According to the nation-building Straits Times, Mr Lee said that 65,000 babies were born each year when he took office in 1959, much more than today, even though the population has doubled to 5.26M.
He added: “Our educated men and women must decide whether to replace themselves in the next generation. At the moment, 31 per cent of women and 44 per cent of men are opting out. Not leaving a next generation.
“So, just ponder over it and you will know the solution is not simple. But we’ve got to persuade people to understand that getting married is important, having children is important. Do we want to replace ourselves or do we want to shrink and get older and be replaced by migrants and work permit holders? That’s the simple question.”
What he failed to say was that it was his Government that encouraged sterilisation, introduced the Stop at Two policy, pushed it through with all kinds of financial penalties for those who had more than two children which very likely started the problem in the first place.
And no, he did not apologise for his enormous role in the ‘fertility’ problem.
And if you notice, he even added the qualifier ‘educated’ men and women. By implication, it’s ok if uneducated men and women don’t reproduce. He’s only concerned about ‘educated’ men and women.
Far from accepting blame for the problem, Mr Lee said that, “If we go on like that, this place will fold up, because there’ll be no original citizens left to form the majority, and we cannot have new citizens, new PRs to settle our social ethos, our social spirit, our social norms. So my message is a simple one. The answer is very difficult but the problems, if we don’t find the answers, are enormous.”
Mr Lee added that without the work permit holders to build the roads and homes and dig the tunnels, Singapore would be a very different place. And without the permanent residents, Singapore’s population would be older, smaller, and will lose vitality.
“So our choice is simple. Either accept migrants at the rate at which we can assimilate them and make them conform to our values and have others on temporary work permit holders to help build up Singapore and improve,” said Mr Lee.
I think Mr Lee still doesn’t get it.
1. He doesn’t get it that PAP contributed very significantly to the ‘fertility’ problem. Hence PAP must take responsibility and accept the blame for the problem. Not shift the blame to the people for not reproducing.
2. I think he should apologise for all those draconian measures that he inflicted on those who wanted more children in the 60’s and 70’s. The apology is optional, because I know that when circumstances changed in the 80’s, the PAP Govt tried desperately to reverse course (‘Have three, or more if you can afford it’) and set up SDU, SDS, etc. to encourage marriage and parenthood.
But those who were hurt by the Stop at Two policy— their lost youth cannot be replaced, their lost opportunity to have children cannot be replaced. Hence it may be politically astute for PAP to apologise, and particularly for him as one of the architects of the policy, to apologise.
3. He still holds on to his views that dumb parents breed dumb children, smart parents breed smart children. That may be statistically defensible, but it is political suicide to keep saying it. He should shut his trap.
4. He still doesn’t understand that Singaporeans are not in general against work permit holders coming here to build tunnels or dig roads. Why keep using such irrelevant examples? Woody Goh got flamed for this. Doesn’t Mr Lee get it?
5. He still doesn’t understand that no matter what how enormous national problems are, it is not Singaporeans’ duty to help him solve the problem. Just like it is not the average American’s problem to donate to the Govt, or even to pay more taxes, just to solve their Budget deficit.
Singaporeans will only do what is in their personal interest, given the circumstances as far as they can see them. If we are like New Zealand, Sweden or Norway, we will have more children. If we insist on being like New York or Hong Kong, if we insist on becoming a hub for everything, we will have less children.
It is that simple.
This govt must decide what it wants Singapore to become. If it wants more children, it cannot want ultra-high GDP growth, it cannot want to be a hub for everything. I’ve not seen any city or country that is No 1 for everything, has ultra-high GDP growth, and has a high fertility. Face it— that just won’t happen.
You choose, Mr Lee. Not the people. You choose what you want, and the people will choose how to respond accordingly.
You create a stressful and cramped country, you want to be No 1 in everything, people will have less children.
End of story.