The Straits Times
Published on Feb 09, 2013

What about our Singaporean identity?


I HAVE no doubt that we will be able to accommodate the projected population of 6.9 million in 2030, but I am unsure of the underlying principles of quality and the Singaporean identity.

Though the hardware is easier to achieve, assuming the world economic landscape remains unchanged, I have doubts about the "software" component.

The White Paper did not seem to elaborate on basic amenities like water and electricity plants, nor address social facilities like education, security and health care.

Why let economics dictate population size, thereby diluting our native population to nearly half and losing our Singaporean identity? Why not focus on sustainable economic growth with productivity, and a population of 5.5 million?

I do not see the merit in converting 25,000 foreign nationals into citizens each year. Would this diluted core of Singaporeans be as strong and united as native Singaporeans? How do we know if they can be fully integrated into our multiracial social fabric? Do they have the same heartbeat and think like us?

It is also risky to use developable net density to portray our advantages over cities with larger land areas.

Our projected 13,000 people per sq km, compared to Hong Kong's 22,000 per sq km, does not justify the trade-off.

There are intrinsic differences in interpreting the net density, in terms of demographic profile and ultimate quality of life, between Singapore and Hong Kong. We have developed 430 sq km out of 710 sq km in less than 40 years, while Hong Kong has developed only 250 sq km out of 1,108 sq km over more than 100 years.

Singapore merely has the sea to fall back on, while Hong Kong has its vast hinterland.

Come 2030, native Singaporeans may have to work and live with new naturalised citizens and foreigners that make up nearly 50 per cent of the population, while the Hong Kong people remain very homogeneous, with the same cultural background and Cantonese being the common dialect.

It would be good to know that beneath the veneer of a vibrant Hong Kong, there are tremendous stresses and fault lines.

Can we overcome social tensions to maintain our multiracial, multi-religious and multicultural harmonious society that has been built up since independence?

Paul Chan Poh Hoi