Monday, October 01, 2012

From The Next Lap to National Conversation

I was browsing through the book “The Next Lap”, published in 1991 by The Government of Singapore, which was when Goh Chok Tong was at helm, and noted several discrepancies in what happened to Singapore between what was planned in the 1990s and the reality on the grounds 20 years after its publication.

1Projected population of 4 million people in 1991 for the next 20 – 30 years
In 1991, our population was projected for 4 million people, 50% more than the then population of 3.1 million (Source: Singapore Department of Statistics). In “The Next Lap”, it was stated that “...we can comfortably house 4 million people, 50 per cent more than now, and still improve our quality of life.” (pg 24 in The Next Lap).

Twenty years later, our population stands at 5.3 million, a 1.3 million people in excess. The 4 million population target is a huge contradiction to Lee Hsien Loong’s current vision of “6 million or so” for the future and “6 million or so” is a 100 % increase of our population in 1991.

Interestingly, it was perceived in 1991 that 4 million people allowed possible improvement of quality of life. This vision did not materialize as our current 5.3 million population has already slashed our quality in terms of infrastructure. It is terrifying to think of the damage with a further 2 million people as Lee Hsien Loong’s “6 million or so” might translate into 6.9 million people.

Other than the reduced quality of living, it also evidenced the short-sightedness of our government on our population growth. 20 years down the road, the 1991 vision of 4 million was retracted and in place is a projection of “6 million or so” people, exposing the little idea that our government, led by the same political party for 50 years, has. They have no concrete idea on the size of the population needed to beef up their insatiable GDP figures and profit margins.

(2) MRT system planned for 4 million population
The population mishap proves that all existing infrastructure was meant to cater for a population of 4 million. Today, our population stands at 5.3 and it is still growing towards 6 million or so.  

Our MRT system in 1991 was thus planned for 4 million. The 5 million population in 2011 has already strained our MRT system leading to the massive break down in 2011. Current public transport is still struggling. It is still to be seen how it would cope with a 6 million population, and not taking into account the additional one million tourists (Singapore received 13 million tourists in 2011) and growing medical tourists on our island each month. We have to think of the no. of cars on the road and the amount of pollution caused as they constitute part of quality life.

Although reactionary measures such as another hospital, more BTO flats and public transport fleet are on the way, it only serves to bare the ill-thought vision back in 1991. It gives me little confidence of the vision which Lee Hsien Loong is crafting now.

 “The Next Lap” was a written outline of a “programme to make Singapore more prosperous, gracious and interesting over the next 20 to 30 years” (quoted from the The Next Lap, Foreword--Beyond 1999, Pg 13). In a nutshell, “The Next Lap” was a vision of Goh Chok Tong’s Singapore in 20 – 30 years’ time. It is interesting to note the discrepancies between his vision then and what actually took place 20 years later. It is even more significant at a juncture when our country is in the stage of crafting a new vision, led by PM Lee Hsien Loong through the tool of National Conversation.

Would the vision of “6 million or so” population be switched to a target of 8 million or so five years down the road?