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Can Singapore really house 6.9m people?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I have been careful not to blog about politics but I just need to get this off my chest.

Let me say first that I am neither pro PAP nor WP nor any political party. I will vote for anyone who will do the job right. Although the PAP has a good pedigree, in the last few years, its performance has been wanting and the people spoke with their votes in the last GE.

I feel that 6.9m people would make Singapore really crowded and I don't like crowds for many reasons.

I find driving in Singapore really stressful in the last few years. It used to be a breeze driving here just ten years ago or even just five years ago. I used to tell people that staying in the west and working in the east was better because the jams on the roads were always in the other direction as most people were staying in the east and working in the west. Not anymore. Now, it is jammed in both directions!

So, on some days, I would try to take the MRT instead. Oh, the nightmare! Even our newest Circle Line has problems. I was personally affected by breakdowns twice in the last 6 months and for a person who rarely takes the MRT, I am either very unlucky or the system has some serious issues.

Well, they are doing road and expressway widening on top of buildng new roads and a new expressway. All these should help to make traffic conditions better at least in the near future.

Also, they seem to be spending a lot of time and money on improving the reliability of the MRT system but it is going to take a year or two apparently to complete the upgrades and repairs! Till then, expect more breakdowns.

Overcrowding aside, what I am really concerned about is the cost of living in Singapore.

A friend's dad who is in the real estate development business told him the day Singapore has 6.9m people, everything will become very expensive just like in Tokyo. I shudder at the thought.

The PAP government should not squander away the chance that it has been given to set things right or it could see its majority shrinking again in the next GE. Could we then see a situation in Singapore like what we see in Malaysia now?

Till the next GE, let us see if the PAP government does better. In the meantime, we should do what we can to safeguard our own financial health.


AK71 said...

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan has stressed that the projected 6.9 million population by 2030 is the worst case scenario.

In his latest blog post, Mr Khaw said the government hopes that the country does not reach that figure and added that it may never reach it.

The Minister said as planners, the government has to ensure that the infrastructure can accommodate such a figure, if need be.

But it hopes that the actual figure would turn out to be much lower.

He stressed the projection is not a forecast or a target.

It simply states the assumptions going forward, based on a certain set of productivity and workforce growth rates.

Mr Khaw explained that for planning purpose, it is safer to take the more aggressive projection and plan infrastructure needs based on it.

Mr Khaw said the White Paper on Population and the Ministry's Land Use Plan were released this week as the government knows the country's demographic challenges are severe.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said he fully agrees with Mr Khaw's explanation.

See:6.9 million population projection is "worst case scenario": Khaw

Good news, I guess. :) said...

If I recall correctly a few years ago the government said the same thing about Singapore projecting for 6 million population. I remembered it well as my expat friends were wondering aloud if this would mean higher property prices and cost of living. I cleverly quoted what the govt said that it was only a projection for the very distant future and it is for scenario planning. Now Lo and behold we are at 5.3 million after a couple of years. So whatever the official line is now it holds little credibility for me. :)

My thought on this is the current govt wants to keep to the pyramid demographic with a large base of young productive populace supporting the top layer of aged. With the baby boomers reaching retirement age they are concerned it would become an inverted pyramid if fertility rate continues northward. To them it is a number game but for the people the reality is entirely different. From a practical perspective and putting it crudely - one way is to 'get rid' of the baby boomers ( think retirement communities across the straits ??) while attracting younger and productive ( tax dollars plus fertility rate ) immigrants. Just my two cents worth.
You are absolutely right - this only heightens my determination to be financially prepared for an overcrowded aircon nation :))

AK71 said...

Hi EL,

Ship the old folks across the causeway and keep the younger and economically productive folks in Singapore? Wow! That is something to think about... Wait a minute, by 2030, I will be one of those old folks. :(

I did a quick check online to see if what Khaw Boon Wan said is true about how Singapore is not as densely populated as Hong Kong.

It seems that Singapore is more densely populated than Hong Kong!

Singapore: 7,315/km2

Hong Kong: 6,480/km2

Good grief...

Ray said...

they apologise, they promise to do better then they just shove the figure 7 mil down our throats. Will they change on their own accords? No. Will they be forced to change? Only if they are scared pissing their pants by the fact that they might be kicked out of the parliament. 7 mil is worst case? I remember they mention 5 mil was the previous "magic figure" about few years ago. Suddenly the target changes... target will always be moving because population will continue to age... when will it end? Myopic at its most extreme.

AK71 said...

Hi Ray,

I remember when Mah Bow Tan said target was 6.5m people when he was still a minister. LKY then expressed his concern that 6.5m people might be too many for Singapore.

Maybe, LKY should come and say something. After all, he did say that even when he is gone, if Singapore should need him, he would crawl out from his grave.

