YOUR VIEW: We don't have to be No.1 in everything

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The demonstration at Hong Lim Park on the 16th of February and the comments on social media that followed the event proved that a not insignificant number of people were against the government's Population White Paper.

These were everyday Singaporeans who were neither jingoistic nor racist; they were just voicing their displeasure against the proposals and what it would entail for them and the country. In their minds, among other concerns, was the fact that Singapore was already overcrowded and that increasing the population even more was not a good idea.

The government and other proponents of the plans outlined in the PWP insist on its necessity for Singapore's continued economic growth. At a recent forum conducted by the Economics Society of Singapore, NTU Professor Ng Yew Kwang spoke out against what he perceived were misconceptions that some people had regarding immigration and having a large population. Both the government and Professor Ng seem to forget how small this country is.

China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Nigeria are among the most populous countries in the world today. They are also disproportionately poor. Their cities are overcrowded, they face huge environmental challenges and an income disparity that is getting worse.

In contrast, nations like Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and Austria are some of the most affluent (in terms of per capita real GDP) but have disproportionately few people. The citizens of these countries enjoy an excellent standard of living and quality of life that is enviable.

Our first generation of leaders came to power when the country was still a third world nobody. They proved their mettle, earned the respect of the people and transformed Singapore into the modern and dynamic entity that it is today.

Our current generation of leaders took over a country with already strong institutions and a healthy, vibrant economy. It is up to them to safeguard and improve on what they inherited. Singapore is now a well-established global brand. On some economic indexes it is one of the best places to do business, live, work, study and play. We can and should be more discerning about the quantity and quality of people who are attracted here.

In my mind, progress should mean having more space, more quality time and living in an environment that brings out the best in each and every one of us. These are the conditions the government must try to create. For the NSman, it will be a home worth defending and for married couples a pleasant and humane place to bring up their children.

Hong Lim Park showed that Singaporeans are more politically aware and are quite prepared to show their displeasure. The government must not feel threatened by this. Instead, it is these very people that they should be engaging. Only then can government hope to heal the social rift that exists now and is slowly but surely widening.

We don't have to be No.1 in everything. Being very good is good enough. In that children's story, the Hare burned himself out trying to outrun the Tortoise. We don't want to end up like that. Slow and steady is good and less is more.  

Brian Vittachi, 56
Operations manager

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