Thursday, January 31, 2013

Singapore for Lease

The government of Singapore just announced that its target population growth number, right up to 2030, will be 6.9 million. No one can fault this government for being forward thinking. In fact, right from the very beginning, in 1959, Singapore has been led by a group of highly capable people who put policies into place that has brought it first world status in less than 40 years. You can't take away this achievement. I grew up under this government, and I must say, benefitted from these policies. There may be many naysayers. I suppose they might have had a vastly different and likely unpleasant experience compared to mine, but I would venture to say that for most of us citizens, life has become good. This is brought home the more you travel outside the country.

But I come not to praise the past, important as it may be. Let us not forget history, how we got to where we are lest a collective amnesia comes to haunt us one day. I come to consider how the current leaders appear to have a plan to lease out the entire country to foreigners come 2030. I quote Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister for the Environment & Water Resources, about the rationale for this policy Whitepaper:

"...we will need some kind of 'top up' over the next two decades - foreigners to work with us, care for us, pay taxes and to help create opportunities...".  (Today, 31 Jan 2013, page 4).

If this doesn't sound like renting out our country for monetary returns, I don't know what is.  According to the numbers worked out in this scenario, by 2030, we will have 2.5 million foreigners gainfully employed in our midst whereas citizens will make up 3.8 million working people. That's roughly a 40% foreigner and 60% citizen-working population. Well, if you think about it, this scenario is based very much on our experience today. The older citizens among us are well endowed with residential properties. Many rent part or even all of these out to foreigners. It does not take a leap of imagination to arrive at the thought that we can rent out the entire country, much as we do our houses in order for our tenants, the foreigners, to "care for us" and "pay our taxes".

My worry is that this assumes the foreigners amongst our midst are stupid enough to support us in our "old age". Why should they? They come here to make money for themselves, to live for themselves, and to leave when things don't go right. Otherwise they won't be foreigners, would they? They'd would have traded in their foreign citizenship for Singapore's. But our government is an optimistic lot, and they think they can hook these 2.5 million foreigners, hook, line and sinker, to support the old folks in Singapore, willingly or unwillingly.

The optimism expressed in the White Paper goes beyond belief. And given that the current government has messed up the triumvirate policies on foreign workers, transport and housing in the past ten years, it doesn't give me any confidence in the robustness of the policy proposals. The White Paper would likely turn out to be largely a work of fiction.


Anonymous said...

Got better idea?

Epilogos Blogger said...

If I had, it won't be for another year, and I expect to be paid in excess of a million dollars for it!

Raymond said...

"My worry is that this assumes the foreigners amongst our midst are stupid enough to support us in our "old age". Why should they? They come here to make money for themselves, to live for themselves, and to leave when things don't go right."

Many nations do that. The United States, for example, is often called a "land of opportunity" for exactly the reason you described. While they "make money for themselves" they also pay taxes which benefit the nation and its people. It's a free country, so people should be able to leave if they feel unhappy enough to do so.

Epilogos Blogger said...

Is Singapore like most other countries?

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