THE WHITE PAPER: 10 THINGS EVERY SINGAPOREAN SHOULD KNOW & THINK ABOUT

Singapore Protest Against White Paper

Two days ago there was a small protest of 4,000 in Singapore against the White Paper passed in parliament a few weeks ago. The white paper, for those unfamiliar, was a population route plan proposing a 6.9m population by 2030 – 50% of which would be foreign, due largely to the failing birth rate.

Not long ago, one of my bosses asked me what I felt about being Singaporean. I was quick to respond that I didn’t know what it meant to be Singaporean anymore because of the landscape changing faster than I could keep up with and I wasn’t sure if I liked it anymore.

He then said something very simple but summed the dilemma faced very well:

“In Asia – China, Korea, Japan… All these countries took a long time to become a country. Big financial growth and development came… later.”

Now I am no political science graduate or closet economist. But this made me think about the fundamental logic in what he said – that it essentially takes hundreds of years to stabilise a country, its identity and its financial worth.

We’re a really young and small country with no natural resources, and in under 50 years of grace from zero to hero, there are bound to be learning curves based on the policies that worked to get us to this point.

And we’ve done a pretty good job so far as Time Magazine so aptly put it, “Lee transformed Singapore from a simple trader of commodities into a sophisticated hub of finance and technology.”

I decided to do a table mapping the past five decades of Singapore to find out what went wrong and if there’s any real truth to the white paper, of if they were just trying to pull the wool over us. Especially with all the political parties leveraging on emotional waves.

I tabulated everything I could get my hands on – from our population to our declining birthrate, to unearth all sorts of key areas that would make sense to my simple mind.

Forgive my reductive interpretations, if any but here is my attempt at sharing the findings:

COMPARISON CHART OF 1962-2012 INCLUDING ESTIMATED WHITE PAPER FORECASTS

Singapore Progress Chart - Past 50 Years

1. WE WERE FOUNDED AND SUSTAINED FROM DAY ONE ON THE BASIS OF FOREIGN MIGRANTS

Most of us ‘purebred’ Singaporeans forget that we were foreign not so long ago. You don’t have to go back that far to see this fact, just trace back to your parents and grandparents generation. Based on the data in the chart above, our Singaporean-ness should look something like this, seeing that 1.96m of our 3.81m residents were foreign-born. That only leaves us with a 1.85m strong population.

Singapore's True Population Ratio

That is, until us fledging purebreds started asking for a national identity to match our passports. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, we’re a new breed of Singaporeans you see. Very new.

2. THE WHITE PAPER HAS PROPOSED TO SLOW DOWN THE VOLUME OF FOREIGN MIGRANTS TO THE LOWEST EVER IN THE HISTORY OF SINGAPORE, BECAUSE IF WE CONTINUED HOW WE HAVE IN THE LAST 20 YEARS, WE’D BE AT 6.9M BY 2020

We’ve been growing drastically over the last 20 years at an average of 2-3% a year And if we kept to those rates, we’d be over and beyond 6.9m by the year 2020.

So I guess they already know that fact which is why they are proposing to slow it down to a low rate never seen before in the history of Singapore’s foreign-immigrant reliant economy. Or at least, in accordance to my measly little excel sheet that took a week to complete in between my day job lunch breaks.

3. OUR IMMENSE GDP GROWTH HAS NEVER BEEN SUPPORTED ON A TOTAL INFRASTRUCTURE OF LOCAL SINGAPOREANS

There is a key trend with our GDP. Yeah, sure we grew from loin-cloth wearing orang laut to our refined HDB-dwelling kiasu selves. However, our GDP growth spikes seem to correlate to a T on the number of foreign workers allowed into Singapore on work permits in addition to the spikes of overseas born residents throughout the decades. (Note of course that out of the 1.2m work permit holders, only 500,000 of those are maids and construction workers, not all of them are the ones we tend to look down on, even though they work exceptionally hard for us.)

4. WE MAY HAVE ONE OF THE HIGHEST GDP PER CAPITA IN THE WORLD BUT THAT’S NOT A REAL REFLECTIVE VERSION OF WHERE WE ARE AT BASED ON A PURE SINGAPOREAN WORKFORCE

So yes we may have a US$60K per capita income. But with an average household median monthly income at S$1,990 but no minimum wage or functioning workers union that we all tend to zero in on.

CNA reported the average monthly income per household at S$7,040 which means the average ratio of working adults to household is 3.5 people. I’d assume this would drastically decrease as per point 9 when we start to fall into an ‘inverse’ society of more dependents than working-age adults if our birth rate continues. Which would bring massive issues to surface.

5. DESPITE OUR BRAGGING RIGHTS, WE STILL HAVE THE LOWEST GDP IN ASIA. WE STILL HAVE A LONG WAY TO LEARN FROM OUR PAST AND GROW

We’ve got away a lot over the last 50 years because we are a really small country and we’ve been able to reap the rewards by building and building at the speed faster than light. Now that the long overdue white paper has brought what should have been highlighted 10 years ago, we need to tap into our only natural resource, which is our people, in order to achieve an outcome that works.

Asia GDP

6. YES, WE ARE THE MOST POPULATED COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, BUT FURTHERING THIS NUMBER TO 6.9M HAS TO BE OUT OF THE QUESTION DUE TO THE SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF OVERPOPULATION

To date, we are the most densely populated country in the world. And overpopulation is a very dangerous place to be in. John B. Calhoun, an American ethologist and behavioral researcher noted for his studies of population density and its effects on behaviour conducted on rodents. The conclusions drawn from the experiment were that, “when all available space is taken and all social roles filled, competition and the stresses experienced by the individuals will result in a total breakdown in complex social behaviors, ultimately resulting in the demise of the population.”

But they already know that, which is why they’ve proposed to slow down immigration numbers. However how can we prevent ourselves from hitting the inverted population approach as explained in point 9?

7. OUR FIRST (AND BIGGEST) SLUMP IN BIRTH RATES WAS DUE TO THE PAP’S ENFORCEMENT OF THE TWO-CHILD STERILIZATION POLICY, BUT IT MADE US AN INTELLIGENT SOCIETY THAT NEEDS TO BE APPRECIATED

Prior to 1969, Singapore’s 5.2 birthrate was slightly above the global average of 4.45 children in 1972. The PAP’s Two Child Sterilisation Policy in a 1969 attempt to tinker with eugenics, which was a widely revered concept in the 50s, hugely contributed to the massive slump. However it also gave birth to an incredibly well-educated society.

