Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Discontent over Singapore population plan

18 February 2013, 15:23

Singapore - At least 4 000 people braved heavy rain to stage one of Singapore's largest ever protests on Saturday, a further sign of discontent over immigration policies and growing income disparities under the long-ruling People's Action Party (PAP).

Parliament in the highly regimented city state last week approved a white paper that said the island's population of 5.3 million could grow by as much as 30% to 6.9 million by 2030, mostly through foreign workers to offset a chronically low birth rate.

Critics say the island is already too crowded, with a population density exceeding that of rival Asian business centre Hong Kong.

They blame the flood of foreigners over the past decade for stagnant wages, crowded trains and rising prices that put housing beyond the reach of the average Singaporean and say further inflows would change the very nature of the island.

Uniformed police were all but absent at the rally at Speakers' Corner in a park on the edge of Singapore's glitzy financial district - exempt from strict controls on assembly.

"You cannot bring in foreigners to compete with your people when you do little to look after them," said Leong Sze Hian, a financial planner, blaming lax immigration for stagnating real wages.

"It's not just low wage earners who are suffering. Median incomes are affected too and that's the people in the middle," he told Reuters.

One of the world's wealthiest nations

Tan Kin Lian, former CEO of Singapore's largest insurance firm, told the rally that Singaporeans needed "adequate wages, dignity in employment for all sectors of the workforce. Wages must be enough to raise a family."

Singapore, with a land area of 714km², is one of the of the world's wealthiest countries with a per capita GDP of $50 000.

It has been ruled since independence in 1965 by the PAP, credited with transforming the island from a British colonial outpost into a global business centre with clean streets, an efficient civil service and the world's highest concentration of millionaires.

Income inequality

Income inequality is among the highest in the developed world, however, and many Singaporeans struggle on an average monthly wage of about $3 300.

The cost of housing has doubled over the past decade and the cheapest new car costs about $81 000 due to taxes aimed at curbing vehicle ownership.

The PAP holds 80 of 87 elected seats in parliament despite recent electoral setbacks, including a dip in its share of the popular vote to about 60% in the 2011 general election.

As the rally proceeded, authorities said former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, the driving force behind Singapore's development and father of the current prime minister, was being treated in hospital for an irregular heartbeat.

It said Lee, aged 89, had recovered but would remain in hospital for a few days.

Authorities remain wary of social upheaval. A wildcat strike last year by bus drivers brought to Singapore from China, the first such work stoppage since 1986, led to the deportation of more than 20 of the strikers.

Obsessed with economic growth

The government says without new immigrants, the working-age population will start shrinking in 2020 while the total number of Singaporeans will begin to decline in 2025.

The paper has prompted worries that further immigration could alter the character of the island.

Singaporeans account for 62% of 5.3 million residents, down from 75% in 2000 and the government plans to give citizenship to between 15 000 and 25 000 foreigners each year.

Based on the white paper, the percentage of Singaporeans, including new citizens, will shrink to 55% by 2030.

Tan Jee Say, a former top civil servant turned opposition politician who also addressed the protest, accused the PAP of being obsessed with economic growth and ignoring the social costs of its immigration policy.

"The white paper will completely change the character of our nation - not just for 18 years but forever," he said.

- Reuters


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Shakila Alivitsa
Advice from a young married Kenya...

I was just going to get water in the office kitchen and thought a simple hi was fine until I ended up in an hour long conversation with someone. Read more...

Submitted by
Shakila Alivitsa
Helping you find the type of man ...

To put it simply, you can’t go looking for fish in a meat market; you have to go to a fish market. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Decision to leave ODM for Jubilee...

The decision to leave ODM for Jubilee is final, an MP has said. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
ODM accuses Jubilee Party of usin...

ODM claims that the Jubilee Party is using state resources to campaign in west Pokot. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
STATEMENT: Uhuru on Mandera attac...

President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks to Kenyans after Mandera Shabaab attacks leave 12 dead. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Mudavadi set for 2 month long wes...

Musalia Mudavadi is set for western Kenya campaigns.