(1) Singapore faces the challenge of an ageing population (or so we're told). Current projections show that one in five Singaporeans will be over the age of 65 by 2030. The government therefore wants to encourage Singaporeans to have more babies.
(2) Singapore's economy lacks skilled manpower (or so we're told). The government wants to import huge numbers of foreign talents, to keep the economy going strong.
PM Lee's rally speech is perhaps the first time that the Singapore government has tied Point (1) directly to Point (2). Let's look at the relevant passage:
Something is very wrong with the above reasoning, and no one in the blogosphere seems to have pointed it out yet. So I guess I'll have to do the job again."Two years ago, we introduced major policy changes to encourage couples to have more babies. So far the results have been very modest. I understand why some Singaporeans do not want to have more children. But I have not given up hope and will continue to think of ways to encourage couples to have more babies.
Let me explain why we need new immigrants. To maintain a population of 4 million, Singapore needs at least 50,000 babies a year. Last year, we had 36,000 babies. This means that we are short by 14,000 babies. No matter how hard we try, it would be hard to produce another 14,000 babies. Hence we need to attract more immigrants."
This is it - babies are not adults. Adults are not babies. Let's imagine that PM Lee's baby-making incentives had succeeded beyond his wildest dreams and Singaporeans produced 75,000 babies last year. That means we would have 75,000 one-year-old cute little chubbies in Singapore today.
But babies can't work. They don't contribute to the economy. They're not research scientists, engineers, bankers or teachers. That would take another 20 to 25 years to happen.
Meanwhile, we import foreign talent. Let's say A*STAR finds a 40-year-old stem research scientist in the US and imports him into Singapore. He settles here, and because of his valuable skills, immediately starts contributing to the economy. However, he is not a baby.
In 20 or 25 years' time, he will be 60 or 65 years old and would have become one extra member in the senior citizen population for the Singapore government to worry about. In fact, the more we import foreign talent in their 30s and 40s, the greater our future "aging population" problem will become!
Of course, I have also oversimplified. The true dynamics are more complicated. For now, my point is just that PM Lee is talking nonsense here:
I see his attempt to tie the lack of babies to the immediate need for foreigners as just another sales strategy to convince the Singaporean public about his foreign talent schemes. Furthermore he gets to shift the blame ("See? YOU Singaporeans are not producing enough babies, so I, the Prime Minister need to import foreign talent").Last year, we had 36,000 babies. This means that we are short by 14,000 babies. No matter how hard we try, it would be hard to produce another 14,000 babies. Hence we need to attract more immigrants.
The truth is - babies are not adults. Adults are not babies. PM Lee is surely smart enough to see that. I think that he thinks you're not. Here's another example of his quicksell tactics, from April 2006.
Meanwhile, Singaporeans are getting fooled. Look at poor Ms Lee Pai Ping, writing to the online ST Forum:
Ms Lee Pai Ping, try to understand this. If today we import skilled foreigners in their 30s because we lack Singaporean working adults, then our problem isn't with young, married, childless Singaporean couples today. The problem really happened 30 years ago - when the government was busy telling young couples then to "Stop At Two".Aug 23, 2006
S'poreans have to pay a price for not heeding govt's plea for more babies
I missed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally Speech on television last Sunday.
When I read about it in The Straits Times the next day, a sudden sadness overwhelmed me.
The Singapore government has decided to be more aggressive in attracting immigrants with talents of all kinds to Singapore with the offer of Singapore permanent residence status, once purportedly aimed at graduates, professionals, bankers, lawyers and the like.
What a huge price Singaporeans have to pay for not heeding the government's persistent plea for higher birth rates among its people, and to be less picky about jobs.
I am for the Singapore government's move to import foreign talents to fill the gap and boost the economy by creating job opportunities as entrepreneurs.
But I shrug at the thought that some native Singaporeans, especially the young and educated of marrying age, do not think it their duty to marry and procreate as part of nation-building, and the unemployed who still fuss over jobs, choosing to remain jobless rather than accepting a job below their expectations.
Singaporeans should not be complacent. Nation-building is our utmost duty and responsibility.
Lee Pai Ping (Ms)
So no need to suffer all that guilt, Pai Ping. The government is to blame. That's what PM Lee doesn't want to tell you. He'd rather just blame you and make you feel bad instead.
Pai Ping isn't the only person who got suckered. Seems like a senior ST columnist also got suckered too. Click here to read the ST editorial of 22 August 2006. There he goes - putting the blame on "career-minded young couples" without kids. Or maybe the Straits Times guy does know the truth, but just wanted to perform one of those "nation-building-press" gymnastic tricks.