Although I am usually in agreement with the policies of the government (which makes me look like I am pro PAP), I am disappointed with this "projection". So, 8.5 million people by 2050?

Unknown said...

ya , the young will become old, and by this logic of you need more young to support the old, then there is no ending. 7mil is not going to be a final number. The gov is just pushing the problem to the future generation by taking the easy way out : take in for immigrants.

AK71 said...

Hi Jane,

Now that you mentioned it, I wonder if it is indeed the easy way out. If we do not take in more immigrants, could we not end up like Japan which has been experiencing deflation for 20 years with an ageing and shrinking population. Hmmm...

Cory said...

Just curious is deflation a curse for a shrinking population ?

Yes job get lesser but so is the number of working adult.

Our retirement fund can last longer too.

Our society will be less crowded and more peaceful.

seefei said...

The easy way out is to do nothing and continue kissing babies. In fact the government had been over cautious, especially in rolling out infra projects in the past. Remember BTO and rail network must be economically viable? The white elephant saga in Sengkang? Hopefully with a clear target of 7million, the government will get it right this time. In fact with WP rise as a formidable opposition, the last thing this government wants to do is to take the easy way out LOL.

Singapore Man of Leisure said...



When I was sharing my knowledge on Demand Planning, I always say to "shocked" trainees that there's no such thing as "accurate" forecasts - there's only lucky and bad forecasts. LOL!

Words like projections, planning, forecast, assumptions, etc...

Aren't they the same?

A simpler word is guess ;)

Whether it's a worst or best case scenario, we will only know in the future.

Well, we have guessed "wrong" for the past 5 years - especially with regards to housing and transport...

Social engineering is definitely not for the weak and meek.

AK71 said...

Hi Cory,

I would put it in another way.

If deflation should happen due to excess capacity, everything else remaining constant, it is actually a good thing. Everyone still has jobs and income to spend on goods and services.

However, if deflation should happen due to a declining level of liquidity in the economy which comes on the back of a shrinking population, then, what we would see is a deflationary spiral.

Everyone including investors would hoard cash. No one would want to invest because of the lack of attractive returns. Unemployment goes up. Government revenue would also take a hit.

How would essential services be funded? By deficits. The country could eventually go bankrupt.

Having a low level of inflation is almost always preferred to having deflation.

AK71 said...

Hi seefei,

Some companies work well with the JIT (Just In Time) model as it is more efficient than the JIC (Just In Case) model. However, JIT does not work for all businesses.

Governing a country, meeting the demands of a growing population, is similar. So, do we want to have everything JIT or should we build in advance for JIC?

We are blessed with budget surpluses and we have reserves. So, we can definitely follow the JIC model. Our government has been too conservative in this area, I agree. :)

AK71 said...


Oh, yes. I agree that planning on a scale as large as this is not for the weak and the meek.

Well, if things should become so bad that you could not take it anymore, you would step up to the podium to lead, wouldn't you? ;p

YH Tan said...

Doesn’t make sense leh. If G said population increase to 6.9m = GDP growth of 1%-2%. So if population increase is less than 6.9m = GDP growth of ???. Bearing in mind 1%-2% is already on the low side. So we are expecting GDP growth to be less than 1%? Also if GDP growth is projected to be 1%-2% growth assuming population increased to 6.9m, where will the money come from to build our infrastructure ie housing, transport, hospital etc etc to cater for 6.9m people?

YH Tan

AK71 said...

Hi YH Tan,

Well, the debates in Parliament will start soon. I am sure there will be more reports on this matter. It doesn't end here.

Is 1 to 2% annual GDP growth the norm from now till 2030? Maybe.

Will we really see 6.9m people by 2030 in Singapore? I hope not.

Whatever it is, I do not wish to see deflation. Instead, I want to see annual inflation of, say, 1 to 2% per annum. Inflation is better than deflation but it has to be low.

Slow growth is fine by me as long as it is steady. :)

YH Tan said...

Hi AK,

I'm fine with 1%-2% GDP growth and inflation of 1%-2%. But I'm not so sure about growing population to 6.9m just to get 1%-2% GDP growth.

Anyway lets see what happens in Parliament this afternoon. But I have my doubt if there is anything concrete.

YH Tan

AK71 said...

Hi YH Tan,

Well, we do have a stronger alternative voice in Parliament now. The WP has pledged to make the PAP government work harder.

This is a golden opportunity for the WP to show that they mean what they say and that they can be an effective voice in Parliament. It would be interesting to see how things unfold. :)

Ray said...

"..The underlying strategy of Ponzi demography is to privatize the profits and socialize the costs incurred from increased population growth.."

