The Population White Paper: The hidden rationale for Singaporeans’ concern

Introduction

Singapore commemorates its golden jubilee this year with a slew of nation-wide events. This celebration serves as a point of reflection for Singapore’s achievement in the past 50 years. However, it is also timely and crucial to reflect on issues that had sparked tensions amongst the citizenry. The promulgation of the Population White Paper (PWP) and its impact on Singaporeans has been an issue widely written by many academics but the rationale for Singaporeans’ reaction over the PWP has yet to be explored in greater depth. This paper, thus, weighs in on the reasons for Singaporeans to be less inclined in accepting the PWP.

Singaporeans sent a strong signal to the ruling political party, the People’s Action Party (PAP), during the 2011 General Election where only 60 percent of the votes were cast in favour of the PAP. In comparison, they garnered 75.3 percent of the votes in the 2001 general election (Ho, S.,2014). In just a decade, the ruling party had suffered a loss of 15.3 percent of the votes. The waning popularity of the party could be attributed to several hot-button issues including large influx of migrants into the city state (Banyan, 2011). A survey done by Institute of Policy Studies revealed 52 percent of voters felt immigration was an important issue in the 2011 election (Institute of Policy Studies, 2011). It was often argued that the expansion of migrant population had made Singaporeans feel like ‘strangers in their own country’ (Jones, 2012, pp. 311-336) and ‘perceive and experience the presence of foreigners in the work setting as taking away their jobs’ (Sun, 2014). This had thus, created the “us/them (Vasu & Cheong, 2014, pp. 1-23) divide among Singaporeans and foreigners in the city state. As such, it was no surprise that some Singaporeans were less inclined in accepting the Population White Paper.

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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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