Immigrants a solution to ageing population: MM

Dear Mr Lee,

I refer to your comments made at the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Singapore’s 40th anniversary celebrations as reported by Straits Times on 11 Dec 2009.

You said old people don’t change cars, television sets or golf clubs every year. Neither do younger people. In fact, changing cars and consumer goods every year is not only wasteful but detrimental to the environment. If we were to take your argument to the extreme and change cars every day, we will end up bankrupting ourselves and all our productive funds will end up in the junk yard in the form of junk cars. We need meaningful consumption, not mindlessly increasing consumption.

You said exports depend on the domestic market having first tried out the product. But Japan has 127 million people, more than enough to test products. Finland has a population of 5 million only. Yet they delivered Nokia.

You said by 2050, there will be an expected 1.2 Japanese workers for every old folk, down from the current 3.7 and you said that is a terrible problem. But that is not a terrible problem, its a necessary outcome. If there are more young than old, then the population will keep growing and growing in a finite space that is already very over crowded. At some point, the population must stabilise in order not to over stress the land. Population stablity requires that the ratio between the young and the old must be closer to one.

Furthermore, the Japanese saves a lot. If every Japanese saves enough for his or her own retirement, he or she will not be a burden to future generations. So the key is that no matter how many people we have, as long as everyone is meaningfully engaged in earning a decent income throughout his or her productive years, no one has to be a burden to anyone else.

You can’t just count the permanent residents and new citizens and pretend that the rest of the foreigners don’t exist. They compete for space in trains and housing units just the same.

You said if we removed 1.2 million foreigners, all restaurants, theatres, everything will be one third empty. Conversely, if we added 1.2 million foreigners, will our restaurants be one third over filled? Certainly not. Instead, we’d end up with one third more restaurants than before. Similarly if we were to remove 1.2 million foreigners, we will have one third less restaurants, not restaurants that are one third empty. There is nothing wrong with having one third less restaurants when we have one third less people. If you have one third less people in your house would you need the same number of chopsticks or computers as before?

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