‘Little India’: Diverging Destinies in Heritage Spaces , pp. 3 of 10

The nexus between the three aforementioned public concerns relates back to recent shifts in Singapore’s demographic profile, an importance reflected in the prompt release of a Singapore Government Population White Paper (2013). This detailed document forecasts a substantial population increase from 5.31 million in 2012 to a predicted high-range estimate of 6.9 million by 2030, but there is no addendum explaining why the world’s second densest sovereign state after Monaco (population 37,000) needs to add to congestion levels. The notion that Singapore’s land area has grown by 23% 1965 is not countered by the reality that population growth over the same period increased by 265%. The White Paper does not fully engage with the fact that Singapore’s resident fertility rate (TFR) which has been below replacement level for some four decades now and currently sits at 1.2, possibly the lowest in the world, has been steadfastly unresponsive to successive enhancements of the government “Marriage and Parenthood Package”. New initiatives to link marriage and parenthood to HDB (Housing and Development Board) flat provision would seem to address some concerns relating to housing affordability but any positive fertility trends are unlikely to have significant demographic impact before 2030.

The White Paper champions the worth of a strong Singaporean core to pass on the nation’s values and sense of belonging but the estimated increase in citizen numbers (including newly granted citizenships) will be at best half a million, that is an increase of just 15% to 2030. With the recommendation that PRs be held at a steady 0.5/0.6 million through to 2030, the bulk of population increases will take place in the non-resident category which is predicted to increase by a much larger 67% to 2030. Whilst non-residents represent a flow rather than a fixed number, it is the dramatic increase in this category that has seen the proportion of citizens to total population reduced from 86% in 1990, to 62% in 2012 and a forecast 55% by 2030. In this respect the White Paper which cites extensive public engagement through dialogue sessions, website and solicited feedback appears to recommend a “new normal” status quo ante rather than a sustainable vision for an optimum population. Public unease over the contents of the document, most specifically the perceived dilution of the Singapore core for relentless economic pursuit was widely voiced in Singapore’s online community and then physically marked by an organised rally of some 4,000 protestors at Speakers Corner, that was in itself a landmark moment in fostering notions of debate, discussion and challenge (Yahoo 16 Feb 2013).

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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