This was probably a good idea in theory at the time, however it’s now presented us with one half of the reason in why our birth rates declined so steeply.

8. THE PROPERTY BOOM IN 1994 MAY HAVE LEAD TO THE SECOND SIGNIFICANT DROP IN POPULATION WHICH MEANS WE ARE AFFECTED BY HIGH HOUSING COSTS AND NEED THIS ADDRESSED

Now if we look closely at the second fertility slump that happened post 1992, we can possibly attribute it to the first property boom in 1994, followed by the recession. This boom has since inflated further several times over due to the huge tax-free foreign investment-property buyers. Therefore we can assume this is a contributing factor to the further decline of fertility rates. This will continue as the cost of ‘average’ living to procreate responsibly continues to rise.

9.  OUR ‘NATIVE’ POPULATION WILL BEGIN TO ‘INVERT’ IN THE NEXT THREE DECADES IF WE DON’T MAKE  CALCULATED STEPS TO STRIKE A CAREFUL BALANCE BETWEEN OUR BIRTH RATES AND MIGRANT RATES

One of the most critical areas to think about is that we’re headed to low working-age numbers by the time we hit 2050. our birth rate is extremely low.

We’re 1.5 children below the global average at a rate of 1.05. The global trend is that everyone’s having less babies and living longer. But how do we solve this key issue when a side effect of overcrowding is a decline and standstill on reproduction rates? (see point 6 on Calhoun’s research)

10. ARE WE READY FOR A TRULY SINGAPOREAN ECONOMY?

Lets pause to think about all the accolades we’d received over the past 30 years and what we’ve become accustomed to. The pat on the back you get from people all over the world when they first find out that you’re Singaporean.

Great shopping, best airport in the world, highest GDP per capita in the world, one of the world’s best education systems at producing top grades, 5th least corrupted in the world, top three safest cities in the world… the list could go on.

I know, most of it sounds like a business pitch, rather than a happy, patriotic Singaporean, but most of this would not be possible without the artificial tampering of the much complained-about gahmenOur own that has the least, has enough. And a handphone and fast broadband.

There’s perks in being small.

———–

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: THERE IS NO QUICK FIX. ONLY A GRADUAL ONE TO TRANSFORM SINGAPORE INTO A MORE SINGAPOREAN ECONOMY. WE CAN’T CHANGE THIS SUDDENLY FOR THE BENEFIT OF NATION-BUILDING WITHOUT CAUSING A HUGE FINANCIAL CATASTROPHE

If we start to deconstruct what we’ve built based on ‘foreigners’, our economy will hit a severe recession. If we start to close the gates, we run the risk of ruining and losing key foreign investment that currently props up a lot of local jobs.

Oh, might I add that we’d need to also turn down the number of domestic maids available to Singaporean households. All 209,000 of them.

THE KEY IS GRADUAL, BALANCED AND EXTREMELY CALCULATED SMALL STEPS LEADING TO A BIG PICTURE CHANGE

Using our only resource, our people, how can we best achieve a win-win scenario that doesn’t cause a total overhaul on our economy? While the white paper does in fact, recommend a slow down in foreign worker growth, it still doesn’t lead to de-populating our already very chaotic landscape.

WHAT OUR POSSIBLE KEY OBJECTIVES ARE OVER THE NEXT 3 DECADES:

  1. Maintain our current lifestyle
  2. Urgently raise the birth rate from 1.05 to 2
  3. Scale back on foreign workers over time
  4. Forge a more Singaporean economy
  5. Establish a truly Singaporean identity

HOW DO WE GET THERE? SEND ME YOUR READER SUGGESTIONS:

[EDIT 20/02/13] I’ve had some great suggestions from readers which I have listed below:

Gilbert: Incentivise Local Singapore Talent Who Are Overseas To Return

“Considering the amount of highly educated locals that have had good training overseas and are doing very well, one of the steps you should suggest is to offer an incentive to invite successful overseas singaporeans back to contribute to the economy. What we are seeing is that the influx of migrants include a majority who are lesser or maybe equally qualified.”

Pei Toh: Restrict Foreigner-Eligible Properties To Curb Escalation Of Home Prices

“Make sure that foreigners can only buy properties in Singapore after working for a minimum stipulated number of years. This could curb speculations in properties by foreign buyers and curb the escalation of home prices. At the moment, any foreigner can buy a home in Singapore (except landed properties where they need a special approval.).”

 Reclaim land to lower the population density

 Singapore has 56 islands and a lot of land is wasted (for lack of a better word) on military training grounds and factory spaces. Is there a way we can compromise to create more space for the long term, while we recalibrate population figures?

Adam Toh Disagrees: We Should Not Reclaim Anymore Land

We SHOULD NOT reclaim anymore land unless absolutely necessary. Our marine environment was badly damaged in the 90s and 00s due to the massive amount of reclamation and we should not allow that to happen again.

 Increasing First-Time Buyer, Second-Child and Family Unit subsidies

I know we already have huge subsidies, but this shouldn’t come in form of a careless cash subsidy. We need to think of a more practical approach where we aren’t treated like science experiments.

Increase Individual Tax (staircased by turnover and executive salaries above $150,000)

We currently pay barely any tax. A lot of Singaporeans confuse CPF with tax, but CPF is your pension fund. A brilliant product more countries should adopt.

Improve Quality Of SMEs and Corporations With Higher Tax & Regulations

Strict rules and regulations accompany start ups to encourage skilled start ups and not ones based on sole-proprietorships ‘undercutting’ which is a rising trend in the media industry for example. I was guilty of it too. There are no shortcuts to progressing in quality.

Reward Companies For Hiring Locals

Rebates are given for every local employee. In addition to corporate tax adjustments,  it becomes more worthwhile to employ a local tradesman, than a foreign one to maximise personal gains of profit.

Encourage Thought Leadership and Supporting Local Products

Instead of cash grants, headhunt specific skilled leaders with expertise in the industries to create and nurture solid, sustainable routes of revenue for all things local. 

