of the population, up from about 25 percent in 2000, fueling concern about the cost of living, overcrowding and threats from cheaper labor on an island with less than half the area of London.
Singapore, with a land mass of 714 square kilometers, is already more densely populated than Hong Kong, which has 7.1 million people squeezed into an area of 1,104 square kilometers.