Foreign labour and immigration are sensitive, difficult issues, but the Government has to lead the country and make the best possible decision, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.
And he hopes people understand that, while there may be different views on the matter, the Government's underlying motivation is the best interests of Singapore and Singaporeans.
"Even on the most difficult issue, we need to make the best decision and be accountable to the people," he said. "There may be different views on how the policy should be, but I hope people understand that the Government's intent is good. We are doing this for Singapore, and for Singaporeans."
Mr Lee was speaking at a dialogue at the annual FutureChina Global Forum, where moderator Goh Sin Teck, editor of Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao, asked how Singapore and China could better manage the issue of their ageing populations.
PM Lee noted that Singapore could mitigate its low birth rate through foreign labour and immigration, but these were sensitive issues on which many citizens had strong opinions.
He noted that the 2013 Government White Paper explaining its population policy drew a strong reaction from the ground, and the Government moderated the number of immigrants.
"But we cannot do without them altogether," he said.
Mr Lee acknowledged that people may not necessarily want more explanations, but he hoped they would see that the Government had Singaporeans' interests at heart on the subject.
Mr Lee was also asked what China could learn from Singapore's political system. He replied that, while "intra-party politics" was a main issue in China, such tension existed among parties here.
But while a multi-party system can cause some conflict, it is also a source of dynamism and ultimately good for the country, he said.
"No matter how the system evolves, we hope that politicians admit that the task is to serve Singaporeans - not a party, or an interest group, but all Singaporeans," he said.
"The People's Action Party (PAP) wishes to represent the interests of the vast majority of Singaporeans, regardless of race, religion, language, income group, or where they live. We hope that you will support the PAP, and we will do everything in our ability to serve you," he added.
He said: "If there is one party that can represent multiple groups, it would be conducive to the country's stability and to nation building in the long run."
This article was first published on July 22, 2015.
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