Let’s converse like adults

Op-ed published in Today, Feb. 27, 2013

By Tom Benner

It would not be like forward-looking Singapore to ignore the factors that will determine its future. Nor would Singaporeans, however upset some may be over the White Paper on Population, want a Government that isn’t thinking for the long term.

The 76-page paper is a thoughtful document with good underlying research and some important recommendations about how to tackle the problems of a rapidly ageing population with one of the lowest populations in the world. It seeks to engage Singaporeans in an adult conversation. Easing work-life issues, infrastructure needs such as housing and mass transit, and balancing future immigration levels against the Singaporean identity all have a place in the discussion.
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4 responses to “Let’s converse like adults

  1. Good thoughtful piece. I’m reposting it on my blog.

    Richard L

  2. Reblogged this on 8degreesoflatitude and commented:
    Interesting and thoughtful piece here by Tom Benner, on Sngapore’s population white paper.

  3. Comment from a Singaporean:-

    a) This particular American writer thinks we converse like kids in Singapore. It sure reeks of neo-colonialist language.

    b) He believes Americans deny and dismiss when confronted by uncomfortable truths. I don’t think Americans are going to take kindly to that. If anything, these uncomfortable truths are a consequence of wayward politicians and their policies, and lies propagated through media outlets like Fox News.

    c) No mention by the author of the problems created by legalised bribery in the American political process, and the disproportionate influence of lobby groups on America’s domestic and foreign policies. The Bush tax cuts and the neoconservative military adventurism that has cost the American taxpayer tons of money and heightened anti-American sentiments are cases in point.

    d) The writer has selective amnesia on Chuck Hagel’s nomination as the new Secretary of Defence. Benghazi was an issue which Hagel had nothing to do with, but it is because of his strident criticism of the Iraq War, his cautious approach to Iran, and above all, his lack of unconditional love for Israel that actually led to the filibustering in the Senate for the first time in American history. Consider remarks by Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham.

    e) I agree with the author that the debate on the White Paper on population marks a growing political participation among citizens, but that does not mean we do not converse like adults. It is frankly insulting and offensive to be implied as such.

  4. Today newspaper had a quite insulting article about Singaporeans’ reaction to the population white paper yesterday. It was titled “Let’s converse like adults” and lauds the PAP’s supposed long term planning ability, as well as describing the white paper as “a thoughtful document with good underlying research and some important recommendations”.

    Obviously the article is ridiculous. Alluding to government critics as being childlike is not a constructive line of reasoning. Has the writer even read the white paper? Thoughtful? The paper didn’t even ask the question of why Singapore has such a shockingly low total fertility rate. Others have already pointed out the fallacy in describing as “research” a document that contains no references. As for “important recommendations”, most of what I saw was “population + productivity = GDP”. There was no qualitative or quantitative analysis of what precise steps should be taken at what time to ease the difficulties of an ageing population. Furthermore, the difficulties themselves were not even spelled out. All the paper talks about is how we are going to ramp up the population to 6.9 million and then we can have X% of GDP growth.

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