This reminds me of an old episode of Battlestar Galactica where a Cylon (a metallic, evil robot representing the Bad Guys) remarks that the human methods of replication are very inefficient. A baby human takes nine months to gestate; then after birth, it takes about 16 or 17 years to reach full maturity. Furthermore, a baby human requires an extraordinary amount of care. In contrast, a fully-functional Cylon can be manufactured within a day."Finally, let me talk about a major problem we face – population shortage. To keep our society lively and vibrant, we not only need our people to be healthy, but must also maintain our population .....
To sustain our growth and prosperity, we need to have enough people living and working in Singapore. This means that we must encourage families to have more children, and also attract more new immigrants here.
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."
As we can see, PM Lee's thinking is somewhat Cylonic. Faced with the challenges of baby-making, he decides to opt for "instant adults" from overseas. Fully functional - just like the "instant trees" that have been popping up around Suntec City this past week for the IMF/World Bank conference.
Maybe PM Lee needs to consider this - generally, human beings do not breed for the sake of sustaining the economy. Yes, Adolf Hitler did try to promote that idea, but he isn't exactly an ideal role model for any modern government today.
One problem with PM Lee's baby-making incentives is that they focus on the time of the child's birth (maternity leave; paternity leave; cash gift; tax rebates the following year) or at the most, the first few years (Edusave scheme). But raising a child is a much longer-term commitment, and Singaporeans know this.
I believe that most Singaporeans would view it as a basic parental responsibility to support their child (if they had one) at least until he/she completes secondary education (and in many cases, polytechnic or university education). Singaporeans who doubt that they can do this will likely choose not to have children.
I also suspect that the present generation of young Singaporean adults view parenting more seriously than past generations. Ironically, this is what deters many Singaporeans from having a child, or if they already have one, from having another one. Parenting is a very time-consuming activity if you want to do it properly - and it is a very important responsibility that cannot be lightly undertaken - that could be why many Singaporeans choose not to undertake it at all.