Workers' Party secretary-general Low Thia Khiang took scathing shots at the population white paper in Parliament on Thursday, describing it as an "upside-down road map with no destination".
“As a rational and responsible co-driver, it is our duty to tell the driver that he is reading the road map upside down,” said the opposition leader.
Speaking strongly against the "worst-case scenario" of a 6.9 million population put forward by the paper, Low said that the government was attempting to use immigration as a short-term, easy solution to it’s bigger problems of a low fertility rate and a growing ageing population.
He dismissed recently enhanced baby-bonus incentives, saying that the PAP had missed the point.
“Why is the government continuing to use a method that has not worked?” asked Low, pointing out that the incentive method had been used – with little success – for the past 40years.
“Why does it not see that they are serious ‘road blocks’ such as high housing costs, lack of family and social support, lack of quality childcare options, and bad work life balance that are preventing young couples from marrying earlier and having more babies?”
Accusing the PAP of "kicking the can down the road" and refusing to deal properly with the falling fertility rate, Low described a possible scenario where there would soon be one new citizen for every baby born to existing Singaporeans.
“The solution must be focusing on promoting the quality of life for Singaporean families. By focusing on immigration the government is using the cause of the problems today as a solution for tomorrow. If you travel down this road map, Singaporeans will become a minority in their own country.” he said.
Low warned that Singapore’s fertility rate was a matter of national survival, He also said that the government had only an "ambiguous target with no specific time frame" to bring births up, and questioned if it would once again turn to more immigration if the problem was not solved by 2030.
This, he said, would lead to serious integration problems, going by the amount of friction and hostility towards new citizens and foreigners already happening in Singapore.
Low also said that the paper’s justification of increasing the immigrant population to support an ageing population reflected a wrong mindset.
“The government sees our senior citizens as fiscal and healthcare burdens,” said Low, adding that a serious mindset change was needed about the way the government perceived Singapore’s ageing population.
“Their solution is again immigration as though by increasing the support ratio, our senior citizens will be magically supported. Is the government admitting that the CPF scheme is causing insufficient savings and that our senior citizens will become a burden?”
Picking on the series of different terms which have been used to describe the 6.9 million population, from "parameters to "worst-case scenarios", Low said that that if the government was indeed taking the route to overprovide by 1 million, significant wastage could result.
“It would be a waste of our precious resources. The government holds the key to immigration, a tap that controls the water,” said Low, expressing doubt over the large margin of error that the paper provided for.
Finally, Low said that Singapore needed to cherish and protect what it had achieved, instead of focusing entirely on economic growth.
Warning that the paper was a road-map that would take Singapore on a "road of no return", Low concluded by stating the party's full opposition to the passing of the paper.
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