The Straits Times
Published on Feb 07, 2013

Population White Paper: Weakness was in how message was conveyed


WHY are so many people upset with the Population White Paper?

The Government published it to outline "the key considerations and road map for Singapore's population policies" ("Sustainable population for a dynamic Singapore"; Jan 30).

Instead of applauding the Government for being forward-thinking, people are hitting out at it.

There have been letters written to forums, heated discussions online, feedback from various groups and cries from opposition parties about "overcrowding of the Republic" and "the lack of quality life should the population hit 6.9 million".

They seem to have missed the point, and this is due to the wrong messaging from the source. Our governing party does most things right, but not when it comes to saying the right thing.

In any announcement, one must ensure that the message is understood by the target audience. It is not what you want to say, but what they think you said.

As a public relations practitioner, I would avoid using a statement that says "a population of 6.9 million with more than half being citizens".

What immediately comes to mind is that there will be more than three million foreigners on our tiny island - taking up space, denying us jobs and driving up property prices.

After that, nothing else matters and the audience will not listen further.

What should have been said is that the White Paper is about "getting our facilities and infrastructure ready; hospitals will have enough beds; there will be more train services during rush hour; Singaporeans will have more jobs and anyone eligible for an HDB flat will stand a good chance of getting it", should the population increase to 6.9 million in 2030.

To the Government: When you have something to announce, say it simply, and say it with your heart. You will have our support.

To fellow Singaporeans: Please stay calm. Read the whole story and you will realise that our country is in good hands.

Rose Tan Hoon Hoon (Ms)