So, the White Paper has been approved – overwhelmingly – by Parliament. No surprises there. There is rumour, however, that PAP MP Inderjit Singh, who spoke up against the White Paper, absented himself during the vote in the House. I should add that this is unsubstantiated and unconfirmed rumour.
UPDATE: The Straits Times of 9 February 2013 confirmed that Mr Singh did not cast his vote:
Anyway, the sadness of this whole process this past week is that in spite of the huge and very heartfelt outcry from Singaporeans against the White Paper, there is really nothing anyone can do about it – not your opposition MPs, not your PAP MPs who have to vote according to the party whip no matter what they may think of the paper.
The Cabinet – 17 men and 1 woman – decides on it and PAP MPs, who make up the majority in the House, will have to toe the party line and vote according to what the Cabinet dictates.
Be that as it may, when I first read the White Paper, it came across as a piece of document bereft of any inspiring vision, devoid of any emotional connection, and a document which comes across as pretentious and trying its best to say all the politically correct things.
But the message it delivers is that the kind of society it envisions for Singapore in 2030 is one “with no heart”, as NMP Faizah Jamal put it.
The Paper speaks of the economic, of how the infrastructure will be kept up with the influx of another 1.5 million or so more people onto this tiny island of ours. It says this is necessary so that our welfare can be taken care of. It says Singaporeans are at the core of the Paper’s proposals.
But it is all a lot of words and nothing else.
All that sound and fury… signifying…
I shudder to think of how compact Singapore will be – literally. I cringe when I imagine how even our residential areas will become working places, and all its attending crowdedness.
The increase in vehicles, the traffic, the demolition and erasure of our natural surroundings, our environment, the senseless reclamation of land to feed the influx of people, the facilities and additional infrastructure needed to assuage and meet expectations.
One minister says life in Singapore will be like life in Punggol. But if you visit Punggol you see that it is increasingly becoming nothing more than another HDB estate – with monotonous rows and rows of mindnumbing HDB flats lined up side by side. Even the Punggol Waterway Park is presently being scarred by the encroaching blocks of HDB flats which are being constructed.
How is this “a very high quality living environment”?
So, what is solution to our ageing population, and our low birth rate?
I’ll leave that for another article, although I have written several articles about it already.
Here, I would just like to express several things:
- That we desperately need to quickly have more opposition MPs in Parliament. (I applaud the WP MPs who tried their best in Parliament on the debate on the White Paper. In particular, I feel Low Thia Khiang did an excellent job, personally and in marshalling his other MPs.)
- The skepticism about the National Conversation has been borne out with the approval by the PAP-dominated Parliament. The National Conversation is nothing more than a talk-shop. Singapore’s fate, as far as the PAP is concerned, has already been decided.
My final point is that the vision of Singapore in 2030 as laid out in the White Paper is one which fills me with an immense sense of dread. It is utterly depressing. If it were up to me, I would envision a Singapore where the less tangible – but arguably more important – development of our human talent and potential will be the focus of the White Paper, instead of focusing on the physical needs. Someone said that the White Paper reads more like a list of construction projects than anything else. He is not far off the mark.
There is nothing – nothing at all – in the White Paper about how our people will be given more space for free expression, how our media will be freed up, how our political system will change, how our SMEs will be the main focus of the government.
It would thus seem that the White Paper proposes that Singapore remains the same in everything, except the number of people it imbibes.
That is an entirely artificial society.
And it will be one without a heart.
And it is a vision (if you can call it that) which will indeed discourage Singaporeans from having children – compounding the very problem we are trying to solve.
It is, as Low Thia Khiang said, us kicking the can down the road for the next generation to solve, contrary to the claims of the PAP.
In brief, the PAP is telling us we need more of the same. More of the same of what we have been going through these last few years.
And that is scary, indeed.
For a paper which is suppose to speak of the future, it is ironic, isn’t it?