Monday 24 September 2012

Mandarin forum "和总理对话"

Singapore could accommodate six million people in future
Channel NewsAsia, 22 Sep 2012

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore could accommodate six million people in time to come.

The country's total population stood at 5.26 million as of December last year.

Mr Lee was speaking to Singaporeans at a Mandarin forum hosted by MediaCorp on Singapore's future.

Thirty Singaporeans took part in the forum. Among them are educators, young parents, seniors and new citizens.

They raised issues ranging from pre-school education to Singapore's low birth rate and population.

The host, veteran presenter Chun Guek Lay, asked what Singapore's ideal population target is if it is to continue its economic progress.

"It's very hard to give a concrete figure, because the situation is evolving. We're gradually increasing our land area, and if we rebuild our older towns, then we can accommodate more people. Today our population is over 5 million. In the future, 6 million or so should not be a problem. Beyond that, we'll have to think more carefully," said Mr Lee.

Participants were polled on whether they think Singaporeans are accepting of foreigners. 77 per cent said "yes".

Another poll asked if Singapore should continue welcoming immigrants to boost the country's low birth rate. 67 per cent agreed.

The cultural impact of immigration was a key issue at the forum. Some participants said newcomers do not just bring new skills and business networks, they also enrich Singapore's culture and language.

"In the lift, when I hear my neighbours and their children speak perfect Mandarin, it makes my day!" said Chew Chong Kheng, producer-presenter from MediaCorp YES 93.3FM.

But not all agreed.

"Immigrants are not local people, after all. They are here because there are benefits. If this changes one day, they can migrate once again," said financial consultant Vincent Chua.

"Every individual's motivations and attitudes are different. Immigrants are not the only ones who can leave Singapore, because they are not rooted here. Many overseas Singaporeans, they may come home, or they may stay overseas for many years and take up foreign citizenship. We all know this happens. If new immigrants are willing to take root here and be loyal to Singapore, we should treat them graciously," said PM Lee.

Singapore granted some 16,000 citizenships to foreigners in 2011. Between 2008 and 2010, the figure was between 18,000 and 20,000.

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