Singapore Aims for More Babies, Immigration

Mon Nov 29, 2004 09:49 AM ET

By Jason Szep

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore, facing a record-low birth rate and an aging workforce, is aiming for a 40 percent rise in the number of babies born a year following new pro-fertility steps designed to rekindle the embers of romance.

Singapore’s government was also looking at other ways to expand its population, including increasing its foreign workers, said Junior Finance Minister Lim Hwee Hua, a member of the government’s “Working Committee on Population.”

Singapore is grappling with one of Asia’s lowest birth rates, with the number of babies born each year well below the 2.1 per woman needed to replenish its population.

In an interview with Reuters, Lim said Singapore needed more babies and more foreign workers to counter a rapidly aging workforce and to fill jobs in service industries that will lead Singapore in a new era of competition from China and India.

“We do need a critical mass,” she said.

The size of that mass is a source of speculation.

Dianel Lian, Southeast Asian economist at Morgan Stanley, said in a recent report that Singapore may be on the cusp of a monumental policy shift that could lead to a doubling in its current population of 4.2 million over the long term.

Its about to get damn crowded in Singapore…

The actual figure from Morgan Stanley is quoted below along with a link to the actual article.

The following is the introduction to an article from Morgan Stanley written by Daniel Lian on September 10, 2004. It is of course not a public government backed announcement just their speculation of the future population size, is it possible and what effect might it have on the market…. However if it in any way relates to the future population size then its going to get damn crowded.

A Bigger Singapore?

A Monumental Population Policy Shift?

On September 3, the Singapore government announced measures to broaden immigration criteria, so as to boost its population. The key criteria shift appears to be on academic qualifications and social integration. The previous emphasis on tertiary or professional qualifications is now balanced by essential/appropriate job skills needed by the Singapore economy, as well as the ability of the immigrants and their families to integrate successfully into Singapore’s society. Prior to the shift, Singapore had always preferred to take in well educated (or wealthy, in some cases)

foreigners, so as to enlarge its pool of highly skilled labour.

The announced new measures do not seem to be drastic at first glance. However, we believe Singapore can leverage a much bigger population to help it ‘sharpen’ its three-pronged economic strategy. While we are not privy to any policy insight, we believe it is quite possible that the country will contemplate a monumental shift in its population policy – one that would substantially increase its population from the present 4 million to perhaps 6 to 8 million over the long term.

For the rest of the article read…

Demographic and Labor Force Snapshots

The following are links to two of my previous posts on the birth rate in Singapore.

Birth Rate

The Battle of Sexuality


Singapore’s Jeyaretnam says career in politics likely over

The Star online

SINGAPORE (AP) – Veteran opposition figure Joshua “J.B.” Jeyaretnam said Friday his political career is likely over after an appeal’s court in Singapore ruled he is bankrupt, a decision that bars him from parliament.

“I have not received the justice that I had a right to expect from the court,” he told The Associated Press.

Jeyaretnam – a thorn in the flesh of the long-ruling People’s Action Party – has for years been embroiled in a thicket of libel and defamation lawsuits, many brought by PAP stalwarts.

The former head of the Workers’ Party was declared bankrupt in January 2001 after missing a single payment from a 500,000 Singapore dollars (US$290,000; euro220,000) libel lawsuit filed by PAP members.

Singapore law bars people declared bankrupt from standing for elected office.

Earlier this year, Jeyaretnam twice tried and failed to get the city-state’s lower courts to set aside the bankruptcy ruling.

The moves were opposed by many of his creditors, including former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Jeyaretnam said Friday he can’t run for office again unless “someone gives me the money to pay off the entire sum.”

The PAP was founded by Lee Kuan Yew – Singapore’s founding father and Jeyaretnam’s longtime political foe.

It has won every election in the city-state since independence in 1965.

Jeyaretnam won a hotly disputed by-election in 1981 as the only opposition member in parliament. – AP

If Jeyaretnam goes it further undermines the PAP’s claims that there is a place for opposition parties in Singapore. Surely the grossly overpaid ministers could band together and pay off this debt. If they don’t then they have simply undermined any credible claim to being democratic, by the over zealous use of the independent judiciary system in Singapore.