What do you think? Please continue to send me your suggestions.

 

  • james sunderland

     ”its”, not “it’s”. you did it twice in a row. sheesh.

    • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

      OMG. You’re right. I changed it. My bad. ;)

      • KT

        Anyway Aresha I loved this article and if anything I’ve heard enough
        animosity against foreigners…so contrary to what most have said about
        you being one sided in this article, ironically you’ve provided me with the
        alternative (less biased) view that many others didn’t stop to consider.

        I’m
        Singaporean and I don’t love “the white paper”, but I appreciate the
        logic and understanding to why our Government has chosen to take this
        path. x

        • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

          Thanks, KT. I am still trying to figure out how to deal with all the flack from people who miss the point and think I am defending the white paper. Mind explosion. ;)

    • Maxmacpie

      I think ”its” not the point of the article.  

    • KT

      its its its its its its its its — this isn’t 9gag fan boy, love itszzs.

  • ExK

    wonderful article with in-depth and systematic analysis. 

    • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

      Thank you, ExK!

  • http://twitter.com/galrocker Sophie Rodrigues

    To be honest, I’ve truly enjoyed reading a lot of your articles, but this article, I have to say, is quite one sided although I agree with some of the points you’ve made. I actually don’t know what purpose those figures you created actually serve. I think the main problem is that Singaporeans in general don’t like the idea of more foreigners fitting into a tiny island when it’s already crowded. It’s not really the xenophobia which is the overall theme I’m detecting in this article. Basically you’ve pretty much summed up the PROs of foreigners in Singapore. But not the CONs. You’ve live in London right? Surely you would’ve seen the about the same scenario of foreigners living and working in London doing odd jobs, from cleaners to baristas. Did you feel any xenophobia coming from Londoners themselves? How do you reckon they would feel if Downing Street pulled a PWP like that? What do you think their reaction would be?

    • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

      Ah, my dear blog supporter Sophie! 

      I do understand the point how you feel this is one sided and not covering the actual social implications of immigrants. This is in no way a ‘justification’ for the fact that it was OK to just focus on economic growth and blank out growing a national identity.The actual internal dilemma is something I have to cover off in a separate post as this was purely dedicated to understand approach of the white paper in a non-cheem way and to share it with everyone so we can all learn together.The UK’s white VS non-white ratio makes up for London’s density of foreigners who are here to work. Space is the luxury we don’t have in Singapore. So unlike the British, we can’t just move out of London. The implications of forcing all the foreigners out means a direct hit to our economy.We have to do it softly, softly. And of course, we need to revise our old-fashioned approach to governance. But PAP or opposition parties will still face our economy VS foreign talent dilemma. The economy needs to be adjusted gradually. A drop in it will cause a recession.;)

  • Adam Tan

    There’s some good data you’ve collected, but I would suggest referring to Leong Sze Hian’s speech for some other facts and figures. For example, he says real income growth has fallen in 4 out of the last 5 years, even though GDP has grown. GDP is really not a good indicator of standard of living. I agree with most of your points of action, except point 1. We SHOULD NOT reclaim anymore land unless absolutely necessary. Our marine environment was badly damaged in the 90s and 00s due to the massive amount of reclamation and we should not allow that to happen again.

    • Adam Tan

      Oh, you should also read “Economics myths in the great population debate” published by the Institute of Policy Studies. Leading demographer Wolfgang Lutz also mentioned that in fact we don’t need a TFR of 2.1. We can accept a much lower figure.

      Head of the Department if Sociology at NUS, Prof Chua Beng Huat agreed with Lutz, saying that we should rethink the ideal TFR and dependency ratio.

      • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

        HI Adam. Thanks for the heads up. Unfortunately I was not aware that further reclamation would damage our environment. I will include your point as a rebuttal of my point, so that people can read the debate.

         I might have titled some of my points in bold wrongly as the point I was making as a conclusion was that we definitely should reduce our dependency on foreigners. However this has to be a gradual process rather than a ‘freeze the gate’ scenario. 

        We definitely have internal issues with the real Singaporean way of life being affected by the cost of living which is disproportionate to our GDP growth. I will hopefully research into this further and write something in the future as I was just attempting to understand approach of the white paper from an objective PoV.Keep in touch and send me more things to learn and read about! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/mikesiow Mike Siow

    The key factor here is to increase native population, but this is not like farming pigs where you care only about the numbers. Every factor related to a child must be well though off, this is where the government fails, during the last few decade the way this country is being run, with both parent working to keep end meet, raising of children are left with either maids or child care. This have cause a huge social problem, many of these kids which we now call the strawberry generation are brought up without the proper values, these people are not going to be a good contribution to the work force or anything, bascially most of them don’t know what they want to do with their lives. And we have to do something about this!

    • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

      Hi Mike, this is definitely true and a valid point, as our dual-income way of life is doing us no favours. I will cover this in a future blog post.

      Thank you very much for your comment and keep in touch. :)

  • Peitoh

    One more suggestion. Make sure that foreigners can only buy properties in Singapore after working for a minimum stipulated number of years. This could curb speculations in properties by foreign buyers and curb the escalation of home prices. At the moment, any foreigner can buy a home in Singapore (except landed properties where they need a special approval.).

    • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

      Good suggestion, Pei Toh. I have included it in my suggestions section. :)

    • Little Miss Funn

      What about allowing foreigners to buy only after a year of being PR, and within 3 years of occupancy, they need to decide if they will settle down in Sg for good, giving up their citizenship in their home country? This way, we wouldn’t have people coming here to be PR, live in their houses for 5 years, sell their houses, make a profit and leave the country…

      • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

        Hi Little Miss Funn, but this is something that all countries allow. As long as you’re on a work permit (resident), you can buy eligible property. Is the problem when foreigners are allowed to buy without being a resident?

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=671703966 Jasmine Pavalam

          I think the unique situation here is that increases the speculative effect on *public subsidised housing*. If I’m not wrong there’s a lot of curbs on property ownership and mortgage loans for non citizen all over the world and this is in private property ownership. Subsidised housing is definitely not extended to non-citizens. We do have a real situation of one half of a couple retaining their foreign citizenship and the other getting PR/Citizenship to be eligible for HDB flats. After the minimum occupation period they flip the property and leave. Also again we need to examine carefully the difference between a fluif mobile transient workforce (Work permits holders, S Pass holders and Employment Pass Holders) and Permanent residents who are entitled to similar benefits to citizens but with the option to leave.

          • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

            Well, in the UK, I am not eligible for a loan unless I have a certain number of years left on my visa (24 months). And I am subject to the same loan policies as per fellow UK residents, PRs and citizens.

            I am also subject to taxes on capital gains and stamp duty. But I definitely am not eligible for any subsidised living (council flats) unless it is converted as an ex-council building to open market. 

            RE: PRIVATE PROPERTY IN SG 

            I always felt it was incredibly ridiculous that we don’t regulate property developments.

            Singapore developers tend to drone on and on about no stamp duty, inheritance and low capital gains. This is purely communicated for the benefit of foreign investors (and foreign money launderers, as we don’t seem to really care about anti-money laundering laws which is a big thing here).

            RE: HDB/EC IN SG

            Are there any available stats on HDB, % of home ownerships belonging to 1 non-resident and 1 resident households? Obviously there are also rich dads providing a monetary springboard for their less-productive offspring, who on paper are eligible for first time buyer opportunities for flats and ECs. Has there been any data on that?

  • Paulslzhong

    Priority is to improve or at least maintain quality of life and affordability on housing, living costs etc. On this foundation, then only we talk about economic growth. If economic growth brings deterioration of quality of life, then we rather pause. 

    • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

      Hi Paul, thanks for your comment.

      To maintain what we have now, we need to be able to slowly wean off our reliance on foreign talent by reducing the numbers over the next few decades. It’s a tough situation that decision makers have now (opposition or PAP included) because they won’t be able to reduce the numbers immediately and freeze immigration without causing the country to go into a recession.

      As for the real Singaporean quality of life VS our amazing quick-fix economy growth, I will cover this in the future, as this is purely focused on the white paper on immigration.

  • Gilbert

    Am sorry but this article indeed sounds one sided. You forgot to bring up the social backlash of such a wave of immigrants. Governing a country is not only about raising the economical statistics, its about winning the hearts and minds of singaporeans. An american president once said you can’t have a healthy economy when your people are sick and dishearted. Considering the amount of highly educated locals that have had good training overseas and are doing very well, one of the steps you should suggest is to offer an incentive to invite successful overseas singaporeans back to contribute to the economy. What we are seeing is that the influx of migrants include a majority who are lesser or maybe equally qualified. But the local industry chooses color over skill many times. You are in the media i guess, so you should have seen this yourself. Hence leading to a local workforce who is dishearted and un motivated. The sad thing is that most of us slave through one of the world’s toughest education system with a false hope that it will lead us into a stable and wealthy life ahead. Only a handful do succeed while the rest end up foot soldiers of their foreign overlords.

    The main issue we have to deal with is the double standards set by, unfortunately, the locals themselves. They have to learn to see past the fact that not everything a FT touches turns to gold. Many locals are diamonds in the sand. The foreign sg talents are what you need to invite back, not more undeserving foreigners. Then you slowly win the trust of people back.

    Otherwise, practice what you preach and include FTs in our parliament. How do you think of that?

    • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

      Hi Gilbert! 

      Great suggestion. I have included it in my suggestion section. Let me know if you have a link you would like me to link your name to.And yes, I do understand the point how this may come across one sided as I chose not to cover the actual social implications. The reason behind this is to objectively explain that we understand the implications of actions in past in order to achieve what we want in the future without causing a shock recession.

      I hope you don’t read this as a ‘justification’ for the fact that it was OK to just focus on economic growth and blank out growing a national identity. It definitely isn’t and you are right, we do have a lot of social issues within Singapore without even going into the territory of foreigners.

      I will cover that sometime soon in another piece. This is purely focused on the white paper.

      Speak soon. :)

  • Singaporeanson

    bullshit article

    • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

      What to do? :)

      • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

        Got read properly or not?

  • Aaa

    do u know that the infrastructure cant even support the population now? oh wait u dont live in singapore.

    • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

      Just because I have been working in London on a work visa for the last 3 years doesn’t make me any less of a Singaporean impacted by what is going on there, Aaa.

      A domestic maid from the Philippines can work in Singapore on a work visa, but her heart lies in the issues back home, where her family is.

      What I am saying is let’s not worsen the situation with a radical approach that will cause our economy to bottle and create a crisis. :)

  • Singapore_Frog

    Your article is flawed! You intended to mislead with your data! Maybe some flogs will buy your idea but not many Singaporean are simply any frog.

    • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

      Why frogs?

  • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

    Wow this is hard to keep up with discussions on Facebook and Twitter with individuals. Let me add a little bit of a disclaimer here for everyone that this is in no way an attempt to DEFEND the white paper, but just shed a little bit of logical thinking to it. As we are all emotionally affected by it all.

    I agree with you on all levels that our economy growth doesn’t correlate with our actual real quality of life. We have notable flaws in the system. Our gross national income say that we have increased overall, but in reality, this translates to only a select few in certain industries. 

    We are suffocating the working class.

    And yes, we may not be appropriating our money towards helping bridge that gap between the haves and have nots, seeing that 80% of the country live in HDB flats and the price of these flats have now inflated beyond reasonable reach.

    And yes, we have not addressed the social issue that existed not so long ago with the sedition act and how Mandarin speakers and the Chinese population of ‘Singapore’ rule the roost.

    But this is a totally different issue to the white paper and is something we do need to address in tandem.

    I would imagine the priority would be to first adjust the GDP out of this critical FT-reliance situation as otherwise we are headed to a severe overpopulation crisis which we are already experiencing. And that 6.9m is just not possible with 2030 just around the corner.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=516058172 Roy Elctrbst Chan

    Chen Show Mao spent a huge deal of time in China before coming back to SG to serve. Maybe you should do the same #justsaying

    • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

      Then I must change my name to Aresha Show Thatcher, since I spent a huge deal of time in the UK.

