GE2020: Government never targeted 10 million population – Heng Swee Keat

SINGAPORE - JULY 01: Candidate of Prime Ministry of Singapore Heng Swee Keat answers the questions of press members after meeting residents seeking support as the state goes to the polls for general elections in Singapore on July 01, 2020. Officials wore face masks during the campaign as maintaining social distance as a precaution against coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. (Photo by Zakaria Zainal/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat answering questions during a walkabout for the General Election. (PHOTO: Zakaria Zainal/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has refuted allegations by Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) secretary-general Chee Soon Juan that he had been “toying with the idea” of having a population of 10 million in Singapore.

In a post put up on his Facebook page on Thursday (2 July), Heng – who is the first assistant secretary-general of the People’s Action Party (PAP) – clarified that he “did not say” that Singapore should plan to increase its population to 10 million people, nor did he mention the figure.

“Let me be clear: The Government has never proposed or targeted for Singapore to increase its population to 10 million,” he wrote in his post.

“And if we look at today’s situation, our population is likely to be significantly below 6.9 million by 2030.”

Singapore’s current population is about 5.7 million.

Issue brought up during television debate

Dr Chee had brought up the issue during a televised English debate on Tuesday among representatives of four political parties ahead of General Election 2020.

He had cited a March 2019 dialogue held at the Nanyang Technological University, where Heng had said that Singapore's population density is not excessive.

Heng had also cited former Housing Board chief executive Liu Thai Ker, who had in 2013 raised the notion that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long term.

His comments were reported by The Straits Times, although the report neither quoted him as mentioning the figure, nor saying that Singapore should plan for 10 million people.

“I was asked at the NTU Student Union Ministerial Forum in 2019 about the Population White Paper. In my response, I mentioned that former chief planner Liu Thai Ker had publicly said that we should go for an even higher number,” Heng wrote in his Facebook post on Thursday.

“Far from endorsing this, I had explained that our population size was not just about physical space, but also about social space and how we can preserve a sense of togetherness.”

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