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PM Lee quizzed on ideal population size at forum

He says it's difficult to give a concrete number as the situation is evolving

Published on Sep 24, 2012 6:00 AM
PM Lee at the forum with (from left) Mr Chan Chun Sing, moderator and TV presenter Chun Guek Lay, Mrs Josephine Teo and Ms Sim Ann. Asked if Singapore should continue to bring in new immigrants, 67 per cent of the 30 participants said yes. To this, Mr Lee remarked: "Not bad. That's two to one." -- PHOTO: MICA

A discussion on the country's ideal population size became the highlight of an hour-long televised forum with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday night.

And while he said it was difficult to pinpoint a concrete number, he estimated that Singapore would be able to house about six million people in the future. Said PM Lee: "It's very hard to give a concrete figure 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 five million. In the future, six million or so should not be a problem. Beyond that, we'll have to think more carefully."

That number falls in line with the 6.5million figure that has been used as a government planning parameter since 2007. With the population standing at 5.26 million as at December last year, and frustration about currently overtaxed public infrastructure, concern has been rising over Singapore's population size. The question followed a frank exchange with 30 Singaporeans on issues ranging from pre-school education to the state of the Chinese community.

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Background story


This is part of the dialogue process. Of course we cannot completely solve the problem, but at least we have a frank discussion, let everyone understand that it's not that easy.

- Mr Lee on the value of a population discussion


The next 20 years will be very different from the last 20 years. The world, and our society, are changing rapidly. But we have a strong foundation for the future.

Ask yourself: Which other country has made more preparations for the next 20 years than us?

I think it's hard to find such a country. They may have better conditions, but we have done a lot of homework.

We should be able to get a passing mark. If we can stay united and focused on overcoming our challenges, our future is bright.

- Mr Lee on the future