      Oh man i’m so pleased with my bad joke. I need a slap.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=671703966 Jasmine Pavalam

    1.       WE WERE FOUNDED AND SUSTAINED
    FROM DAY ONE ON THE BASIS OF FOREIGN MIGRANTS

    No argument there, but we are no longer a fishing
    village with a population of 10 683 (census 1824) we are a built up, highly
    urban city state, with the world’s highest population density. There’s a limit to
    what we can sustain (infrastructure and national character wise) If we’re
    throwing out random figures then in 1980 (the heyday of high growth, high wage
    growth and high interest rates) 78% of the resident population was Singapore
    born. I think we shouldn’t muddy the waters by confusing policy criticism with rightful
    criticism of xenophobia and the attendant short sightedness.

    2.      THE WHITE PAPER HAS PROPOSED
    TO SLOW DOWN THE VOLUME OF FOREIGN MIGRANTS TO THE LOWEST EVER IN
    THE HISTORY OF SINGAPORE, BECAUSE IF WE CONTINUED HOW WE’VE HAVE IN THE LAST 20
    YEARS, WE’D BE SEVERELY OVERPOPULATED BY 2020

    3.       3. OUR IMMENSE GDP GROWTH HAS
    NEVER BEEN SUPPORTED ON A TOTAL INFRASTRUCTURE OF LOCAL SINGAPOREANS

    4.       4. WE MAY HAVE ONE OF THE HIGHEST
    GDP PER CAPITA IN THE WORLD BUT THAT’S NOT A REAL REFLECTIVE VERSION OF WHERE
    WE ARE AT BASED ON A PURE SINGAPOREAN WORKFORCE

    Point 2
    & 3: As my figures are from Singstats breakdowns pre 2006 are hard come by
    but we saw average of 1.5% population growth in the 80’s which jumped to 3.1%
    in 2009. In real numbers that’s 2.413 mil vs 4.987 mil..in a state that is 732.2
    sq km.

    Our non
    resident workforce has increase 190% from 1990. So we have 2 separate things to
    consider, increasing the resident population (citizens & PR) via increasing
    the rate of immigration as proposed in the White Paper and the rate of foreign labour
    pool growth.

    The first I
    assume is a political solution, to maintain that these sacrifices are made for
    *Singaporeans*, this goes to the character, culture and ideals of a nation.

    Point 3
    & 4: The second, the import of cheap foreign labour has depressed wage
    growth, which is negative for some sectors factoring in inflation and has
    disincentivised innovation and productivity gains. IIRC our total productivity
    is declining. And you’re right our median household income has not seen much
    growth (btw you may want to note household income from work per member includes
    employer and employee CPF contribution meaning the gross take home pay would 36%
    less per member depending on contribution rate)

    But that’s
    precisely it, it’s rather putting the cart before the horse isn’t it? To fuel
    GDP growth by any means even if it doesn’t actually improve the lives of the
    resident or heck non-resident population. I mean yes corporations will profit
    from having larger markets but MNC repatriate their profits and their wage
    share in SG is notoriously low compared to investor share exacerbating our
    income disparity issue. We will continue to subsidise unsustainable,
    uncompetitive and unproductive SMEs with the endless cheap labour pool. Cost
    may rise slower, but as we’ve seen wages also stagnate and there’s a huge
    social cost.

    Can we not
    pursue lower GDP growth with a stable population size ala our promised first
    world standard of living (Switzerland) in which case the White Paper focus
    should have natalist policies rather than immigration. Cost will increase but
    so will wages and we will have to adjust but we’d see a better standard of
    living. Alternatively maintain a large transient workforce like now but slow
    down the import of foreign labour and go for the Qatari model.

    5.       DESPITE OUR BRAGGING RIGHTS, WE
    STILL HAVE THE LOWEST GDP IN ASIA. WE STILL HAVE A LONG WAY TO LEARN FROM OUR
    PAST AND GROW

     

    I’m not sure
    what the point is here, we will never overtake say China in the size of oureconomy
    because we do not have 1.2 billion people. However our GDP (PPP) per
    capita is 3rd in the world and highest in Asia but due to income
    inequality it remains out of the hands of the 1-90th percentile.

     

    6. YES, WE ARE THE MOST POPULATED COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, BUT FURTHERING
    THIS NUMBER TO 6.9M HAS TO BE OUT OF THE QUESTION DUE TO THE SOCIAL
    IMPLICATIONS OF OVERPOPULATION

    They are
    proposing to increase our population by 2 million people, I do not have the
    expertise to analyse our population growth rates over all our immigration booms
    but they are not slowing down.

    7. OUR FIRST (AND BIGGEST) SLUMP IN BIRTH RATES WAS DUE TO THE PAP’S
    ENFORCEMENT OF THE TWO-CHILD STERILIZATION POLICY, BUT IT MADE US AN
    INTELLIGENT SOCIETY THAT NEEDS TO BE APPRECIATED

    Education
    made us an educated society, women entering the workforce the move away from
    low end manufacturing and productivity gains made us rich, this in line with
    every other developed nation slowed TFR and delayed childrearing. I don’t doubt
    stop at 2 had some effect but if you note we’re still littering and that
    campaign has been on forever. Frankly this policy was extremely short sighted
    given the trends in other developing nations at the time.

    8. THE PROPERTY BOOM IN 1994 MAY HAVE LEAD TO THE SECOND SIGNIFICANT
    DROP IN POPULATION WHICH MEANS WE ARE AFFECTED BY HIGH HOUSING COSTS AND NEED
    THIS ADDRESSED

    Our TFR was
    relatively stable in the 90 then at 1.83 an increase over the 80’s then dropping
    to 1.60 in 2000 and sharply to 1.15 in 2010. This trend is consistent in
    developed nations without strong natalist / pro family policies. While the cost
    of housing is definitely a factor I’d be careful to draw a causal link to the
    property boom in the mid 90’s because this is also the end of the fercund
    period for the post war baby boomers.

    9.  OUR ‘NATIVE’ POPULATION WILL BEGIN TO ‘INVERT’ IN THE NEXT
    THREE DECADES IF WE DON’T MAKE  CALCULATED STEPS TO STRIKE A CAREFUL
    BALANCE BETWEEN OUR BIRTH RATES AND MIGRANT RATES

    At the crux
    of the matter is the Total dependency ratio – but do we need 5.9 working adults
    for each retired person? Why? Won’t we be working longer by then? Are we not
    expecting any productivity gains? Have we taken into account the economic
    landscape over the next 20 years, exploited emerging industries, further
    automation etc.

