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IT SEEMS counter-intuitive for a very small island state to rely on population increase as a strategy for survival ("Population 6m: Is there room?"; last Saturday).
If indeed this increase is required to support our ageing population, wouldn't that generation itself grow old in the future, thus needing a bigger population to sustain it?
Aren't we merely passing the buck to later generations?
How did the official narrative change from the "procreate sustainably" family planning campaign to this "procreate or go bust" mentality, both in the name of survival? Perhaps that is where the answer lies.
It was for the sake of survival that the population was allowed to balloon even while the family planning exercise was taking place in the 1970s, ostensibly to address the declining total fertility rate.
In reality, the population increase, aided by immigration, was more likely to meet manpower shortages and was needed to capitalise on the prevailing economic opportunities in the 1970s and 80s.
That was the only way we knew how to survive.
We bit the bullet, took the chance and came out rich.
In the meantime, earlier concerns about sustainability took a back seat.
The question now is whether the formula will still work now, given that the population has tripled while the island can hardly be doubled.
Arguably, we have the technology and know-how to pack in six million people. But what would that do to our humanity?
We miss the big picture when we fail to notice that we have become a population that is refusing to reproduce - contrary to human instinct.
We must be coaxed, rewarded and penalised to procreate, which, in itself, is a signal that we are not comfortable with the current population density.
Instead of presuming that the population must increase to sustain the economy, can we also consider alternative economic models that suit a lower, more comfortable population density?
SINGAPORE'S population grew 2.84 times in 47 years. But at the same time, the total fertility rate fell from 4.62 to 1.2.
Though experts expressed some concern, they did not point out the potential specific social ramifications if Singapore's population grew to 6.5 million ("Population 6m: Is there room?"; last Saturday).
Planning parameters seem to suggest that the built-up cityscape of about 430 sq km can comfortably accommodate 6.5 million people, compared with Hong Kong's developed area of 250 sq km holding 7.1 million people.
I agree with Associate Professor Kalyani Mehta that overheated population growth in a small area tends to produce social tensions. Already, there is resentment against the more than two million foreigners among us.
It took Hong Kong more than 100 years to accommodate a community of 7.1 million, even though they largely comprised Chinese from a single province - Guangzhou in southern China.
Beneath the veneer of a vibrant city are tremendous stresses and fault lines, despite the apparent advantage of homogeneity where more than 90 per cent of Hong Kongers share the same Chinese dialect - Cantonese - as well as the same social and cultural backgrounds.
The psychology experiment with 10 mice cited by Prof Mehta illustrates the unhealthy development of selfish behaviour and a "me first" mentality. If the 10 mice were of different species, the conflict in the small cage could be worse.
We must not affect the multiracial, multi-religious and multicultural harmony built up over the last five decades.