"...Among its primary tactics, Ponzi demography exploits the fear of population decline and aging. Without a young and growing population, we are forewarned of becoming a nation facing financial ruin and a loss of national power..."

Who gets the profit?
- People who love high GDP
Who pay for the cost of high population?
- People who suffer from decrease in quality of life.


AK71 said...

Hi Ray,

I took a few seconds to weigh the risk of approving your comment. Hahaha...

I hope my blog doesn't get gazetted or suffer the fate of another blog with a name that reminds me of sleepy bakery produce...


Ray said...

haha Sorry AK for giving you a headache.

AK71 said...

Hi Ray,

Tiger Balm medicated oil is one of my best friends. I always have it handy. Not to worry. :D

AK71 said...

Singaporeans are planning a protest next week against the government’s projection of an increase in the island’s population by as much as 30% by 2030, as Parliament debates the country’s demographics for a third day.

More than 900 people said on a Facebook page that they will or may join the demonstration on Feb. 16 at Speakers’ Corner at the edge of the city’s financial district. About 9,000 have also “liked” another page that calls for a stand against the government and “Say ‘No’ to an Overpopulated Singapore.”

Source: Bloomberg

AK71 said...

Singapore’s biggest political protest since allowing these events at a downtown park in 2000 may signal growing difficulty by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s government to push policies without broader support.

Thousands of protesters gathered on Feb. 16 at Speakers’ Corner at Hong Lim Park at the edge of the city’s financial district in the rain to oppose the government’s plan to raise the population through immigration. Lawmakers from Lee’s party, which has ruled Singapore since independence in 1965, endorsed a white paper earlier this month that outlined proposals to allow more foreigners through 2030 to boost the workforce.

“It’s a big red flag and they cannot go on with business as usual, with their old way of doing things of letting it blow over and letting emotions run their course,” said Terence Lee, who teaches politics at National University of Singapore. “This is not an emotional hump. I won’t be surprised if significant changes happen at the ballot box in 2016.”

The rally increases pressure on the government to slow an influx of immigrants that has been blamed for infrastructure strains, record-high housing and transport costs and competition for jobs. Singapore’s population has jumped by more than 1.1 million since mid-2004 to 5.3 million and may reach 6.9 million by 2030, based on the proposal. That stoked social tensions and public discontent that is weakening support for Lee’s People’s Action Party.

Organizer Gilbert Goh, who promoted the event mainly through Facebook, estimated 4,000 people joined the demonstration at the 0.94-hectare (2.3-acre) park that served as a venue for political rallies in the 1950s and 1960s. They sang patriotic songs and held signs saying “we want to be heard, not herded,” and “waiting for 2016,” when the next general election is due.

The turnout, which he earlier estimated at as many as 5,000 two days ago, made it the biggest protest on a political issue since independence, Goh, who was an opposition party member, said in an interview yesterday.

In a city with 3.3 million citizens and 2 million foreigners, complaints about overseas workers depriving locals of jobs and driving up home prices helped opposition parties win record support in the 2011 general election. Lee is under pressure to placate voters without disrupting the entry of talent and labor that helped forge Southeast Asia’s only advanced economy.

Since the 2011 polls, Lee’s party has lost two by-elections. Lee Kuan Yew, the prime minister’s father who was the city’s first premier, stepped down from the Cabinet after the 2011 elections. He was hospitalized on Feb. 15 for a condition linked to irregular heartbeat, and was discharged yesterday. The ruling party still holds 80 of the 87 seats in Parliament.

Ranked the easiest place to do business for seven straight years by the World Bank, Singapore is competing with lower-cost neighbors such as Malaysia and Indonesia for foreign investment.

“Singapore is moving toward becoming a normal democracy,” Tan from Singapore Management University said. “Foreign investors who are astute will realize that these are inevitable developments.”

Source: Bloomberg

AhJohn said...

Just wonder MP can't act as a window to government? If the protested people come to MP, will it be also effective and more peaceful?

AK71 said...

Hi Ah John,

I think the MPs, even the PAP MPs, in Parliament, have reflected the concerns of the people.

However, something as dramatic as the protest in Hong Lim Park should really shock the PAP government into thinking harder on what Singaporeans want.

It is necessary and a good thing, I feel.

Ray said...

PAP MPs all have to vote according to Party's wishes. In the end, all the debates are for nothing. same can be said abt that SG Conversation. Talk talk talk talk talk... in the end still do whatever they like... sigh

AK71 said...

Hi Ray,

All political parties have a party whip. Sounds kinky, doesn't it?

Imagine going to a party and the host brings out a whip! ;p

Ray said...

whip, party, 69, white, paper.... all these words have certain kinky links to them.

AK71 said...

Hi Ray,

Oh, my. You ARE imaginative! LOL.

Now, I wonder what is the dot doing in between 6 and 9...

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