    I think the
    fundamentals are unexamined but Alex Au has a far more eloquent analysis here:

    http://yawningbread.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/population-elemental-considerations-1/

    10. ARE WE READY FOR A TRULY SINGAPOREAN ECONOMY?

    I think the
    point for most of us is that the perks of high GDP growth has not trickled down.
    We have a structural economic problem that is not being examined.

    FOOD FOR THOUGHT: THERE IS NO QUICK FIX. ONLY A GRADUAL ONE TO TRANSFORM
    SINGAPORE INTO A MORE SINGAPOREAN ECONOMY. WE CAN’T CHANGE THIS SUDDENLY FOR
    THE BENEFIT OF NATION-BUILDING WITHOUT CAUSING A HUGE FINANCIAL CATASTROPHE

    So keep it
    stable. I agree with MP Inderjit Singh, moratorium

    on immigration policy until
    we examine all facets of this debate.

    For me
    personally, reduce GDP growth targets 0.5 – 1%, the 14% growth we saw in 2011
    by massively importing foreign labour saw a net wage decline for the bottom 20%.

    Focus on
    natalist pro family policies – subsidised childcare like Frances crèche system,
    flexi work hours, government matched child/education accounts, affordable
    public housing, continue on education reform etc. We have to focus on being a
    livable city, one where you can afford to and would want to raise your children
    and while parenting is hard, it should economically not wipe you.

    For the
    labour force encourage more resident women and retirees back to workforce
    (especially if we’re living till 80’s) encourage job sharing and restructuring,
    flexi hours, extend the retirement age for the life expectancy of each
    demographic tranche. Explore new industries that are knowledge based, increase
    automation effort and force SMEs into real productivity gains. SMEs form some
    90+ % of the SG economies, some will need to fold or consolidate. We shouldn’t
    allow companies to privatise profit and socialise costs via Workfare and the
    like.

    We have the business support, physical and legal infrastructure, ideal
    geo-political position and a highly educated workforce, businesses and FDI is
    not going to exit en masse, its a bogeyman.

    Revenue wise
    look at capital gains tax, increase corporate and personal income tax.
    Re-examine regressive consumer tax such as GST as it disproportionately hits
    our bottom 20%.

    But overall
    I think the White Paper got in wrong on focusing on the population required for
    GDP growth targets rather than figuring what GDP growth we should target for
    quality of life and how we intend to arrest income inequality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=671703966 Jasmine Pavalam

    1.       WE WERE FOUNDED AND SUSTAINED
    FROM DAY ONE ON THE BASIS OF FOREIGN MIGRANTS

    Hi Sha,

    I appreciate where you’re coming from but I feel like you’re looking at the data and correlating all over the place.

    I think a lot of the online discourse is people venting it may seem like xenophobia is the largest issue in the 6.9 million target. But Singaporeans have real concerns with this policy direction which was rammed throuh parliament in 5 days.

    First the assumptions the paper are founded on are.. tenous to say the least with regard to the dependecy ratio and why we need to top up 2 million people. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with ponzi demographics but you may find this an interesting read. http://www.theglobalist.com/storyid.aspx?StoryId=8321

    Secondly it has not borne out that high GDP growth fuelled by increasing the labour market has benefitted residents or even the foreign labour pool. Its an unsustainable policy and cheap labour pools will dry out as China, India and other emerging markets grow and increase their per capital GDP.

    Some points I’d like to address:

    1.       WE WERE FOUNDED AND SUSTAINED
    FROM DAY ONE ON THE BASIS OF FOREIGN MIGRANTS

    No argument there, but we are no longer a fishing
    village with a population of 10 683 (census 1824) we are a built up, highly
    urban city state, with the world’s highest population density. There’s a limit to
    what we can sustain (infrastructure and national character wise) If we’re
    throwing out random figures then in 1980 (the heyday of high growth, high wage
    growth and high interest rates) 78% of the resident population was Singapore
    born. I think we shouldn’t muddy the waters by confusing policy criticism with rightful
    criticism of xenophobia and the attendant short sightedness.

    THE WHITE PAPER HAS PROPOSED
    TO SLOW DOWN THE VOLUME OF FOREIGN MIGRANTS TO THE LOWEST EVER IN
    THE HISTORY OF SINGAPORE, BECAUSE IF WE CONTINUED HOW WE’VE HAVE IN THE LAST 20 YEARS, WE’D BE SEVERELY OVERPOPULATED BY 2020

    OUR IMMENSE GDP GROWTH HAS NEVER BEEN SUPPORTED ON A TOTAL INFRASTRUCTURE OF LOCAL SINGAPOREANS

    WE MAY HAVE ONE OF THE HIGHEST GDP PER CAPITA IN THE WORLD BUT THAT’S NOT A REAL REFLECTIVE VERSION OF WHERE WE ARE AT BASED ON A PURE SINGAPOREAN WORKFORCE

    Point 2 & 3: As my figures are from Singstats breakdowns pre 2006 are hard come by
    but we saw average of 1.5% population growth in the 80’s which jumped to 3.1%
    in 2009. In real numbers that’s 2.413 mil vs 4.987 mil..in a state that is 732.2
    sq km.

    Our non resident workforce has increase 190% from 1990. So we have 2 separate things to
    consider, increasing the resident population (citizens & PR) via increasing
    the rate of immigration as proposed in the White Paper and the rate of foreign labour
    pool growth.

    The first I assume is a political solution, to maintain that these sacrifices are made for
    *Singaporeans*, this goes to the character, culture and ideals of a nation.

    Point 3 & 4: The second, the import of cheap foreign labour has depressed wage
    growth, which is negative for some sectors factoring in inflation and has
    disincentivised innovation and productivity gains. IIRC our total productivity
    is declining. And you’re right our median household income has not seen much
    growth (btw you may want to note household income from work per member includes
    employer and employee CPF contribution meaning the gross take home pay would 36%
    less per member depending on contribution rate)

    But that’s precisely it, it’s rather putting the cart before the horse isn’t it? To fuel
    GDP growth by any means even if it doesn’t actually improve the lives of the
    resident or heck non-resident population. I mean yes corporations will profit
    from having larger markets but MNC repatriate their profits and their wage
    share in SG is notoriously low compared to investor share exacerbating our
    income disparity issue. We will continue to subsidise unsustainable,
    uncompetitive and unproductive SMEs with the endless cheap labour pool. Cost
    may rise slower, but as we’ve seen wages also stagnate and there’s a huge
    social cost.

