The question of how many people can live together our island (Singapore) is one that is hot debated and can often end up being brutal to either party that enters the discussion. Not too long ago there was the Population White Paper, which drew a lot of flak from many Singaporeans for what they considered to be a crazy and astronomical figure of 6.9 million (by 2030) people as an upper limit of population size. Even more recently the more head of HDB and URA, Dr Liu Thai Ker, shared that he believed that we shouldn’t be simply planning for a 6.9 million population but instead we should be looking at a population ceiling of around 10 million (by 2090).
Mr Liu told BT that the 10 million figure was projected on how much Singapore could grow long term for the next 80-150 years at a population growth rate of less than one per cent each year. He said that if the growth rate were based on the upper limit of the projection of the 2013 White Paper, at 6.9 million, then Singapore could reach a population of 10 million by 2090. If however, it is based on the lower limit of 6.5 million then we may reach 10 million by 2200. via BT Invest
Dr Liu himself came under quite a bit of flak for his comments because Singaporeans again couldn’t understand how that number could even be feasible considering the crush and crowds we feel today. But if we were to take into consideration a few other cities or metro areas of our size, the population numbers suggested are relatively speaking quite accurate.
- London – 8.4 million people, 1572.15 square km
- Bangkok – 8.3 million people, 1568.74 square km
- Delhi – 17.8 million people, 1484 square km
- New York – 8.4 million people, 783.84 square km
- Singapore – 5.4 million people, 712.4 square km
- Bangalore – 10.2 million people, 709.5 square km
- Jakarta – 10 million people, 664.12 square km
- Tokyo – 9 million people, 622.99 square km
- Seoul – 10.4 million people, 605.21 square km
- Mumbai – 12.6 million people, 603.4 square km
- Dhaka – 12 million people, 302.92 square km
– Figures are from Wikipedia “List of cities proper by population”.
Every city under Singapore has a higher population and a smaller surface area. Some are highly developed cities and some are less developed. There is a mix and a wide spectrum which leads me to believe that for Singapore to be able to be successful and to accomodate the number of people that Dr Liu is talking about it would require a much smarter way of planning and a more intuitive and proactive method of immigration which has not been attempted any where in the world. The best part about it is that Singapore is a city state, we are able to decide who we are and what we will become independent of any larger country imposing federal or state requirements on us.
“If we view Singapore’s future not as a regional city but as a Global City, then the smallness of Singapore, the absence of a hinterland, or raw materials and a large domestic market are not fatal or insurmountable handicaps…Once you see Singapore as a Global City, the problem of hinterland becomes unimportant because for a Global City, the world is its hinterland.” – S. Rajaratnam, Former Foreign Minister of Singapore (1965-1980).
First things first is that we need to show to the current residents of Singapore that as a city we need to continue to grow and develop if we want to continue to remain vibrant and viable as both a city and a state. The way we show this is by first showing that the current crush or crowd is largely due to uneven development of Singapore as well as the slow development of a more dense public transport system.
Currently the way Singapore is laid out, you have major industries in the South West, the Central Business District in the South and a newer business district and mix industrial usage areas in the South East, what this has done is essentially force working adults to all rush to the same locations everyday which inevitably leads to larger crowds, slower traffic and a tighter space on the train. This can be changed with the development of newer industrial and office spaces in the North, with the building of a total of 4 new rail lines in the next 10 years, more bus routes and the opening of the bus industry to foreign and new players. It’s going to be an entirely different situation.
In my opinion, Singapore isn’t limited by size but rather infrastructure and technology. As we figure out our infrastructure issues and as technology allows us to maximise and adapt to urbanisation (which truth be told is a relatively new phenomenon for humanity) I do believe that as a society we will develop in ways we never though possible. Great cities are driven by great design and great people. We already have one part of the equation with great people, now we just need to get the other part right.
“When these problems vex you or disturb you or upset your lives, please bear with us. We’re trying our best on your behalf. And if we didn’t quite get it right, I’m sorry but we will try and do better the next time.” – PM Lee Hsien Loong