Thursday 27 September 2012

Population talk shouldn't inhibit proper planning

MANY Singaporeans are still puzzled and worried by the 6.5 million population parameter adopted since 2007 for our long-term physical planning ("PM quizzed on ideal population size at forum"; Monday).

Some even suspect a plan to grow the population to 6.5 million.

Negative notions outnumber positive ones, such as notions that 6.5 million people are too many to sustain, and that living quality would drop in the future.

Peak-hour transport congestion and temporary housing shortages are often cited to support the one-sided notions.

How public transport and housing can expand and improve through more investments and use of better technology in the next 30 years are not taken into account or are simply ignored.

Planning for future land use is a highly specialised task. Planners must track latest developments and foreseeable trends, and revise their assumptions and parameters when necessary.

These planners do not plan or decide our future population size; but they need to use, among other things, a population parameter to plan.

If they are discouraged from using a realistic population parameter or changing outdated assumptions, their professionalism will be compromised.

Our population has surged by about 670,000 people since 2007.

It may be unsurprising for urban planners, and planners for infrastructure construction for 2040 and beyond, to revise the population parameter upward again in a few years.

Planning long-term land utilisation and deciding how fast the population should grow now, and in the future, are three different matters.

We should explain this to more people, especially those who confuse physical planning with population planning.

Future population size will be determined by future Singaporeans when the time comes.

But, it behooves us to avoid under-planning now, as the mistake will be costly.

In our debate on population issues, we must be careful not to go overboard and skew planners from using their expertise.

We should give long-term planners the space and freedom to do what they do best, including those who plan for housing, transport, education, water and energy requirements.

Ng Ya Ken
ST Forum, 26 Sep 2012

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