Speaking at a wide-ranging dialogue session organised by the Standard Chartered Bank this evening (20 Mar, Wed), former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew told the audience that a country that does not grow its population risks dissolving “into nothingness”.

Joining Mr Lee for the dialogue was former chairman of the US Federal Reserve Mr Paul Volcker.

This was the first time Mr Lee spoke about Singapore’s population since the recent endorsement of the Population White Paper by the PAP-dominated Parliament.

Mr Lee noted how Japan refused to take in migrants and that led to the situation it is facing today.

He said, “So I see a nation reduced to half in 20 years, and if it still continues with the same policy, reduced to a further half, and eventually, it is all over!”

“To have a nation, you must have people and you must have young people to be able to drive the economy and young people buy the products – all these gadgets and fine dining – and if you don’t have that, and you refuse migrants as the Japanese do, you will just dissolve into nothingness! I think before that comes, they may change (their) policy.”

Mr Lee also said that China is heading in the wrong direction with their one-child policy. A shrinking and aging population will mean the value of assets, such as property prices, will go down.

He said, “Property prices will go down, assets will go down. There is no younger generation to put the pressure up so I think it is heading towards the wrong direction.”

He added Singapore is in a similar position with its low total fertility rate but the difference is that Singapore takes in migrants to make up for the numbers.

In fact, Singapore takes in migrants to more than just making up for the numbers. Singapore’s population has been expanding from 4.0 million in 2000 to 5.3 million in 2012. In the span of 12 years, Singapore’s population increased by 1.3 million or 32.5%:

Mr Lee pointed out that Singapore maintains a “certain quality of control” and that is one reason why he feels other emerging ASEAN economies are unlikely to surpass Singapore anytime soon.

Mr Lee did not elaborate what he meant by “certain quality of control”. He also did not reveal his baseline standard of “quality of control” for migrants coming into Singapore.

Speaking of the other ASEAN economies, he said, “They will make progress but if you look at the per capita they have got, the differences are so wide. We have the advantage of quality control of the people who come in so we have bright Indians, bright Chinese, bright Caucasians so the increase in population means an increase in talent.”

It’s not known if Mr Lee was referring to these types of “bright talents” he is looking for to increase the “talent” base and population of Singapore:

At the forum, Mr Lee also commented about the relationship between China and India:

TR Emeritus

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