Singapore Must Get Smart and Trim Population

Importing People amid its Smart Nation Drive is Anomalous

It is election week in Singapore though I see no frenetic campaign activity. The Bishan housing estate I live in remains as quiet as always. A few elections ago I had seen then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong visit the area. Maybe I am not aware of such high-profile visits this time.

But I chanced to meet Dr Ng Eng Hen, Singapore’s Defence Minister, a few days ago at the Bishan bus interchange. I tried to walk past him fast, but he extended a smile and a handshake.

After introductions, I asked him how things were shaping up in terms of electoral preparations and campaigns for the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). He seemed to suggest things were going well, indicating elections are not as elaborate as one would see in India.  

Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence.

Dr Ng Eng Hen

Given the size of the country, it is natural for India to run into organisational challenges, he reckoned. India and the country’s jingoists always use that as an excuse for its inability to rise and shine.

No Coterie: Dr Ng was not surrounded by any coterie, he was on his own but PAP volunteers were there in the area, individually talking to people. It has always been like that in Singapore. MPs and Ministers do not have an aura of power and might around them.

With elections in Singapore set for September 11, I could see the PAP is not taking things lightly given the rising sentiment against the ruling party. I have no doubt the party will retain power but the opposition could come up with a greater presence in Parliament.

A PAP representative also visited our home today to seek our support. No opposition party has done that to date.

Singapore for Singaporeans: The electorate is increasingly veering around to the idea of “Singapore for Singaporeans first”. So, the Opposition parties are in a position to draw better support than ever before from voters.

Typically, every election had seen the PAP winning uncontested in many constituencies. But the PAP is not guaranteed such an easy ride this time with opposition candidates in the fray in every constituency.

I did not know Dr Ng personally but it was a brief and friendly conversation.

SG50Policy Changes Needed: The opposition threat is not big enough to keep the PAP away. But I can empathise with the opposition parties when they ask for changes to governmental policies on such critical areas as immigration, jobs for locals, priority for Singaporeans in admission to universities here and issues around the CPF and medical insurance.

But give them power and I am certain there will hardly be any big policy changes. It will be just as it is happening in India where the rise of the BJP to power has not resulted in any meaningful transformation of the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is generally following what the previous Congress government had been doing. It is just change of people running the government with no big departure in terms of governance.

So having excessive faith in the Opposition is not realistic. But they are fielding good-quality candidates this time.

Personally, I will want Singapore to have a roadmap to bring the population to around 4 million from 5.5 million, as I had argued in several of my posts in the past.

Singaporeans are being overlooked for every job in the country. Even entry-level jobs are being snatched from local graduates by foreigners here.

Education: Foreigners are able to find easy admission to universities here for key courses. Personally, I had to spend more than $200,000 in sending my daughter to a university in Australia so she can do of her choice.

The overall quality of life has taken a serious dip here because of the Government’s blind focus on boosting population here. This sounds crazy to me amid an environment where the world is increasingly moving towards automation, thanks to developments in Artificial Intelligence.

Boosting population is certain to take Singapore downhill in the long term where people will have fewer jobs in a technology-driven Smart Nation!

Some of my past posts relating to the key issues facing Singapore are:

G Joslin Vethakumar

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