Wednesday, January 30, 2013

No Population White Paper

I finally found a little time to quickly read the White Paper. I am afraid it is a deeply flawed document but based on one inalienable truth of civilization on this planet: Grow economically or perish. This is a life and death point most people fail to appreciate. Our whole way of life is founded on growth. Look at countries without growth; it is hell. Smart politicians fear recession as much as they fear going to war. So people get real. I know some people can only learn some lessons the hard way, but don't let this be one of them. It is a mistake that we cannot recover from.

Another huge problem is nobody knows how to grow without adding people. That is why the government have produced this White Paper.

The greatest weakness of this White Paper isn't the 7 million pop target by 2030. It is a huge and nasty problem. I hate the idea but there is actually a much greater problem we have all missed. We assume that we will remain attractive enough over the next 17 years that they will make a beeline to come here. It would be very careless of our leaders to make this assumption.

In an ideal world we want to keep this place vibrant without 7 million people half of which will be foreign. We want to produce as much output and quality as 7 million people with 5 million. If we could do that, everyone wants to relocate to Singapore but we would also be forced to reject them - too crowded here.

In the real world as cities in Asia boom, we may no longer be attractive to draw away even their average talent to come here. Just consider how we are quickly becoming a poor proposition for Chinese workers as wages in China keep rising. We are also exploring new sources for foreign domestic workers because we can't afford their higher prices.

In the real world, we will have to sell out by pricing down to the point where we are sufficiently attractive for them to come.

The White Paper assumes they will come. The future for us may be one where we have to produce at the level of 7 million by 2030 with a much smaller and greying population. If we can't do that, we will compete with lower prices, longer hours and dystopian work conditions. We will look back and say we had past our golden age. Our best and brightest will leave for better opportunities elsewhere like what New Zealanders are already doing.

Gosh! Singapore could really be failing as she is being over taken by more and more cities in Asia. These bunch of leaders aren't up to the task. This White Paper on population is meaningless.

In short like a few others have pointed out ad nausem, our growth and development paradigm is a dying horse we flogged too hard but our leaders fail to recognize much less acknowledge. If you desire a canary in the coalmine, just look at SIA trying to be successful with its old ideas. 

To  be fair to LHL, it is true that the task before him is actually much harder than what LKY had to confront.

As George Yeo posted to his Facebook page: Whither Singapore? This chap understands. LHL should hold another by election and bring him back to Government. And don't clip his wings like before. He has lots more foresight than you Mr. PM. If I am right, the WP will not challenge him. He might even enjoy a walkover! I believe this is the wish of the people.

Related: How we could have gotten ourselves into this position: Government lacking 20/20 foresight and the poverty of values.

Update: 9:20am

I rarely read the comments in other peoples' blogs and I hope you don't miss the comment by JG below. Sure I am blogging for myself but once in a while there are exceptions. This is one of those rare moments. I can't write what JG had so quickly shared. What shall I say? Sometimes we have to be misunderstood on purpose. Have you ever read two good books which yield more than four good books but you cannot combine the two books into one tome? Human nature makes life complicated. c'est la vie.

So after reading, THINK about it. I am a lazy, time starved blogger.


  1. Re : George Yeo

    I believe you're too flattering of George. Reminds me of ... Anwar ... (minus the sex scandal part of course)

    Sighh .. now I understand better why Anwar is "revered" as the "leader" of the opposition. All the things Anwar is alleging - corruption, nepotism etc - all these were nothing new and were perpetuated under his watch. He was a key member of the ruling elite - he not only endorsed those policies then but was one of those instrumental in conceiving them. In other words, he's no clean guy, he's no saviour. Yet the people suddenly see him as someone who "understands" and better "foresight". I guess this is human nature - we just WANT someone to rally around, preferably an ex-insider. So that psychologically, we feel that yes it is change, but no it will not be a drastic change. But look at what's happening in Egypt - from strong-man Mubarak to ... strong-man Morsi.

    Similarly, no matter how George may want to rehabilitate his image, he was one of the key member of PM's inner circle for years. The badly conceived immigration policy (now acknowledged to be lacking in 20/20 foresight) happened under his watch to. Until GE2011, George never saw the need to change PAP "from within". He acknowleged that he "goes with the flow" - oh, there's a tide for change, he only saw it in GE2011 and then he parroted "I'll change PAP from within". EVERY aspiring PAP politician say that - even KPK said so. And remember how George handled the opposition - "remember who you are before speaking to me" (or deriding words to that effect).

    In other words, I'm sensing a reflex reaction in you to want to rally around an ex-insider, not unlike what's happening in Malaysia with Anwar. And I'm just saying - please think again, before you do so.

    "If I am right, WP will not challenge him"

    This is another point I'd like to comment. The people who are staking everything on the line right now are the existing WP, SDP, NSP etc politicians. You can bet that their entire history has been dug out, maybe even their careers are at stake. Yet, they speak out for Singaporeans and they choose to go the long, narrow, thank-less path.

    Its human nature to want to look for a sheriff riding into town to save it. But that happens in movies, not real life. The sheriffs riding into town are with us already -

    Look at George Yeo's facebook, beyond just that 2 words "Withiner Singapore". You see him enjoying himself in Davos? These are connections built up from his ex-Foreign Minister days. Connections built up ... You see him opening Wharf's new office in Taipei .. great job isn't it? Did he speak up a word for Singaporeans publicly during these 2 years? At least TCB did, on AIM. No, George didn't. He's enjoying the good life, made possible in part because of connections built up in his public service days. He's probably wise enough to know that if he speaks up in public, he will be shunned. No chance of cushy directorships in Temasek (where Lim Boon Heng is comfortably esconed right now), the foreign corp will be asked to distance themselves from him. In other words, without saying a word, he knows the rules of the game .. and he's gamely playing along. While others are putting their own lives on stake for fellow Singaporeans.

    In the words of Obama whom you quoted : We are the people we have been waiting for.

  2. Please lah...George Yeo is part of the trans global elite who eat of the carcass of cheap economies...

  3. I agree with the point that LHL has a tougher or different challenge than his father.
    However, to say that our TFR has dropped alarmingly over the last 2 decades and they have not done enough about it to leave things to this last desperate have to wonder what on earth has the administration under GCT been doing? Just cruising? This ESM definitely had left a mess of broken porcelain for Singaporeans to try and glue all the pieces back. So much for the humpty dumpty analogy by LKY to his successor. He makes sure he hang onto them so well, that he didn't shake the system hard go with the flow, that now it's all come to pieces naturally. Irony isn't it?

  4. "Another huge problem is nobody knows how to grow without adding people. That is why the government have produced this White Paper."

    Well said. Anything outside this is beyond their competencies.


  5. George Yeo - Debate yes, but do not take those in authority as "equals"
    The Straits Times (Singapore) 20 Feb 1995 at p 11

    Remember your place in society before you engage in political debate, said Information and the Arts Minister George Yeo yesterday.

    Debate cannot degenerate into a free-for-all where no distinction is made between the senior and junior party, or what the Hokkiens describe as "boh tua, boh suay".

    You must make distinctions: what is high, what is low, what is above, what is below and then within this, we can have a debate, we can have a discussion, he added.

    Speaking to reporters on the parameters of debate, an issue sparked off by the Catherine Lim controversy, he made it clear that people should not take on those in authority as "equals". The Prime Minister responded to writer Catherine Lim for her article on his governing style because her tone showed disrespect for authority.

    Brig-Gen (NS) Yeo recalled that in 1991, the National Trades Union Congress raised a rumpus when Straits Times columnist Sumiko Tan criticised then union-MP Goh Chee Wee for his speech in Parliament.

    Mr Goh felt that Miss Tan was wagging her finger at him, he said. Likewise, during last year's Budget debate, Parliament took issue with ST columnist Cherian George for his comments on the Speaker's handling of the guillotine. He had no right to speak to the Speaker as an equal.

  6. Most politicians are really crooks in disguise. What they really care is often their own self interests first and the authority they command over others. Why on earth do you think LKY & son want to be paid a couple of millions a year on top of the unlimited benefits that come with it like the power to instruct publicly-listed SIA to provide a chartered hospital plane at their command?

    With this in mind, do you think they really that concerned about you & me or the average Joe? Now when this authority is at risk or being challenged, what do you think power-crazy people would resort to? Just think hard, you try to extend your power base by inviting outsiders to come in to prop up your support exactly like how the Aware power grabbing group tried to take over the committee by asking their supporters to join as new members & vote the new committee in.

    So they must have calculated they only need a certain percentage of new citizens to come in to provide the safety margin to maintain their lead in every election, hence they just need to keep them coming in just to provide for the differential margin to maintain power after discounting the expected swing votes to the opposition parties. And the only way they can do it is to masquerade it under the excuse of a falling birth rate, I suppose!

  7. Half way into reading the white paper, it strikes me that whatever published in the white paper are reasoning that the gov put up to justify their action, and it very important to note whats not obviously stated also.

    The conspiracy theory is that the gov is only interested in expanding their collection of levy fees and tax base. There are foreign worker's levy, consumption tax through gst, property taxes etc

    If this theory is true, then its futile to try to over analyze the paper to assess its completeness.


  8. Leegalised gaming dens King Catholic man George Yeo is
    说风爽话,he is aiming and hoping that he will be the next President
    ,dear voters,do not be conned by this faked Catholic,our Holy Father knows it very well.

  9. sorry,说风凉话!

  10. Mr Wang Says So: George Yeo and His True Legacy for Singapore -
    May 12, 2011

    Now that George Yeo is quitting politics, many people are saying that this is such a pity for Singapore's foreign affairs. Personally I am somewhat hazy about what George Yeo actually achieved in this area, but perhaps that's just because Singapore's foreign affairs is not an area to which I've paid that much attention.

    Instead I will remember George Yeo as the minister who brought the casinos to Singapore. Yes, in case you've forgotten, George was the guy who first proposed the idea and pushed for it. Even within the PAP, there was plenty of debate and resistance about the casino proposal (to such an extent that another ex-minister, Lim Boon Heng, recently broke down in tears when he revisited those memories). But in the end George prevailed.