From ‘Singapore could accommodate 6 million people in future’, Today online
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore could accommodate six million people in time to come. The country’s total population stood at 5.26 million as of December last year.
…”It’s very hard to give a concrete figure (on Singapore’s ideal population target), because the situation is evolving. We’re gradually increasing our land area, and if we rebuild our older towns, then we can accommodate more people. Today our population is over 5 million. In the future, 6 million or so should not be a problem. Beyond that, we’ll have to think more carefully,” said Mr Lee.
6 million doesn’t seem too far off in the ‘future’, in fact, according to DBS Vickers in 2009, we could attain that figure in less than 7 years, even hitting 6.5 million in 2020. That’s hardly surprising, even if you take into account the dismal birth rate, because the ‘ideal population size’ can readily be topped up by PRs, non-residents and new residents, i.e foreign influx. In the space of a decade between 2000 and 2010, Singapore’s total population increased by 1 million, although population GROWTH actually DIPPED by 1%. By 2010, almost two-fifths of the population were PRs or non-residents. If the number of Singaporean citizens creeps up to the 3.7 million mark by the end of this decade (by IPS’s conservative estimation given the TFR of 1.24), we’re potentially looking at 1 out of 3 in a 6 million population NOT born and raised here. And that’s not even taking into account TOURISTS, whom we had 13 MILLION of in 2011 alone.
PM Lee’s father probably disagrees. In 2008, LKY didn’t seem ‘sold’ by the 6.5 million mark, and believed that 5 to 5.5 million would be the optimum population size, where ‘open spaces and comfort’ would still be maintained. Then National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, on the other hand, said it was ‘COMFORTING to note that our physical resources, especially LAND, is able to support this’ (6.5 million). He also clarified in 2007 that 6.5 was not a ‘target’ but a ‘planning figure’ for land use and transportation framework for the next 40 to 50 years. So we have 5.5, 6, and the audacious 6.5 million. Who the hell should we believe? As someone who has little affection for crowds, I’m inclined to take the elder Lee’s word for it.
Unfortunately it’s not guesstimates that matter here, but rather what we see with our very own eyes to realise that this burgeoning human load is straining our geography and infrastructure to the point that things are literally BURSTING at the seams. Just last week, hairline cracks emerged on the walls of homes located near the Downtown Line. Our sewer pipes also can’t seem to take this SHIT anymore. Crowds are commonplace and often an inevitable side effect of rich economies, but the picture below from just last Oct speaks a thousand, or should I say, 5 million words. Do I even need to mention the countless delays and breakdowns plaguing the MRT as we speak?
But the most important thing about a station packed to the brim is not so much the breathless and cold sweat one experiences just looking at photos of it, but that we face such levels of appalling congestion despite our government only recently PLANNING for it (for 6.5 million people too). What you also don’t see is the same people in the photo growing old and riding the ‘silver tsunami’ together. With so many people jostling for deathbed space, you wouldn’t be able to die in peace anymore. Hell, you may even have to rent out a rubbish collection centre to conduct your last rites if the hospitals have no space for you, because rubbish, unlike hospital beds, is something even I can confidently say we’ll have ample quantities of. 6 million human loads of it.
OK, maybe I just need to relax after a long day getting suffocated on the bus and train. How about a movie? Surely that would take the stress off would it? Alas shopping malls are not on the government’s population agenda, so you get this:
How about a romantic date with my spouse by the Bay then? I mean, the PM did say he wanted more babies, didn’t he? Apparently he also wants the F1, which we are told that we MUST accept. Like, really DIE-DIE must accept.
Fine. If I can’t even step out of the house without being trampled to death, at least I’ll need a love nest to perform my civic duty. How about getting a condo?
So if the PM tells me that ’6 million should not be a problem’, I can’t help but question the optimism and back of the envelope calculations that went into this proclamation, and whether he consulted the Environment Ministry to assess the ecological impact of an extra million people consuming, driving, queuing and pooping this country into submission. It also runs counter to his call for more babies. How we’ll dread bringing babies into a sardine-tin society where you’d have to compete for places in everything from cradle to the grave, confinement nanny to undertaker. No, 6 million should not be a problem TO YOU, sir, though to everyone else who doesn’t sit on a high chair approving policies nor paid a million-dollar salary to afford the personal space, to everyone else who is a victim of that ‘equitable’ system of ‘getting in line’, it is akin to stuffing an elephant into a bomb shelter after building more shelves trying to contain it. If we don’t start ‘thinking more carefully’ NOW rather than wait till we hit 6 million, people won’t think of a troubled World when they see a book title like Thomas Friedman’s “HOT, FLAT and CROWDED”. Singapore, already the second most densely populated country on EARTH, would be the first thing that comes to mind instead.