Well done ministers, in the eyes of democracy watchers around the world you have just shot yourself in the foot.

Singapore’s leading opposition figure loses appeal

The Star online

SINGAPORE (AP) – Singapore’s leading opposition figure has lost an appeal to be discharged from bankruptcy, a court ruled Thursday, effectively disqualifying him as a candidate in the next general election.

The Court of Appeal’s judgment is the latest legal setback for Joshua ‘J.B.’ Jeyaretnam, 79, who for many years has been embroiled in a thicket of libel and defamation lawsuits, many brought by stalwarts of the long-ruling People’s Action Party, or PAP.

Under Singapore law bankrupt individuals are not allowed to stand for Parliament.

Jeyaretnam was declared bankrupt in January 2001 after missing a single payment from a 500,000 Singapore dollars (US$290,000; euro220,000) libel lawsuit filed by PAP members.

He still owes a portion of the court-awarded damages.

Earlier this year, Jeyaretnam twice tried and failed to get the city-state’s lower courts to set aside his bankruptcy.

The moves were opposed by many of his creditors, including former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, who now holds the title of senior minister.

Jeyaretnam argued in those cases and his appeal that his creditors were opposing his discharge for political reasons, to keep him from running for elected office.

Thursday’s judgment – written by Justice Chao Hick Tin – said the appeal judges could not fault the earlier judge’s decision.

“There is no basis for us to overturn the decision of the court below. The judge has not erred,” said the judgment, a copy of which was faxed to The Associated Press.

The Court of Appeal agreed it was “premature” to discharge Jeyaretnam’s bankruptcy status, in part as his assets had not yet been fully determined.

In particular there remained a dispute over Jeyaretnam’s possible ownership of a property in neighboring Malaysia worth an estimated S$328,000 (US$190,000; euro145,000), the judgment said.

Singapore’s top PAP members have a long history of suing their political opponents for libel and defamation.

They argue that the lawsuits are the best way of protecting their reputations.

Jeyaretnam’s loss of the appeal, which was dismissed with legal costs, comes amid recurrent talk in Singapore that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong could soon call snap elections.

Lee, who took the reins from Goh in August, is the elder son of modern Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew.

Lee the elder and Jeyaretnam are long-time political foes and regularly clashed in Parliament in the 1980s.

Jeyaretnam rocked Singapore’s staid political scene in 1981 by winning a hotly disputed by-election.

At that time, he was the only opposition member in Parliament. – AP

…abuse of state resources…

Just out of curiousity, is the printed press in Singapore mentioning what is occurring in the Ukraine at the moment? Are the journalists drawing any parallels with a small country in South-East Asia?

The abuse of state resources sounds familiar.

Observers denounce Ukraine election

Staff and agencies

Monday November 22, 2004

Foreign observers said today that Ukraine’s presidential elections, which have been marred by allegations of intimidation and voter fraud, did not meet international standards.

The joint mission representing the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and Nato said its officials observed abuse of state resources in favour of the pro-Russian prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych.

The same group of observers denounced the election’s first round, which took place on October 31, and said authorities had failed to fix the flaws.

Bruce George, the official in charge of the monitoring operation, said: “With an even heavier heart than three weeks ago, I have to repeat the message from the first round; this election did not meet a considerable number of international standards for democratic elections.

“The deficiencies have not been addressed. The abuse of state resources in favour of the prime minister continued, as well as an overwhelming media bias in his favour,” he said.

With almost all the results counted after the polls closed late yesterday, official figures showed Mr Yanukovych held a narrow lead over pro-western opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko.

Exit polls, however, showed the challenger ahead, prompting claims from Mr Yushchenko and his supporters that the government had falsified the results.

Tens of thousands of Yushchenko supporters brought the city centre to a halt, pitching tents in the middle of Khreshchatyk, Kiev’s tree-lined main thoroughfare.

Mr Yushchenko addressed the crowd, saying he had no confidence in officials conducting the count. Supporters braved sub-zero temperatures in orange scarves, sweaters and headbands – the colour of his campaign. Banners with the candidate’s portrait hung from buildings and a bridge.

