Sunday, February 17, 2013

TKL speech at Hong Lim Park, 16 February

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Speech by Tan Kin Lian at Hong Lim Park, 16 February 2013

1.     When the population white paper was first announced with the headline of 6.9 million people, many people were shocked. Were you shocked? Well, it shocked me. Why?

2.     With 5.3 million people, Singapore is already too crowded. Each day, we travel in packed trains and buses, and on congested roads. There are long queues in hospitals, schools and shopping malls or just to get a flat. If the quality of life is bad with 5.3 million people, it will get worse when with 6.9 million!

3.     The Government heard the uproar and came in with damage control! They said, 6.9 million is just a “worst case scenario”. Later, they amend the motion in Parliament to say that it is just a roadmap, not a target, not a projection, but a roadmap for planning purpose.

4.     But people still worry: if the infrastructure is built for 6.9 million people, will it be left idle? Is there a risk that the government will be tempted to use the slack?

5.     While we object to the 6.9 million, it is our duty as citizens to understand the key challenges facing our country. I like to deal with two important ones raised in the white paper.
6.     The white paper said that a bigger economy is needed to provide good jobs for Singaporeans. 65% want to have PMET jobs, i.e. professional, managerial, executive and technical jobs. Therefore, we have to import foreign workers to do the work that Singaporeans do not want to do, i.e. the manual, service and manufacturing jobs.
7.     Are we sure that they will only take jobs that Singaporeans don’t want? We have seen many PMETs lost their jobs to foreigners and have to become taxi drivers. A bigger population is not the solution. 

8.     Our problem is that the economy structure is now in somewhat of a mess. Too many qualified people are working in sales and speculation of properties, financial products, shares, money lending and even COE papers that pay well, but do not create real value. Because they pay well, few people want to be engineers, teachers, policemen and nurses.

9.     In the offices, many people do work that are unproductive and unnecessary, handling payment by cheques, accounting for GST, submitting returns to government agencies. There are more efficient ways to carrying out these activities, but we have become complacent.

10.  We have to restructure the economy, to distribute our human resources more evenly to the various sectors of the economy, to reduce the cost of doing business, to reduce the wastage.

11.  We have to give adequate wages, dignity and fair employment terms to service and manual workers, so that Singaporeans will be willing to accept these jobs. In the advanced countries, many of these jobs are held by their local people. Why can’t we? We need to have our locals working in all segments of our society, rather than in a narrow sector.

12.  The white paper said that an aging population will create a financial problem for the young. By 2030, only 2.1 young people will be available to support an elderly person, compared to 6.5 now. Is this true?

13.  As a whole, the elderly generation is actually quite well off, as they had benefited from the asset appreciation. Most of them do not really need to depend on their children. Instead, it is the other way round. They have to support their children to make the down payment for their HDB flat!

14.  There are some elderly people who are poor, but this is caused by the unequal distribution of income and wealth. The burden of taking care of them should be borne by the Government, and not on their children. We need a new mind-set towards welfare of the elderly.

15.  Our key challenge is to raise the birth rate in Singapore. This problem was recognized 30 years ago, and several measures were tried, baby bonus 1, 2, and 3, but they did not work. It is time for us to look for new approaches.

16.  To solve this problem, we have to look at the root cause. Young people find it difficult to get a job that pays a salary that is adequate to pay for their home, to raise a family and to save for the future needs. They also do not feel secure of keeping their job. In the face of the uncertainty, many opt to avoid the financial and other burden of raising children.

17.  We also have to work long hours and hard to be sure to keep their jobs. Many do not have the time to socialize. They are also not sure if they have time to spend with their family, after they get married.

18.  I have some ideas on how to achieve these goals, but due to lack of time, I shall not discuss them here.

19.  My key message is – tackle the root of the problem. This will encourage young people to start a family and to have children. But, we have to make it feasible and enjoyable for them. Only then, can we achieve a sustainable population for a dynamic Singapore.

Tan Kin Lian


Soodo said...

"The white paper said that an aging population will create a financial problem for the young. By 2030, only 2.1 young people will be available to support an elderly person, compared to 6.5 now. Is this true?"

Right now 6.5 young people support 1 old person.
So how much is this costing the government in 2013?
If the subsidy is $0.00 ...

Then increasing the population to 6.9 million in 2030 will not make a difference.
The subsidy will still be $0.00

michael13 said...

A good government must be the one who cares for the average Singaporeans because many of us belong to this segment of our society.

In fact, time is running out for the arrogant PAP to make amends and to seriously reform themselves in a way that the key policies can be thoughtfully formulated to meet the aspirations of this group of struggling Singaporeans. Failing which, I foresee a disastrous GE result for the ruling PAP, come 2016. Many Singaporeans are well prepared psychologically to abandon this 'deadwood'. The mature voters/Singaporeans know the politics in Singapore under such circumstances - "it must get worse before it can get better". And it's worth to pay the price for the long-term benefit of all average Singaporeans.

Lye Khuen Way said...

Soodo at 9:36 AM,
You cannot be more correct!

What's the diff for this "coverment" of ours?

Not increase in welfare cost.

But big increase in taxes of all shades and potentially pro-PAP votes from these new citizens. Lest I forget many more months of Bonus as the GDP would presumably increased and keep increasing.

yujuan said...

A pity none of the speakers spoke Chinese, just a short speech would do the trick.
A middle aged woman was asking for translation, "Gong Si Mi Ah".
A Singaporean in his late 20s, apparently just passing by, asked about why there was a gathering there. Believe him or believe him not.

Kooli said...

'gong si mi ah'

They are not is not everyone's problem.

It just like 7th month festival, will u join?

Sureesh said...

I think we are paying for the mistakes that Lee Kuan Yew made in destroying alternative views and making money the No. 1 priority.

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