    Can we not pursue lower GDP growth with a stable population size ala our promised first
    world standard of living (Switzerland) in which case the White Paper focus
    should have natalist policies rather than immigration. Cost will increase but
    so will wages and we will have to adjust but we’d see a better standard of
    living. Alternatively maintain a large transient workforce like now but slow
    down the import of foreign labour and go for the Qatari model.

     DESPITE OUR BRAGGING RIGHTS, WE STILL HAVE THE LOWEST GDP IN ASIA. WE STILL HAVE A LONG WAY TO LEARN FROM OUR PAST AND GROW

    I’m not sure what the point is here, we will never overtake say China in the size of oureconomy
    because we do not have 1.2 billion people. However our GDP (PPP) per
    capita is 3rd in the world and highest in Asia but due to income
    inequality it remains out of the hands of the 1-90th percentile.

    YES, WE ARE THE MOST POPULATED COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, BUT FURTHERING
    THIS NUMBER TO 6.9M HAS TO BE OUT OF THE QUESTION DUE TO THE SOCIAL
    IMPLICATIONS OF OVERPOPULATION

    They are proposing to increase our population by 2 million people, I do not have the
    expertise to analyse our population growth rates over all our immigration booms
    but they are not slowing down.

    OUR FIRST (AND BIGGEST) SLUMP IN BIRTH RATES WAS DUE TO THE PAP’S
    ENFORCEMENT OF THE TWO-CHILD STERILIZATION POLICY, BUT IT MADE US AN
    INTELLIGENT SOCIETY THAT NEEDS TO BE APPRECIATED

    Education made us an educated society (intelligent is debatable), women entering the workforce the move away from low end manufacturing and productivity gains from tech and automation made us rich, this in line with every other developed nation slowed TFR and delayed childrearing. I don’t doubt stop at 2 had some effect but if you note we’re still littering and that
    campaign has been on forever. Frankly this policy was extremely short sighted
    given the trends in other developing nations at the time.

     THE PROPERTY BOOM IN 1994 MAY HAVE LEAD TO THE SECOND SIGNIFICANT
    DROP IN POPULATION WHICH MEANS WE ARE AFFECTED BY HIGH HOUSING COSTS AND NEED THIS ADDRESSED

    Our TFR was relatively stable in the 90 then at 1.83 an increase over the 80’s then dropping
    to 1.60 in 2000 and sharply to 1.15 in 2010. This trend is consistent in
    developed nations without strong natalist / pro family policies. While the cost
    of housing is definitely a factor I’d be careful to draw a causal link to the
    property boom in the mid 90’s because this is also the end of the fercund
    period for the post war baby boomers.

     OUR ‘NATIVE’ POPULATION WILL BEGIN TO ‘INVERT’ IN THE NEXT
    THREE DECADES IF WE DON’T MAKE  CALCULATED STEPS TO STRIKE A CAREFUL
    BALANCE BETWEEN OUR BIRTH RATES AND MIGRANT RATES

    At the crux of the matter is the Total dependency ratio – but do we need 5.9 working adults
    for each retired person? Why? Won’t we be working longer by then? Are we not
    expecting any productivity gains? Have we taken into account the economic
    landscape over the next 20 years, exploited emerging industries, further
    automation etc.

    I think the fundamentals are unexamined but Alex Au has a far more eloquent analysis here:

    http://yawningbread.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/population-elemental-considerations-1/

    10. ARE WE READY FOR A TRULY SINGAPOREAN ECONOMY?

    I think the point for most of us is that the perks of high GDP growth has not trickled down.
    We have a structural economic problem that is not being examined.

    FOOD FOR THOUGHT: THERE IS NO QUICK FIX. ONLY A GRADUAL ONE TO TRANSFORM
    SINGAPORE INTO A MORE SINGAPOREAN ECONOMY. WE CAN’T CHANGE THIS SUDDENLY FOR
    THE BENEFIT OF NATION-BUILDING WITHOUT CAUSING A HUGE FINANCIAL CATASTROPHE

    So keep it stable. I agree with MP Inderjit Singh, moratorium on immigration policy until we examine all facets of this debate.

    For me personally, reduce GDP growth targets 0.5 – 1%, the 14% growth we saw in 2011
    by massively importing foreign labour saw a net wage decline for the bottom 20%.

    Focus on natalist pro family policies – subsidised childcare like Frances crèche system,
    flexi work hours, government matched child/education accounts, affordable
    public housing, continue on education reform etc. We have to focus on being a
    livable city, one where you can afford to and would want to raise your children
    and while parenting is hard, it should economically not wipe you.

    For the labour force encourage more resident women and retirees back to workforce
    (especially if we’re living till 80’s) encourage job sharing and restructuring,
    flexi hours, extend the retirement age for the life expectancy of each
    demographic tranche. Explore new industries that are knowledge based, increase
    automation effort and force SMEs into real productivity gains. SMEs form some
    90+ % of the SG economies, some will need to fold or consolidate. We shouldn’t
    allow companies to privatise profit and socialise costs via Workfare and the
    like.

    We have the business support, physical and legal infrastructure, ideal
    geo-political position and a highly educated workforce, businesses and FDI is
    not going to exit en masse, its a bogeyman.

    Revenue wise look at capital gains tax, increase corporate and personal income tax.
    Re-examine regressive consumer tax such as GST as it disproportionately hits
    our bottom 20%.

    But overall
    I think the White Paper got in wrong on focusing on the population required for
    GDP growth targets rather than figuring what GDP growth we should target for
    quality of life and how we intend to arrest income inequality.

    quality of life and how we intend to arrest income inequality.

    • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

      Yo G,

      I’ve started to think that maybe I should have broached the subject from a wider view. As I purely looked at correlating what the white paper was trying to get at, not support the white paper. In fact i’ve said that 6.9m is not possible without some serious adverse effects.

