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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

News Reports

People, oh people…

One of the objectives of the media must be to give citizens information to develop an opinion or make it easier for them to live their lives. Sometimes, the media points the way, taking apart a long-winded report or speech to give you the salient points (from their point of view of course) So there I was hoping that the various media have torn apart the Population report, pick out the key stuff and save me the trouble of reading the tome and figuring the statistics.

So I have from ST the point that the G wants feedback on birthrate, immigration etc. Not once, but twice within the paper. Helpfully, it seems the G has framed some discussion points like whether we would still tighten inflow of immigrants even if it means the population ages and shrinks and the foreign spouses of Singaporeans find it tough to get PR or citizenship.

I suppose there is a shock factor here: that there are plenty of Singaporeans married to foreigners who will want their spouses to live here – and they really haven’t said much in this on-going debate so far. Trouble is, how many of them – and their children – are here? ST doesn’t say but a graphic gives a 15 per cent figure of the non-resident population for dependents of citizens (old and new I presume), PRs and work pass holders.

From Today, which led off with new information instead of exhortation:

Immigration statistics revealed by the Government for the first time showed that, between 2007 and last year, the majority of those granted citizenship and permanent residence were not economically active — with the number of dependents outstripping working individuals. During this period, there were 259,040 new permanent residents (PRs) and 92,310 new citizens. Working individuals accounted for 48 per cent of the new PRs and 38 per cent of the new citizens.

I’m not so sure how to read the above statistics. So those that are not economically active are their wives and children? And if this continues, are we supposed to close the door on dependents of foreigners who want to live, and the foreign dependents of Singapore citizens?

The Today story jumps straight into population experts saying OF COURSE, you must give the foreign spouses citizenship.

One other question posed by the G which ST reported was which category of foreigners should be tightened? The maids, construction workers, your foreign spouse….Again, I guess this is to shock Singaporeans into thinking a bit deeper about the us-versus-them divide.

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I wonder though if more fundamental questions should be asked, like whether we really need more people (that is, foreigners) to accelerate or maintain economic growth? Maybe, our productivity efforts will bear fruit….don’t laugh. Or if the answer is no, would we accept (without complaint or whining) a slower rate of growth in exchange for feeling better about living in our own country (yep, loaded question but that’s really what the discomfort is about right?)

BT has a rather strange angling – it was on all the G’s plan to expand infrastructure over the next decade to cope with population growth over the years, even though inflow of immigrants has fallen since 2009. So there were stats on roads, rail, housing, medical care etc and how much has been budgeted for them. Is all this new? Or is it just a compilation of past announcements? How does this plan gel with the G’s efforts to collect feedback? Is this to meet current demand? I mean, looks like everything’s fixed for the next 10 years…

Never mind all that. I hope Singaporeans, especially young Singaporeans, speak up. I say young Singaporeans (those in school, about to leave school, or just starting work) because their life experience has been shaped differently from the rest. Already, they are studying with non-Singaporeans, interacting with them, and even doing National Service with them. Their parents and older folk have been shaped differently and will perhaps veer emotionally towards maintaining the status quo or hark back to a time before S-pass holders, Chinese national hawkers and Indian IT experts.

Anyway, it’s time the whole population talked. And I guess I still have to go read that Population report for a fuller picture.

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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