“Remain where you are,” he told the 50,000-strong gathering in Independence Square. “From all parts of Ukraine, on carts, cars, planes and trains tens of thousands of people are on their way here. Our action is only beginning.”

He called for cancellation of results in districts of eastern Ukraine, Mr Yanukovich’s stronghold, where he said turnout had exceeded the number of voters on lists. He also demanded an emergency session of parliament.

The rival candidates presented Ukraine with a stark choice for its future, 13 years after independence from Soviet rule. The prime minister seeks closer ties with Moscow, while the challenger calls for gradual integration with the rest of Europe.

In a bitter campaign, Mr Yanukovich accused the challenger of causing Ukraine’s current problems during his earlier stint as prime minister and Mr Yushchenko fought back by branding the prime minister unfit for office because of convictions for theft and assault in his youth.

Don’t expect to practice the journalism of fairness and forthrightness

Letter from Singapore, printed in full

Published by on 2004-11-19

Not so long ago, an important member of India’s federal cabinet took me aside and asked why was it that Singaporeans were racist. I was floored by the question, which the official asked in all earnestness. In his long career dealing with ethnicities and communities all over the world, he said, he had never quite encountered the sheer arrogance and hubris demonstrated by Singaporeans.

“They think that they know it all,” he said, noting the absurdity of a nation of four million people taking on a country of 1.2 billion people. “Even a minor Singaporean official will talk down to someone as senior as me.”

I don’t know if I fully agree with the cabinet official. Singapore and India, in fact, have been working hard at building stronger political and economic relations: they are about to sign a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), which covers not only trade but also investment and services. The Indian government hopes that Singapore, which has US$1.3 billion invested in Indian technology and telecommunications companies, will bring in an additional US$2.5 billion to help build India’s languishing infrastructure next year. Singapore, in fact, is the biggest Asian investor in India, and third only to Mauritius and the United States. Singapore – whose GDP of US$100 billion is less than a sixth of India’s – expects to attract more Indian hi-tech professionals, and also hopes that India will use it as an offshore center for financial transactions.

Unlike my friend, the Indian cabinet official, I don’t believe that this is a racist society. Indeed, I have been overwhelmed by the good will and graciousness of everyday Singaporeans. It’s easy to make friends here, and people have been uniformly and extraordinarily kind to me. In fact, I have been genuinely touched by the gestures of sweetness and thoughtfulness from everyday Singaporeans.

But this is certainly a “rules-driven society” – in the words of my friend Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani, a Singaporean of Indian descent who was his country’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations and is now Dean of the new Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy here in Singapore.

Ironically, it was my article about the new School – named in honor of Singapore founding father – that may have precipitated my involuntary departure from The Straits Times on November 16.

But before I come to a fuller examination of the episode, let me say a word or two about the paper, which will be 160 years old next year. It’s a beautifully designed paper, with 90 percent of a typical day’s edition of 200 pages consisting of ads. I was hired in March 2004 as its global-affairs columnist. I wrote columns under my own byline three or four times a week; I also wrote at least one or two longish analytical features and profiles each week. And I wrote unsigned editorials (which are called leaders here, in the British fashion) mainly on developing countries, international finance, global politics, India, and the Middle East – subjects that I’ve long covered in a journalistic career spanning four decades.

The Straits Times has no competition in Singapore. It’s owned wholly by a company called Singapore Press Holdings, whose stock is sold publicly but whose affairs are closely monitored by the government of prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, son of Singapore’s founding father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

The paper is run by editors with virtually no background in journalism. For example, my direct editor was Ms Chua Lee Hoong, a woman in her mid 30s. She was an intelligence officer. Other key editors are drawn from Singapore’s bureaucracies and state security services. They all retain connections to the state’s intelligence services, which track everyone and everything.

At the newspaper, I was struck by the total absence of conversation or banter in the huge newsroom. Having spent two decades at the New York Times, including my student days in the United States, and having run my own newspaper subsequently, The Earth Times – not to mention my 18-year tenure as a columnist at Newsweek International, plus 16 years at Forbes as a contributing editor – I was accustomed to the spirited atmosphere of news rooms, not to mention disagreements and disputes.

