Before I tell you what the future holds, perhaps I could take you down my memory road.
I remembered growing up in the 80s where Singapore population hovered around 2.7 M .
It was a period where Singaporeans were still a resounding majority of above 80%
I remembered my happy days in primary school. We ended school at around 12pm and we would roam around the free space next to the school building for our go-li games or police and thief sessions. Enrichment classes are non existent. Getting into the school of our choice even if it was 2 km away was relatively easy.I don't recall your grandparents doing parent volunteer work .Back then, there were more spaces for kids in school even when each family have at least 2 kids on average.
It was carefree, the air was crisp, there were acres of space, everyone had a car, traffic jams only happened overseas. My Dad worked and Mom stayed at home. We were well fed and clothe. It was simple yet we were happy.
I remembered the early 90s where I served the army. I served with pride and full of optimism. To take up arms and protect a nation, my country, our home. I remembered the tears when I injured myself mid way through Officer Cadet School. How I feel dejected that I could not contribute more.
It was a period that exciting things are beginning to evolve in Singapore. The MRT was built creating accessibility, there was vibrancy in Singapore that was lacking in the 80s. It seemed that Singapore is fast progressing from a third world nation to a first class society. We are on the verge of something big.
I remembered the mid 90s where I was schooled in the local university. We were competitive in school, but we partied hard as well. Most of my peers were local, I do love to make more friends with our overseas counterparts, but they were a limited lot.
It was a period where we were full of optimism for the future, a time where dreams were allowed to be built. Singapore was going through a transformation. We aspired to have the 5Cs that were so hyped up in the media. The world was our oyster or so we thought.
I remembered the late 90s and early 2000 where I stepped into the working world. The reality was the opposite of our dreams. I graduated the year when the Asian crisis hits Singapore. It was a year where companies were retrenching and not employing. Not wanting to lay idle, I settled for the first permanent job that was offered. A telemarketer.... a 'dirty' word by today's standard, but an honest option nonetheless. Yet somehow we remained optimistic about the future. The hardworking Singapore spirit prevailed on the face on a crisis. Our youthful dreams were still alive and kicking.
It was a period of flux and extreme change, fortunes started to pick up in the 2000. Houses were still 'affordable'. Soon the economy picked up and everything looked rosy again. Singapore were winning accolades such as best airport of the world. The little dot was expanding with new ideas like integrated resorts and theme parks. For the first time, there are 1 million non Singaporeans picking up residency in Singapore.
I remembered the challenges from the late 2007 to the present time. It is a challenging period for the world given the financial crisis, yet Singapore remain prosperous and resilient. We have become world class stamped with facilities and attractions that gained accolades worldwide. Yet through these short 5 year, cost of living shot up the roof. We welcome the 1st million dollar HDB. 'Mickey mouse' is now part of the condo lingo. We became a nation whereby the best selling car model is a BMW. It is the norm that the price of a COE to exceed the actual cost of most 'bread and butter' cars. Childcare facilities can run into thousands for a month and are often full regardless of cost. Primary school is a lottery. Those who live beyond 1 km have little chance of admission, with or without parent volunteer. The nation is having a Total fertility rate (TFR) of 1.2 child per couple. It is hard to make friends with a local in an MNC. Still this was the best 5 years of my life and only because I have the company of my two young boys and wife.
It was a period where Singapore is deem as robust and beautiful. Tourism is on the rise and many expats want to be a part of this revolution.Yet the Lion City is not the same as before. It has lost its old school charm and the much yearned kampong spirit. It is a time where Singapore population explodes to above 5 million . It is no secret that citizens are fast losing its majority and every other person you meet is not of the same kindred spirit. It is also the time when the silent majority choose not to be silent anymore, we became vocal for fear of losing our majority and identity. The dreams we build in the 80s and 90s seem to fade away with each imposing statistic. We have collectively become a number.
I remembered reading the news yesterday that Singapore will have a population target of up to 6.9 million or more by 2030 to maintain GDP growth. Citizens will increase by 10% , but it will be mainly contributed by new citizens. Effectively this means the whole 30% to 40% projected increase in population from today will be entirely non Singaporean. Singaporean will be a minority in our own beloved land.
Make no mistake, we welcome guests into our homeland. It is the fear of becoming a stranger under our own roof that troubles our soul. Our forefathers were guests too when the nation is in its infancy. They had proven that they have roots by settling and making Singapore their home. It was in a period when land and opportunities were in abundance. For the present moment, the little nation seem to have little room for growth and far less space to set roots.
What does it mean to the child of today?
I fear the following :
- The boys or men to be will defend a nation of strangers.
- Competition in schools and higher educations will be tougher as spaces are limited.
- Competition for work will be intense, but first we have to create an additional 1.6 m jobs for the new residents.
- Million dollars HDB to be the norm of the future;
- They may even resemble your favourite 350 sq ft Ikea showroom.
- Don't blink, say hello to 200k COE.
- Dreams are a distant luxury and survival is the reality.
- Raising a child in 2030 will even be tougher than today even if more baby bonus are thrown in the mix. Schools are tougher to get in, cost of living is higher, attractions may be limited or dwindled due to lack of space. Time to raise a child is limited,much less with 2 or more children.
- The need to 'export' the elders to cheaper pastures (old folks home) for 'retirement' becomes a norm, as cost of living becomes extreme.
- Space is a premium in this little red dot. Will we lose our Gardens by the Bay to the highest condo on earth?
- We may slowly lose our national identity and forgot why we are Singaporeans. After all , we will be a minority in this grandiose plan. Minority shareholders have no control in a company, much less in a country.
Too many questions, but sadly I do not have the answer.
My only wish is that your dreams would be as vivid and your memories more fruitful than mine. Remind me of this in 2030 so you can share your thoughts with your old man. Hopefully I will not be 'exported' elsewhere to ease your burden.