Cabinet ministers over the past week sought to clarify the projections made in a government-issued white paper on Singapore’s population, saying the 6.9 million figure expected by 2030 is not so much a target but more a projection.
Most recently, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office S Iswaran said on Sunday at a dialogue in Jurong Central that the 6.9 million figure forms the upper bound of a range between 6.5 and 6.9 million people, by the year 2030.
“6.9 million is there to give an idea of the upper end, the upper bound of the possible scenarios we can see looking ahead for 18 years,” he said, according to local media reports.
“Why do we need to look at the upper bound? Because if you decide that... is the possibility even though it’s not a target, then we have to make decisions now about infrastructure,” he added. “It doesn’t mean we have to hit that number, but we have to prepare.”
Also speaking on Sunday, Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam reportedly said the white paper is intended to spur discussion on Singapore’s population situation in 20 years’ time.
Although economic growth rates were projected to be between 3 and 5 per cent up to 2020, and 2 to 3 per cent up to 2030, the minister said the actual rates depend on a variety of factors, including those of the external and internal environment.
“But the task of a responsible government will be to look at 20 years ahead, 15 years ahead, and say, ‘These are the possible, different things that might happen. Let’s talk about them now’,” he was quoted as saying.
He also said he could understand grouses from the public over the government’s population estimates.
“They say, ‘I have difficulties with infrastructure, transport, housing with today’s population and you want to increase it even more; doesn’t make sense.' That’s a reaction and it’s understandable,” he added.
Shanmugam said the government has to explain their need and resolve to solve the country’s current infrastructure problems. Regardless of the population size in the long term, infrastructure must be adequate and deliver a high quality of life, he noted.
“That has to be a cast iron position that the government has to deliver and will deliver,” he reportedly said.
Over the past week, the government also released a land use plan to accommodate its projections as stipulated in the White Paper.
Following that, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan declared that Build-To-Order (BTO) flat prices would remain affordable, even as the resale market continues to edge upwards.
He also reportedly said that “it’s possible” for the government to cater to a population of 6.9 million, even as it works to raise the quality of life for Singaporeans.
The Cabinet ministers' comments come after the white paper sparked a wave of negative sentiment against the government over the population numbers.