I believe that what precipitated my termination from the paper on the morning of Tuesday, November 16, was my refusal to include in the article about the LKY School some falsehoods about Mr. Mahbubani that two editors suggested that I should insert. They both claimed that Mr. Mahbubani has had problems with the nation’s security services and that he was viewed as a radical when he was a student at what was then the University of Singapore (now National University of Singapore).

There was no way that I could independently confirm such suggestions. Moreover, I believe they were false. Mr. Mahbubani may have been a student activist in his writings for the university newspaper – but since then has distinguished himself for nearly four decades as Singapore’s emissary in various places. The fact that he was named head of the LKY School is testimony to the high regard in which he is universally held. (His first book, “Can Asians Think?” was a best-seller in Asia and Europe, and also did pretty well in the United States. His next book will be published in the spring by Public Affairs in New York.)

It would have been simply inappropriate to include unsubstantiated stuff about Mr. Mahbubani’s alleged radicalism during his student days. And it’s highly unlikely that he would have risen as high as he has, had he been really considered a national security risk. My own feeling is that among some of the intelligence and bureaucratic types who run the Straits Times, there isn’t universal good will toward the LKY School or its dean.

Like newsrooms everywhere, the newsroom of the Straits Times has its share of jealousies, resentments and fiefdoms.

It is also a poorly run organization. For example, my editor, Ms Lee, killed a substantial quote that I obtained from Mr. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, chairman and publisher of the New York Times, on the grounds that he was “distracting.” When I wrote an e-mail note to Arthur, whom I’ve known for a long time, to explain why his generously given quote to me was not used, here’s what I received from Mr. Cheong Yip Seng, the editor-in-chief of the Straits Times:

we do not do this on this paper, namely apologise to a newsmaker whose quote we did not use. if i were the newsmaker, i would think poorly of the paper. if the nyt uses every quote of a noteworthy newsmaker, they will need to double the pages they use daily.

—– Forwarded by Cheong Yip Seng/SPH on 14/11/2004 06:37 PM —–

Needless to day, Mr. Cheong missed my point entirely. Arthur Sulzberger had made a special effort to communicate with me from 13,000 miles away to give me a long personal statement about the New York Times and its directions. I used the quote in a column on the media, but, of course, it was edited out. I felt that in view of my own long tenure at the Times, and my friendship with Arthur, I owed him an explanation, at the very least. It was common courtesy on my part, not brown-nosing to Arthur, who doesn’t take to kindly to obsequiousness anyway.

Ms Chua, my editor, also killed two other exclusive interviews I’d obtained in recent days, mainly through my access to important people gained over four decades in international journalism. She said that what was said by Dr. Supachai Panichpakadi, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, and Mr. Peter G. Peterson, Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations – and the author of a recent best-seller – was “boring.”

In fact, both were timely interviews. Dr. Supachai spoke about ending textile quotas which, starting in December, will give developing nations unprecedented access to the markets of industrialized nations. And Mr. Peterson spoke about the troubling U.S. deficits, and how both Republicans and Democrats have been irresponsible about dealing with the current-account deficit that’s expected to balloon past US$600 billion this year.

Ms Chua further recommended that I should turn to a white colleague in the news room for lessons on how to ask questions. Since I didn’t come to the Straits Times to be re-educated in journalism – after a pretty distinguished career of my own – I felt that her advice was inappropriate. She was, of course, well within her rights to kill any story she wanted, but people like Dr. Supachai and Mr. Peterson aren’t usually accessible to inconsequential newspapers such as the Straits Times.

Be that as it may, I thought that the editor – who was trained as an intelligence officer, not as a journalist – was way out of line in recommending that, at age 56, I take lessons in journalism from a white man at the paper. Among the things that I was hired for, incidentally, was mentoring young people at the Straits Times.

Now some people I know in Singapore regard Ms Chua’s behaviour as racism. I do not. But another episode in the news room last week certainly suggested racism to me. A Chinese colleague of mine – a fellow columnist named Mr. Andy Ho – had changed the thrust of my column on Diwali, which happens to be a national holiday here. While his technical editing was superb – and I told him that – what appeared in the paper subsequently simply wasn’t my voice.

