The Straits Times
Published on Feb 19, 2013

Adopt interactive approach to planning


AS A piece of classic prospective planning trying to optimise policies using current trends and assumptions, the Population White Paper's conclusions are as logical as they are predictable.

But such scenario predicting is highly unreliable and unlikely to lead to game-changing solutions.

Demographic challenges are complex, with individual problems interacting with one another.

Dealing with one problem by conventional methods creates new problems that may worsen the overall situation.

Retroactive planning, as advocated by some opposing voices, is no better as it is preoccupied only with identifying and fixing existing problems.

Therefore, we must find a third way in interactive planning.

The idea is to design a desirable future and find ways to bring that future about by working backwards towards the present.

If our desired future in 2030 is to maintain our present ratio of economically active to inactive people with less immigration, we may have to think differently.

First, replace the narrow incentivising of childbirth with the wide incentivising of parenthood.

A privilege card could be issued to all parents, which will confer wide-ranging advantages on them when using public services.

That way, non-parents would be nudged to join the ranks of parents.

Second, redefine the concept of a productive population.

If our life expectancy increases, our economically productive lifespan and scope should also increase in tandem.

We should abolish the retirement age and gender-based employment policies altogether.

Third, redefine the concept of the Singapore Core to include all who contribute in any way to the well-being of Singapore, even for a temporary period of time.

Concrete privileges of being in the Singapore Core will be conferred only on Singapore parents.

Lee Hock Seng