Singapore GE2020: SDP claims it pressured PAP to assure Singaporeans about population target

SDP's statement comes after an exchange between SDP chief Chee Soon Juan (second from left) and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (right) during a televised debate on July 1. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) said it pressured the PAP into declaring that it does not have a 10 million population target, claiming victory even amid accusations that it had mischaracterised the Government's position.

The SDP, in a statement on Thursday (July 2), said: "Within Day 1 of our campaign, we have already achieved victory on our call for the 'no' to a 10 million population."

This comes after an exchange between SDP chief Chee Soon Juan and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan during a televised debate on Wednesday night, in which Dr Balakrishan had called the SDP's claim a "strawman" and "falsehood".

Dr Balakrishnan had said: "Let me state for the record: We will never have 10 million. We won't even have 6.9 million. The Government doesn't have a target for the population."

The SDP said it objected to the characterisation of Dr Chee's argument as a strawman argument, or one that intentionally misrepresents the Government's position: "The idea of a 10 million population is not the SDP's invention or imagination. It was first broached by Mr Liu Thai Ker, whom Mr Heng cited in his comments, and reported by The Straits Times (ST)."

The SDP was referring to an ST report published in March last year about a ministerial dialogue Mr Heng had attended at the Nanyang Technology University.

The ST report said: "On the projected population of 6.9 million by 2030, set out in the Government's 2013 Population White Paper, Mr Heng said the number goes beyond how densely populated Singapore would be. The social space is as important.

"Singapore's population density is not excessive, he said, noting that other cities are a lot more crowded in terms of liveable space.

"He cited former chief planner Liu Thai Ker, who said in 2014 that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long term."

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But Mr Heng himself did not say that Singapore should plan to increase its population to 10 million people, nor did he mention the figure.

Mr Heng, in a Facebook post on Thursday, said: "I was asked at the NTU Student Union Ministerial Forum in 2019 about the Population White Paper. In my response, I mentioned that former chief planner Liu Thai Ker had publicly said that we should go for an even higher number.

"Far from endorsing this, I had explained that our population size was not just about physical space, but also about social space and how we can preserve a sense of togetherness."

Responding to Mr Heng's post, the SDP said in its statement that he should take up the issue with The Straits Times.

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