When I approached Mr. Ho about this, he waved me away in our newsroom like one would a persistent beggar. Perhaps he did not realise the significance of that gesture when directed at a Hindu-born person like me, however secular I may be in my sensibilities.

But he repeated his gesture in a manner that was so dismissive that I then addressed him by the only appropriate response, a barnyard epithet. I was struck, not by his gesture alone – I’ve seen worse during a career in journalism spanning four decades – but by the expression on his face. It left no doubt in my mind whatsoever that he would qualify for what my friend, the Indian cabinet official, would most certainly call a racist.

“Racist” is a hot-button word, never to be employed lightly. As an Indian-born, US-educated journalist, I have never been exposed to racial discrimination. Quite the contrary. America – supposedly still a land of great racial divides – has been generous to me, truly a land of monumental opportunities.

But here’s another anecdote concerning a Singaporean that was certainly sobering to me when it happened.

Some time ago, a recruiter from a venerable Singaporean institution looked me up in New York, my home since I was in my early twenties. I was being offered a job, but at a salary far less than a white gentleman I knew with considerably less experience. Why was that?

“Because you are an Indian,” the woman recruiter said.

“I’m an American,” I replied.

“It doesn’t matter what your nationality is,” she said. “You are a person of Indian origin, and that’s how our compensation is structured.”

Needless to say, it was an offer that I had no problems refusing.

Years later, when I finally arrived in Singapore – which was some months ago – I was quite astonished to see how many non-Singaporean Indians in professional positions were serving with coolie-like servility that they would never display back at home. What was going on here?

“You have to play by the rules,” one Indian-born colleague said. “You cannot shake the boat too much. In fact, you dare not shake it at all. The money is good here, so I can swallow an insult or two.”

The behaviour of Ms Chua, the editor, may be simply the kind of office politics that people holding power engage in every now and then. But it’s also part of a broader attitude that I detect among many Singaporeans in journalism’s top echelons here – that no one else’s record or accomplishment or opinion counts but theirs. Any divergence of view is immediately regarded as subversive dissent.

This is an important point because if Singaporeans are going to be perceived as filled with hubris and an unbending my-way-or-highway attitude, it is going to be increasingly difficult for this country to attract the talent it needs to sustain its economic ambitions. In fact, young Singaporean professionals are emigrating to Australia and Europe in record numbers because they feel stifled here.

For example, I would be very curious to see how many top-notch Indian professionals in technology and the sciences actually wind up in Singapore once the ambitious Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement is signed this month by Prime Ministers Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and Manmohan Singh of India.

Why am I sceptical that there isn’t exactly going to be an exodus from India to Singapore? Precisely because of what that Indian cabinet minister told me. Singapore can attract all the cheap coolie labour it might want, but the word has gotten around in the Indian professional community that this isn’t the place to come for personal and cultural fulfilment.

One Indian sociologist put it very succinctly, if harshly: “Yes, Singapore will get all the white trash it wants. Yes, it will get all the brown trash it wants. Anything’s better than living in villages without electricity. But it’s going to have problems getting the brown sahibs it needs.”

Without those brown sahibs, Singapore will lose out to its neighbours in the great globalisation game. Already, its consumer prices and cost-of-living are driving potential talent to places like Bangkok, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi aren’t such bad places to live and work in either, especially if you are in the technology sector.

Singapore, in short, is facing severe competition, and it’s falling behind already. Does that mean by calibrating its culture to be more welcoming to outsiders is the answer? It’s one answer, certainly. Does that mean Singaporeans should tolerate dilution of high professional standards? Certainly not. But why would any self-respecting professional coming to work here want to compromise his own standards?

And so back to that question: Are Singaporeans racist? Well, of course some of them are, just as surely some Americans are, and Australians and Argentineans and, dare I say, even Indians.

But Singapore lives in a unique goldfish bowl, and its own standards of economic excellence require its citizens to be more sensitive and magnanimous when it comes to dealing with outsiders. After all, Singapore has created a pretty well-functioning secular society for itself – even though one might argue that, in the cultural scheme of things, Tamils and Malays play second sitar to the Chinese.

