Everything About the ‘10 Million Population’ Saga, Whereby Both DPM Heng & SDP Have Responded

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or you can’t vote yet), you’d know that the GE2020 live debate on national TV was one show you should never miss.

There were a few things that were brought to the people’s attention during the 1-hour long debate.

A more sensible Amos Yee (read: Jamus Lim from Workers’ Party who managed to charm netizens with his words) that managed to fight back with a smile on his face:

And the infamous “10 million population” topic:

Image: those-who-serve.com

If that’s your face after hearing the term, 10-million population, don’t worry, Goody Feed has got your back:

Everything About the ‘10 Million Population’ Saga, Whereby Both DPM Heng & SDP Have Responded

How did it start? Why did it start? And where did it go wrong?

We’ll answer all of that and more.

When It Appeared:

Yes, I know it’s hard after 2 entire months of Circuit Breaker and a month of half-opening, but do you remember those days where trying to get on board the train at Jurong East requires you to miss one train before it’s your turn?

Image: AsiaOne

Or the fact that taking the MRT during peak hour is like role-playing as a sardine?

Image: All Singapore Stuff

There were no city direct buses back then.

But in Jan 2013, the Singapore government released a white paper.

Titled the Population White Paper (PWP), it proposes that Singapore increase its population from 5.3 million to 6.9 million by the year 2030.

And to top it off, it was projected that only 55% of that figure will be Singaporeans.

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It was passed in parliament after a week-long debate with 77 MPs endorsing the PWP, 13 voting against and one abstaining from the vote.

The one who abstained is NMP Eugene Tan who changed his mind from voting against the PWP after hearing PM Lee’s speech.

This one:

He had assured that the number will be far below 6.9 million, even by 2030, and said that the government will “keep track and control” so that Singapore will not be flooded by foreigners.


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Cue Public Outcry

Now, imagine the reactions of normal Singaporeans, who already felt that Singapore is too small even with the current populace, and hurting over the fact that foreigners are taking up good jobs here.

You’ll think the backlash will be massive, no?


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And you’re right.

It’s massive.

Image: BBC

More than 4,000 Singaporeans turned up to stage a protest against the White Paper on Feb 2013 at Hong Lim Park Speaker’s’ Corner.

It was a peaceful rally which took place in the heavy rain, according to BBC.

Image: BBC

Many have felt that the influx of foreigners pushed down salaries and increased property prices in Singapore.


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We Actually Pulled A Hong Kong

Remember the Hong Kong protests and how it forces the Hong Kong government to put its security law on hold, then scrapped?

Well, turns out, a similar situation happened in Singapore as well.

According to an opinion article on Straits Times back in 2017, the PAP government has no choice but to pull back on its efforts.

“Since 2013, the Singapore Government has, out of political necessity, rolled back immigration and tightened the inflow of foreign labour; for all intents and purposes, it seems that the Population White Paper is on ice and few politicians now mention it in public.”

Of course, the article was written because the author thought that it is a possibility that the White Paper issue would be brought back, just like Hong Kong’s new security law.


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According to the writer, the population assumptions behind the creation of the white paper still holds true:

  • an ageing population
  • a shrinking workforce
  • low fertility rate
  • a shrinking citizenship population

And there is a possibility that this unpopular pwp might be revisited.

But the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) is now saying that they’ve prevented that. I’ll get to this later.

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GE2020: 10-Million Population Saga

For GE2020, the SDP came up with a 4Y1N manifesto.


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There are 4 “Yes” and 1 “No; and the resounding “No” is for the 10 million population that the government is supposedly aiming for.

On 1 July, the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) of the Prime Minister Office released a statement, saying that the government is not targeting a 10 million population.

“The Government has not proposed, planned nor targeted for Singapore to increase its population to 10 million.”

They also pointed out that in 2018, an update on Singapore’s population outlook in Parliament stated that the population of Singapore will be far below 6.9 million in 2030.

Miss Josephine Teo, who presented the outlook, also said that she did not expect any change to the current (as of 2018) immigration practices.


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That outlook, they added, remains valid today. So good news for those who are worried, 10 million isn’t a thing. Yet.

So How Did Mr Heng Swee Keat Get Roped In

On 1 July, a national live TV debate took place.

And Dr Chee Soon Juan, the representative from SDP, brought up the topic of the 10-million population target.

After getting shot down repeatedly by Mr Vivian Balakrishnan, the representative from PAP, Dr Chee went home and uploaded a Straits Times article titled, “Heng Swee Keat on S’pore staying open: we don’t want a world where people build walls“.


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It was a quote from a ministerial dialogue at NTU where Mr Heng Swee Keat was attending. Then, he was already the Finance Minister.

When asked about the 2013 white paper, he had said that “the number goes beyond how densely populated Singapore would be. The social space is as important.”

He added that Singapore’s population density is not excessive and that other cities are a lot more crowded in terms of liveable space.

He had also cited Liu Thai Ker, a former chief planner, who allegedly said that Singapore needs to have a population of 10 million in order to be economically sustainable back in 2013.

Heng Swee Keat Fires Back

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Mr Heng says that he has never endorsed the white paper (we’re assuming he’s talking about during the forum).


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He added that the government has “never proposed or targeted for Singapore to increased its population to 10 million”.

In fact, he added, looking at today’s situation, Singapore’s population is likely to be below 6.9 million in 2030.

SDP Says They’ve Made PAP Commit To A Pledge

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) objects to Dr Vivian Balakrishnan accusing them of coming up with an argument that “intentionally misrepresents the Government’s position”.

Simply put, they’re being accused of imagining up the number to try and mislead Singaporeans.


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The opposition party says that the idea of a 10 million population wasn’t invented, nor imagined, by them.

Nonetheless, though, SDP felt that they have achieved a victory on day 1 of GE2020.

“Within Day 1 of our campaign, we have already achieved victory on our call for the ‘no’ to a 10 million population.”

As for Mr Heng’s rebuttal, SDP only had this to say:

“In that case, (Mr Heng) should take up the issue with ST (Straits Times).”

Summary For Those Who Managed To Get Here:

  • No 10-million population plan, in fact, it’s unlikely that there’ll be a 6.9 million population, according to Mr Heng Swee Keat.
  • The population within Singapore is still stable with current immigration policies so there are no “huge changes” foreseen
  • The government do not plan for, or set targets for, the population in Singapore (according to Mr Vivian Balakrishnan when he rebutted Dr Chee Soon Juan

Lest you’ve forgotten, polling day will be on next Friday (10 July). So what happens if you didn’t vote? Would you be jailed? Would you be barred from buying bubble tea for the next five years? Watch this video and you’ll know the consequences:


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