I have my misgivings for the way the population white paper has been presented. Real information is scattered all over the place, the headline numbers are scary, and the entire affair has been picketed by alarmist soundbites. The PAP needs to get its act together when communicating to the people.
But I believe that overcrowding, which is the single biggest concern that everyone has, is actually not a real problem. There will be more than enough homes and public transport capacity even if our population hits 6.9m. The chart below speaks for itself.
- An increase of residential land from 10k ha to 13k ha (+30%)
- 700k new homes, up from 1.2m today (+58%)
- An increase in length of MRT lines from 180km to 360km (+100%)
- 5 new MRT lines, up from 4 today (+125%)
- +70% MRT passenger capacity into the CBD area.
- +25% more trains for NS-EW Line, +60% more for NEL and +70% more for Circle Line
- 40 total bus hubs, up from 10 today.
(The fact that I had hunt down this information when it is scattered over 3 separate documents is testament to our government’s inability to paint a coherent picture.)
The raw numbers tell us an important story – that our homes and infrastructure will be growing much faster than population. The over-crowding problems that we see today can be solved even as our population grows.
If the PAP pulls this off, it will truly be a testament to the efficiency of their government.
But raw numbers by themselves do not paint the full picture. It also depends on the implementation details. For example:
- Building new towns is all well and good, but the new towns must have proper amenities and transportation links, otherwise people will still be unhappy. As the population grows, more people will want to want to buy homes in mature estates, and prices there will rise. To prevent the new towns from becoming unwanted “slums”, these places must have proper modern amenities.
- Where the new MRT lines are laid will matter more than before, especially if we want public transport to be more popular. Improving connectivity between new homes and transport hubs will matter as well.
- De-centralising commercial businesses from the CBD will also be important. Even if our trains and buses can bring more people into the CBD, the CBD will still be static in size and thus become over-crowded. Businesses must be incentivised to move towards the outskirts of Singapore.
- If there are spare homes and infrastructure, will the PAP be tempted to allow the population to grow to let these homes and infrastructure be fully (or over-) utilised, thus recreating the problems that we face today?
In fact, maybe it is time for Singaporeans to wonder if there are too many homes and infrastructure in the pipeline? After all, the cost of all those new and “less-utilised” MRT tunnels, trains and buses must be borne by the people in the form of higher fares or taxes. Even if the cost of excess and unused homes is borne by HDB, that’s taxpayer’s money sitting in bricks that are doing nothing. But I think we all agree that this sounds like a happy problem compared to what we are facing today.
But even if we are able to solve the over-crowding problem, we should still ask ourselves whether there is a need for Singapore’s population to grow so much through immigration. There are valid concerns over the dilution of the Singaporean identity and whether our population should stabilise at its existing rate of 5.3m instead of grow further. As the aim of this post is to simply discuss the over-crowding issue, I will discuss these other issues in another post.