Singapore PM defends growth plan that includes building on golf courses

Singapore’s PM goes on Facebook to defend proposal against growing criticism

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 February, 2013, 5:17am

The Singapore government's plan to drastically increase land supply - including building on some of the country's 18 golf courses - failed to stop rising criticism against its radical population blueprint yesterday.

The Lion City wants to increase its population by 30 per cent over the next 17 years to sustain economic growth and counter the problems of an ageing society, according to a white paper released on Tuesday.

This requires an influx of more than one million foreigners by 2030 as the birth rate in Singapore, like in Hong Kong, is among the lowest in the world.

Following the massive backlash to the plan, Singapore's prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, took to Facebook to defend the government's position. "The Ministry of National Development just issued its Land Use Plan, which outlines how Singaporeans can continue to enjoy good quality living, even with a bigger population," he wrote.

A link takes viewers to the Ministry of National Development's site, which explains how it aims to increase land supply by about 8 per cent by 2030, adding 5,200 hectares of land for residential and commercial use, taking Singapore's total land area to 76,600 hectares. The extra land will include some of the 1,500 hectares used by the country's golf courses, the Law Ministry said on Thursday.

While Lee's Facebook posting had 1,552 likes within 24 hours, there were also a lot of fiercely negative comments - a rare sight in a country famous for backing the ruling party, People's Action Party (PAP), which has been in government since 1959.

"For a long-time supporter, I am totally disappointed with you," read one message.

"Bad, bad idea. Your think-tank team needs a reality check," read another one.

In a paper published by the Institute of Policy Studies in Singapore, Lai Ah Eng, a senior research fellow of the Asia Research Institute, said: "It has been suggested that increased population can be accommodated through land reclamation and taller residential buildings.

"Such projects are limited in scope, costly and likely to encounter social responses to dense crowding."

A Citi bank report noted that the plan, which dilutes Singapore-born citizens from 62 per cent of the population to just 55 per cent, comes after one of the ruling party's worst electoral defeats, when the Workers' Party won Punggol East by-election with 54.42 per cent of the votes last Saturday.