berthahenson

A non-conversation

In News Reports, Politics, Society on February 1, 2013 at 3:47 am

Hah. So Singapore will grow in size after all to hold our huddled masses. Although looking at the map on ST’s page 1, you wouldn’t have a clue as to what was going on? What in heaven’s name is that? A map of a bigger Singapore? If so, which parts? Seems a waste of space to me – just a cut-off of Singapore with pictures superimposed on it.

Back to the point:
You know, there are a few things which stood out for me in today’s extensive reports of land use, but they have nothing to do with the proposals. It’s a lot to process…

I am referring to what some ministers said:

DPM Teo Chee Hean: “Let me be clear, the White Paper focuses on the interests and benefits of Singaporeans.’’

Hmm….I should certainly hope so. I wonder if DPM Teo realises how he comes across…In my view, he sounds pissed. At the way people don’t seem to understand the rationale for the White Paper? That we’re not sure that the G has done its best to balance the no-immigrant camp and the more-immigrant camp scenarios?

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan: “Please don’t worry.’’

Thank you very much for the assurance but, of course, we worry. We should. We shouldn’t be expecting the G to do all our worrying for us. We want to be assured that we are in good hands, and raise questions and concerns.
There are other reports too which made me wonder what was going on.

PMO Minister Lim Swee Say: “Just imagine if 10 years ago, we had a Singapore Conversation to talk about one day 10 years from then… population may reach 5.4 million, then start to put in place infrastructure, housing, MRT. Today, we will be much better off, isn’t it?”

Aaah…so the Singapore Conversation is about this? As expected, the report in ST showed that the focus of participants was on the population report. You know what? Why wasn’t it a Green Paper, which is meant for public consultation and therefore can be the subject of the Singapore Conversation? Why is it a White Paper, which is a firmer indication of what is to come?

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who heads the Singapore Conversation team, was also at the same event as Mr Lim. Rather intriguingly, he said the Singapore conversation should not stop despite the White Paper. There was “value in having both of them in parallel, he added, though he did not elaborate’’. Good on ST to point this out.

So could he please elaborate? Because why is he having a conversation with the rest of us when some directions have been set for the country in the White Paper? No way, we can change directions now right? I mean, all that work by civil servants will go to waste.

You know what. Actually I think we should be thankful to have such a meticulous and hardworking Government. It is quite wonderful to see how the different agencies have come together to put up a package that encompasses so much, whether green spaces for parks, more homes, transport, creating a babydom, more living space through reclamation, more university places…

I think an earlier generation would probably sit back and let the Government do all the thinking and work everything out for us. But times, they are a-changing. People will be obsessed with headline figures, yes, but I can bet that many are poring over the details or even coming up with radical ways of solving the population dilemma, like fining every couple who don’t want children to help pay for those who do!

This is why the timing of the Population report in the midst of an on-going Singapore Conversation is so disconcerting to me. The Government wants to be efficient in making projections, yet make a show of consulting the people? Those projections must also be based on Singaporeans’ values and attitudes, for example, towards foreigners, meritocracy, work stress.

What is our Singapore Conversation going to be about now?

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  1. I think the Singapore Conversation was less about getting feedback & 2-way communication. Instead it’s more about convincing Singaporeans that an ever-growing population is the best way forward.

    Starting the Singapore Conversation BEFORE the White Paper at least gives the impression that feedback was taken into consideration…..and most probably some feedback like “shortage of skilled labor” from the various industry bodies was taken into consideration to reinforce the validity of the White Paper.

    Starting the Singapore Conversation AFTER would have created more (negative) emotions on the 6.9Million figure.

    So still a politically advantageous tactic.

  2. just wondering, at the press conferences, you see the whole array of PAP office holders … but Tharman is nowhere to be seen or heard …

  3. For one, the Conversation is definitely not going to be about taking our views into account. The NPTD had engaged over 2,200 individuals and representatives from various stakeholders and organisations and received more than 2,500 pieces of feedback for the White Paper. Did they listen? Was the White Paper the result of this feedback and engagement? No. In their website, population.sg, you can read the summary of feedback on immigration. I quote: “Many contributors said that it was important to prevent our citizen population from declining, to maintain our Singaporean core and identity, and sustain the Singaporean workforce. However, many preferred to do this by increasing our birth rates, rather than through immigration.” Also, “Some called for the Government to reduce the inflow of immigrants. They expressed the view that the rapid pace of immigration had adversely affected our social harmony, diluted the Singapore identity and increased the cost of living. A number questioned the motivations and loyalty of new immigrants to Singapore. Others were concerned that Singapore’s land size and infrastructure could not accommodate further population growth…” See – the feedback they gotten was not factored into the White Paper.

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