This is such a beautiful place with such beautiful and giving people. It’s hard not to be a well-wisher. But the Straits Times as a model of dynamic, open-minded journalism? It will happen on the day that it starts to snow here on the equator.

So what am I going to do next? A book or two to complete. Plenty of museums to visit in Singapore. Certainly scores of great food joints. Nice people to spend time with, as long as I avoid the paper’s editors, of course.

Would I still recommend Singapore as a place to visit? Yes, I would, most definitely. And as a place to stay? Yes, I would, most certainly. But don’t expect to practice the journalism of fairness and forthrightness. This simply isn’t the place for that. At least, not as long as nail-pullers are running the news room. I got out before they pulled out my nails. But it still hurts.

Pranay Gupte,

Senior Writer and Global-Affairs Columnist

Singapore’s Founder Attacks ‘Rough, Dumbed-Down Britain’

From the Scotsman.

Reading the following while eating my morning cereal I actully laughed so hard that my breakfast fell on the floor. Is the M&M saying that Singapore is everything Britain is not? Elitist…Cultivated…Well-mannered…

Wonderful insight into the mind of a great statesman. Very much aligned with conservative, upper-class, Prince Charles types.

Singapore’s Founder Attacks ‘Rough, Dumbed-Down Britain’

Singapore’s founding father says today British society has become “rougher” over the past half century, and the country’s politicians and media now denigrate excellence.

“Their media and politicians are anti-elitist, denigrating excellence, wanting to dumb other people and institutions down to the lowest common denominator, to avoid anyone being inferior,” Lee Kuan Yew said, according to a report in The Straits Times.

Lee, one of Asia’s most respected elder statesmen, was speaking at a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the city-state’s long-ruling People’s Action Party.

In his address, which was reprinted in the newspaper, Lee named several societies he said he knew well that had changed over the party’s lifetime. He listed former colonial power Britain, Japan and China.

“The people of Britain of the 1940s where I was a student were a cultivated people, polite and well-mannered,” Lee said.

“Now the texture of British society is rougher. Courtesy is less evident. Everyone demands his right to a higher place in society, and a bigger piece of the economic pie.”

Lee, who has the title minister mentor, said British politicians were no longer polite but instead shouted at each other in parliament. Social and sexual mores were “no longer prim and proper”, he added.

Lee said Britain’s top universities – Oxford, Cambridge and London – were under pressure to accept students from state schools. This left students from privately-funded schools at a “disadvantage”.

Under Lee’s stern leadership Singapore was transformed from an unexceptional Asian port city in the 1950s into one of the richest countries in the region today.

Singapore’s gay sex prohibition slammed

(Agencies)China Daily

Updated: 2004-11-21 16:44

A group that promotes AIDS awareness blasted a Singapore law that prohibits gay sex, saying it impedes efforts to educate homosexuals about the dangers of HIV transmission through unsafe sex.

Stuart Koe, head of the Fridae Asian gay and lesbian network, also rejected recent criticism by Singapore’s minister of state for health, Balaji Sadasivan, who said the advocacy group Action for AIDS was “not doing enough” to fight the spread of the disease.

“Since gay sex is illegal, how then can any agency or organization in Singapore promote safe sex among men … without being complicit in abetting illegal activity?” a statement on Fridae’s Web site said Sunday.

Singapore, a country of 4 million people, bans gay sex, defining it as “an act of gross indecency” punishable by a maximum of two years in jail. There have been few prosecutions, however.

Koe accused the government of neglecting the threat to gay men by failing to target them in its AIDS awareness campaign.

“Singapore’s public health service has systematically ignored and left (gay men) out of all its public health messages,” Koe said.

Health ministry officials said they could not respond immediately when contacted Sunday.

Officials have said previously that the campaign against AIDS does not promote condom use to fight the disease out of respect for Singaporeans who hold conservative views about sex.

AIDS activists in Singapore have urged authorities to curb what they say is an “alarming” rise in the number of gay men infected with HIV on the island.

HIV infections among homosexual men in Singapore rose from 12 cases reported in 2000 to 40 cases in 2003, according to health ministry statistics. In the first 10 months of 2004, 77 new HIV cases were reported among homosexual men.