Why we need immigrants - Goh Chok Tong

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Nov 7, 2009

SINGAPORE will go the way of the dinosaurs, without the influx of permanent residents and new citizens, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong warned on Saturday night.

Making a compelling case for the need to take in more new immigrants, he trotted out various sets of figures to drive home the stark reality Singapore is facing: 'In the last 10 years, the number of people aged 65 and above has grown by about 100,000 while the number of children aged below 15 had shrunk by about 50,000.'

And despite all the efforts to encourage marriage and procreation, the total fertility rate climbed only marginally from 1.26 in 2004 to 1.28 last year - far short of the 2.1 needed to replace father and mother. In absolute terms, Singapore needs about 60,000 babies per year, but last year only 32,400 citizen babies were added.

Calling this an 'unsustainable demographic structure,' SM Goh told residents and grassroots leaders at a Deepa Thirunal event at the Braddell Heights Community Club: 'If we do not take in any more new immigrants, our population will begin to shrink in 2020. That is only 11 years away!

'To sustain our present standard of living, we need to top up our population with immigrants, particularly those with skills, entrepreneurial drive and talent. Without them... our growth rate would be easily 1 to 2 percentage points lower.

'Without the foreign workforce, our flats and MRT will not be built, our buses will come to a standstill, our healthcare services will degrade, and many investors, including Singaporean ones, will uproot and go where talent is abundant. Instead of sacrificing just 1-2 percentage points of growth, our economy will shrink, and our quality of life decline.'

Beyond just sustaining the quality of life here, immigrants enrich the society, said Mr Goh, adding:' Immigrants inject a certain vitality and diversity to our society, adding vibrancy to our economy, and broadening our horizons in other fields like the arts, music, sports, and philanthropy.'

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