The Straits Times
Published on Feb 20, 2013

No hollowing out with a family-friendly Singapore


I DISAGREE with Mr Tang Hin Ching about preferring a congested Singapore rather than a hollowed-out one ("Hollowing out of S'pore a serious concern"; Feb 9).

I cannot live in a Singapore where native Singaporeans are overwhelmed by foreigners.

A declining population and ageing are problems experienced in other developed countries as well; they are not unique to us. There is no need for alarm even if there was a failure to foresee the problem.

Instead, the focus should be on moderating the open economic model within national limits, building a dynamic Singapore with a sustainable population. The country must change course to steer clear of another demographic mistake.

It is wiser to strive for internal growth and outward expansion, rather than depend on external input to grow.

Very often, the trade-offs are not necessarily in the interest of the people. Would native multi-racial Singaporeans be happy with good jobs and better salaries if they live in the most expensive city in Asia, their country virtually occupied by foreigners? It is wishful thinking that Singapore can emulate cities like London, Paris or New York, which took hundreds of years to evolve.

Having fewer new citizens and foreign workers would not hollow out Singapore. There is no need to compromise if alternatives are found to achieve a reasonable quality of life through pragmatic policies. One possibility is the Dubai model of engaging foreign guest workers.

Meanwhile, the focus must be on raising the total fertility rate with greater commitment.

The people can live with a moderate 1.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent economic growth rate through improved productivity, technology and management. A family-friendly homeland will encourage talented young Singaporeans to stay, work and have families.

Can there really be good jobs and a good life in a congested city where inhabitants of diverse backgrounds are densely stacked up in high-rise flats, and life is so stressful that none can afford the time for leisure activities?

I would prefer my grandchild to have a decent job and work shorter hours, enjoying a simple life with homogenous native Singaporeans who share our way of life. And all can have the time to appreciate our parks and breathe in fresh air at the seaside.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi