S'pore can accommodate up to 6m people, says PM Lee

SINGAPORE - In an hour-long televised Mandarin forum on Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that it should not be a problem for Singapore to accommodate 6 million or so people in the future.

Mr Lee was responding to a question on what the country's ideal population size would be if it is to continue its economic progress.

He said that while it is difficult to give a concrete figure because of the uncertainties of the future, Singapore should be able to accommodate about 6 million people without a problem.

"We're gradually increasing our land area, and if we rebuild our older towns, then we can accommodate more people," he said.

"Today our population is over five million. In the future, six million or so should not be a problem. Beyond that, we'll have to think more carefully," he added.

This falls within the 6.5 million figure that the Government has been using as a planning parameter since 2007, The Straits Times reported.

Singapore's population as of December last year stood at 5.26 million people.

The forum - also attended by Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing, Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Law Sim Ann - saw a frank discussion on issues ranging from pre-school education and the state of the Chinese community.

The 30 Singaporean participants were also polled on their take on foreigners. On the question on whether Singaporeans are accepting of foreigners, 77 per cent indicated 'yes', while 67 per cent agreed with the statement that Singapore should continue welcoming immigrants to boost the country's low birth rate.

"We know that we have a low birth rate... but we haven't found a perfect answer. Actually, a lot of societies have not found it. Until we find that solution, one of the ways we can address this issue is by bringing in more immigrants," Mr Lee said.

yamadak@sph.com.sg

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