      By the sounds of things (and everyone’s comments) I think there are multiple areas that they want addressed. And the white paper only focuses on point 1 below and not 2 and 3.
      1. How to sustain or bolster the economy (based on Singaporeans who have invested and speculated in the local property boom, foreigners who have invested in Singapore)2. Rectifying the day to day issues of everyday Singapore life (privatised government services like transport, low income gaps, high cost of living, lack of space, gdp not translating to the lower income bracket, high COE)

      3. Upping low birth rates for a viable Singaporean Singapore

      But at the moment, point 1 needs to be bolstered with immediacy, no? 2 and 3 need to be taken in and evolved over time. And maybe to our rather old-fashioned way of thinking, they think they have 2 and 3 under control with their grants, rebates and subsidies. But these have proved ineffective.What do you think?I wish this conversation could happen over a teh. Gah.

      • Jambreak

        It’s a poorly thought out paper let alone being a White Paper. It is wholly lacking in facts and is abundant with rhetoric and grand-mother soothe sayings.

        Whoever wrote the document and approved should never be allowed to again waste the time of a large portion of the country.

        The fact that alternative solutions and a look at the root cause of the issues are missing from the document should tell all that this is a poorly thought and written document.

  • Noemail

    Why you taking about the white paper when you living an american dream in london? Anyway I agree with some of your points, the white paper states what is important for us to see, but do we see the REAL need for Singapore current situation? Is to bond Singaporeans, will it be 1 day in the 50s where riots happen, racial disharmony and no progress for the nation?

    • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

      Hehe.

      The American dream in London tagline is meant to be a piss take at the social ideals the ‘west’ is supposed to bring.

      I will blog soon about some interesting things as a Singaporean working in London. Mainly societal pros but affordability and high tax cons.And I am coming back eventually.

      My mentally-disabled (autism) brother, mum and dad are all in Singapore. And they mean the world to me. So I have to ‘kacau’ from far and try and do my part.

      Anyway. Yes we do also need another paper to analyse and propose something that can deal with the day to day societal stresses at the moment. As nothing proposes a solution to that. And yes, I agree we will eventually implode.

      This is proven in the overpopulation experiment by Calhoun as well. We don’t even need to go that far.So yes we do need change by 2030, not 6.9m 50% foreign population. But we need the white paper to bolster change. 

      How, ok?

      • Jambreak

        The White Paper like any other White Paper is meant to provide specifics and to allow for discussion. If this White Paper was not meant to provide specifics but rather a guide then it’s idiotic to use the term. 

      • Jambreak

        Is the COE a hidden tax?
        Is there an incidence of a hidden tax when low and middle income Singaporeans pay up to S$400K for a 4-room HDB flat that costs S$50K to build? Add in the required mortgage costs and the amount balloons to approx. S$800K.

  • Jambreak

    Where is the proof that increasing the population in the manner prescribed will provide a viable solution? What is the root cause of the problem with respect to TFT and why is it not mentioned? As long as you accord GDP as the panacea then your entire essay is a waste of time. 

    • http://twitter.com/areshaonline Aresha G.K

      The point of the white paper is solely dedicated to maintaining the economy, or at least avoiding a recession while dealing with the issues of overpopulation and migrant reliance. We need a separate paper if we want to focus on our internal societal issues. 

      While I agree with some areas of the white paper, I do believe it should serve as a bolster-solution while we focus on creating an alternate pro-Singaporean economy and a more Singapore for Singaporeans city-state.

      As i said above, 6.9m will bring a wrath of further difficulty. As much as theorists can disagree. Overpopulation is the issue as well as an ageing society, seeing that we’re so reliant on self-support for the aged.

      • Jambreak

        It is obvious that you lack a firm understanding of what a White Paper is and its purpose. Please check. Then double check. 

        Any planner will always have alternative choices as well as backup plans should the chosen option fail to deliver the desired goods. 

        Additionally, the PAPzis have a checkered history of ramming down painful doses of policies that disaffect the lives of the low and middle income in Singapore. This policy seems to be headed down the same road. 

        Why would anyone even believe 20% of what is written in this sham of a document? This document deserves a ‘fail’ if it was submitted for marking. Listen  -there were no alternative views! There were very little facts that helped to back up the notion that a 6.9M population in 2030 would be THE SOLUTION to TFT and ageing issues. 

        And since you are in UK, please do some reading and an image search for “BUF UK”. 

      • Jambreak

        I humbly suggest that you learn lots more on economics and politics before spending so much time supporting a bogus document. 

        You look downright silly to suggest that the White Paper prescription will avoid recessions. Then you contradict yourself that the prescribed solution which calls for a greater population will actually solve current over-population issues and a reliance on migrant workers – this is an absolute WTF statement to make!

        Do you actually believe what you are writing? 

  • Newbie

    Hi, I have a question about your comparison chart. In the columns for 1962 and 1972, the data seems to have a problem. How is it possible that the number of residents in 1962 and 1972 is greater than the entire population?

  • Rocketgirl

    I can’t stand this talk of nationalism or patriotism. No country is one man’s country. The world is changing. Culture – whatever that means – is no longer restricted to pre-defined borders. Imagine every person in the world “standing up” to their landscape that they can’r recognize anymore. This landscape is everybody. Enough with over-jealous “us” who desperatly cling to “their” borders.

  • Rocketgirl__

    I can’t stand this talk of nationalism or patriotism. No country is one man’s country. The world is changing. Culture – whatever that means – is no longer restricted to pre-defined borders. Imagine every person in the world “standing up” to their landscape that they can’t recognize anymore. This landscape is everybody’s. Enough with over-jealous “us” who desperatly cling to “their” borders.

  • Gavroche

    A great deal of blame has been placed on our very low TFR for getting us into the present situation. If we could turn the clock back to 1982 when the resident population was 2.365 million. Let’s for argument’s sake assume that somehow we could manage a constant TFR of 2.1 (replacement rate) between then and the present day. Our resident population would still remain below 3 million. What sort of excuse would they then use in the White Paper to justify a boost of population to 6.9 million?

    • SpiritOfSG

       that not true, we also true, this will only happened if we have a tdr of 2.1 then our tfr and tdr will cancel each other out and if these are constant throughout all the years. if we can turn back time perhaps thing will definitely be different…