Potential citizens are vetted carefully: MM

Dear Mr Lee,

I refer to your comments made at the Tree Planting Day at Hendersen Heights as reported by Straits Times on 9 Nov 2009.

It is an understatement to say that Singapore is becoming a little uncomfortable and cramped. You should go to Raffles Place MRT in the mornings and evenings to see it for yourself.

You said that it is only through growth that Singapore can overcome the problems of the future. But what is the point of growth for growth’s sake? Ultimately, high growth is merely a means to the end of a high standard of living and not the end itself. The Western countries are not pursuing high growth. They have already reached a high level of prosperity, they work towards maintaining their high level of prosperity. In terms of per capita GDP, we have already reached their level of prosperity, its time we switched our minds to maintaining prosperity and not mindlessly pursuing growth for growth’s sake. The law of diminishing returns tells us that as we reach ever higher levels of output, our incremental effort for the next increase in output will become greater and greater until it is no longer worth our effort.

It’s like the char kuay tiao seller. There is only so much he can sell in a day. If he pushes himself to sell more than he can sell, he will end up spending more and more time to sell the next plate of char kuay tiao. He must come to a realisation that more time spent at work means less time available for family and leisure. Hence, growth is not free but comes at an ever increasing cost as output gets higher and higher. He should also realise that there is only so much money that he needs to live comfortably. Any extra that he tries so hard to squeeze out, he will not be able to bring to his coffin.

You said that our demographics will change from five workers supporting one elderly to 1.5 workers supporting one elderly and that will put a strain on us. But having more foreigners becoming citizens will merely delay, not solve the problem because the worker citizen of today will eventually become an elderly some day. In fact, this is not a problem at all but a necessary outcome of population stablilisation. Once population growth stabilises, the worker to old folk ratio would also stabilise which is not a bad thing. To maintain the five worker to one elderly ratio would simply mean an ever growing population in an already crowded, finite space. That is simply not possible without heavy sacrifices in space and cost of living.


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