Thursday, 31 January 2013

PAP, you don't need rocket science to solve population issues

31st January 2013


Populate or Pro-Create?

So the cat is finally out of the bag. All the talk, National Conversation, feedback, studies etc have resulted in what can be described as Singapore's worst kept secret - we are gonna have 7 million people by 2030 if all goes to plan.

Wait isn't it 6.9 million, not 7 million? It seems the Govt knows a bit about marketing gimmicks after all. Let's put it simply, if you're gonna sell a bag for $7, would it be better to sell if at $6.90 instead? After all what's 10cts when you have 7 dollars? 

So let's just cut to chase and say it's 7 million, like calling a flood a flood not ponding. But I did say it wasn't much of a secret. Actually if you trawl back to the early days of this population growth, 1 comparison stands out - ourselves and Hong Kong. You see Hong Kong has around 6 million people or more, and although it's size is larger than Singapore, it's livable space is only around 2/3 of Singapore. So back when the Govt had planned to up the population to the 5 million today, it was looking at Hong Kong. If I am not mistaken the plan was already there to have 6 million around 2015.

Now it appears it has been pushed back to 2020 and add another million by 2030. The most logical argument being that we are gonna be an aging society, and there is a need to have a workforce in place, and someone to look after us in our old age.

The ways to that simply put, is to give out a lot of perks for Singaporeans to have more babies, to bring in more foreign labour and grant citizenships and PRs. Whilst I am all for pro-creation, we must look at foreign labour and the issue of citizenship and PRs more closely. Foreign labour should never be an issue, you only hire what you want or need, usually young, fit and capable people. When they reach their expiry date, you ask them to leave and replenish them with equal replacements to fit into the industries that you need.

The key is to focus on which industries to have them or needs them, and which to ensure a higher local workforce. Even in industries that need them, you should always give more perks and benefits to those that hire local born labour. Let's face it we are not the poorest country in the world nor the richest, but we have enough to survive and maintain certain standards. (The PAP can trumpet this as a major achievement, I will gladly concede this)

Just look at some Gulf states, Australia and New Zealand. Yes they are bigger and have more land, but look at how stringent they are about foreign labour, how selective and how much benefits they give the local populace. My friend told me that in the UAE, the Govt gives local born Arabs a fair chunk of the profits from the oil industry or state wealth, but on condition they marry fellow local born Arabs, or remain single. The moment you marry a foreigner, these benefits are cut. For foreigners who aren't citizens, you gotta be happy with the high wages you earn and leave when the time is up. In many Gulf states, the local populace is lower than the total of foreigners working in the country, yet there is never an issue about population over-flow or the presence of foreigners in the country. The foreigners are hired to perform a job, nothing more.

Of course we aren't as rich as the Arab states, but we are far richer than many other Asian countries that we procure foreign labour from. Even the professionals from developed countries we hire come here because of the benefits, you think a German, Frenchman, Englishman or what have you, would leave their homelands to work here at equal pay or jobs that they can get back home?

There is no need to pander totally to the foreign workforce with all sorts of enticements, chief of which is to allow them buy public housing, bring their whole entourage here (families) give them citizenship and put them on the same queue as locals, or even higher up priority wise. Only for many of them, to sell these on at a higher profit, close shop and return to their homelands, in a far better state than the locals. Of course we want them to to return better off, but not at our expense.

You have to house them yes, you have to give them some benefits, but you must also tax them and ensure they only enjoy these benefits when they remain here for the purpose they are hired for. You don't build housing, improve the infrastructure etc for them and leave the local populace to pick up the tab, after they've used it and left, or even they remain, spend money that benefits them more than locals.

That is the main beef many Singaporeans have. We aren't against having foreigners here, we just don't want so rapid or dramatic a shift, that it burdens us financially, emotionally and makes us feel 2nd class in our own country. We want clear limits and demarcation between Singaporean citizens and foreigners. We don't want even PRs to enjoy the same benefits. PRs should enjoy more than just the ordinary foreign worker here on permits and employment passes, but never be on the same par as citizens. Other countries do this all the time, why must we different?

The Govt here is very selective on what statistics it uses. When it comes to the Law, it always says we have to be different and do what what is right for Singapore. But when it comes to costs, it says we live in a global world, and have to accept what's happening elsewhere. This 'different and same' game is used for many policies, so why can't we be the same as other countries when immigration, labour and population matters come to the fore? Why must we different since 'we live in a global world and must evolve to meet the challenges' - a term expounded many times by Ministers?

Finally the issue of 'newly minted citizens'. Again this must fulfill 2 main criteria - a) they must have money to contribute to Singapore's economy and b) they will contribute, if not rich enough to invest to the development of the country. This contribution must involve skilled labour and a long term contribution to Singapore, not just a short term benefit, before they rip up their passport, collect all the benefits and leave. There must be penalties in place for those who choose this route - no profiteering of HDB flat sales, CPF contributions other than their own have to taxed or penalised heavily - leaving them with only what they put in plus the accrued interest and any other measures to discourage this.

For those new citizens who want to bring in their families, they cannot expect to have priority over long term citizens here especially those by virtue of birth. They have to endure the same issues Singaporeans face before their whole families can become citizens as well. If they can't or don't want, then PRs is all they should get, not citizenship.

To boost population among local born citizens, relaxation of rules for those marrying foreigners. If you're Singaporean by birth and choose to marry say a Thai woman, who isn't very well educated, but she's committed to you, bears you children and will settle down here for life, then these people should not be penalised. Citizenship rules for these kinds of people must less stringent than those who come here as foreigners and become citizens - that is to say to say you take an Indian from India, give him citizenship and allow him to bring his whole family over from India. They should never be ahead of the former group except in exceptional cases, where the foreigner's contribution to the country is so special or note-worthy, it makes sense to offer him citizenship at a faster rate.

All sorts of rules must be in place to encourage the local population to pro-create and be able to sustain a meaningful balance between work and family. Public housing must be in the form of a home for the future, not a debt for life. Even adoption rules for those able to afford it but can't seem to have kids can be relaxed after the necessary checks are done.

6 million is a figure that many of us will be able to stomach, but after that, it must be very very stringent and at a pace that does not make Singaporeans or those born here at a disadvantage. The best thing about being a citizen is to feel love for your country and feel appreciated for it as well. If being a citizen makes you feel 2nd class in your own country or the same as any foreigner who resides here with you, then there's something dreadfully wrong in the country.

You don't need a rocket scientist to solve population issues, you need common sense above all else.
 article by ANYHOW HANTAM

No comments:

Post a Comment