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Effects Of Low Growth & Aging Population Not Fully Grasped: K Shanmugam
Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1235229/1/.html
Source Date: Monday, November 05, 2012
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: Singapore
Created: Nov 04, 2012

SINGAPORE: Many Singaporeans have not grasped the implications of low economic growth in light of an uncertain economy, or even the effects of an aging population, Minister K Shanmugam said.

In a community where more than 20 per cent of its residents are senior citizens, the importance of having good facilities for the elderly is more important than ever, especially as Singapore faces a rapidly ageing population.

Mr Shanmugam said: "I don't think the implications of that have been fully internalised within our society. I think by 2030, we're only going to have, if projections are accurate, two persons working to support one retired person.

"Today, it is eight persons working to support one retired person. The economic, social consequences, healthcare costs, the possible impact on our entire support system, we need to be thinking very actively about these things."

Going forward, Mr Shanmugam said beyond more outreach and educational efforts, the government must ensure more medical services within easy reach.

He said: "I think we need to bring and make sure that medical services are available within a reasonable geographical proximity, and you know a lot of issues they may face might require say home nursing for example. So we need to start thinking in terms of we don't want everyone to necessarily have to come to the hospital, because it may not require a full-scale medical treatment, but they need some sort of medical treatment and we need to seriously look at home-nursing and things like that."

Mr Shanmugam also gave his take on Singapore's economy where he highlighted the plight of small and medium enterprises, many of which are struggling with the government's move to restrict the number of foreign workers.

This he said, has implications on jobs for Singaporean too.

Mr Shanmugam said: "You've seen Minister Lim (Swee Say) saying we may have to settle for low growth. Now low growth does not mean that we will all be able to say, be graceful, have a good standard of life, play golf. No.

"Low growth in Singapore, in the context of high growth region means lack of opportunities in Singapore. A lot of people don't understand this. You see articles all around - 'oh it's okay, let's adjust to a low growth'.

"First, low growth is going to be a fact of life. We're not going to be able to grow at six to eight per cent. Not easy, let's understand that.

"Second, what does low growth mean when all your neighbours are growing high? Just look at Japan, it means less opportunities for young people, in the event of 40 to 50 per cent of the population coming out with degrees. It means reduced dynamism in the economy, it means industries moving out, these are the challenges we have to face and these are the messages we have to get across and what are the choices that people want to make. Low growth carries serious consequences."

Mr Shanmugam also added that the government must manage low growth even as it ensures enough opportunities for Singaporeans.

He was at an Active Ageing Carnival in Nee Soon GRC on Sunday. More than 3,000 Nee Soon GRC residents came together to commemorate the launch of the Wellness Programme, through its Active Ageing Carnival.

- CNA/ck
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