I was in Johore over the weekend, meandering through small little towns with big detached houses and sprawling gardens. The Malaysians are growing, developing, quietly and at its own pace, with a lot of space for living, and with a cost of living that is not running away. One does not need $3m or $5m dollar salary to live well. This is the quality of life that we cannot afford any more. And one can drive the car anywhere and park freely, anywhere, without having to pay a bomb. There is growth, but no frantic cries of being too slow.
Today the ST is screaming that we need more spaces for public parks. They are now so popular that they are no longer tranquil getaways from the hustle and bustle of a city. The parks are now amusement parks in a way. Families with children are everywhere having a picnic. The noises are as loud as a fish market. Even in far off Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves, the birds and the monitor lizards were not spare from the noise of human chatters.
We need more land for parks, for sanity. We have road congestion, hospital squeeze and squeezes of all kinds. The squeeze is heading into the parks.
But no worry. We will need another 900,000 people to fill the roads and the parks. We need them for economic growth. Our TFR is falling and we need to keep the rate up. We need to fill up the parks as well to see growth. We need to find an equilibrium in the TFR and the size of our population.
I think we did quite well when we were 1.5m, when we were 2m. Now we are 3.7m and another 1.5m foreigners, and we are saying not enough. We need to grow and we need more people.
There are only two such insane countries in the world that are pushing for population increase. India wants to be the world’s most populous country, more than the 1.3m Chinese. That is a superpower ambition. What are we chasing, the world’s most densely populated piece of rock?
The 2.1% TFR is like LSD. We will need it at 5m, we will need it at 10m, we will also need it when we are 20m. No free parking for cars, no free entrance to public parks. There may be kiosks dispensing fresh air like canned drinks at $10 a can. ERP may be set up for pedestrians with a fee to pay on busy walkways. Is that the progress we are striving for?
By then Singapore will be owned and populated by new citizens. Is that what we want? Is that progress?
PS. The German and Jap politicians were not paid the out of this world salary. And they could maintain their quality of life, with economic growth despite having near zero population growth. Our supertalents can only see growth by growing the population. Without population growth, there will be no growth.