Goh Chok Tong: A courageous leader decades ahead of his time

By: Phillip Ang

Recently, Minister Ng Eng Hen lauded MP Charles Chong for being courageous: Charles was not afraid of voter backlash and had concealed his serious medical condition from them until he bo pian.

But the real hero is actually leaders like ESM Goh – his act of flooding Singapore with more than a million foreigners was many times more courageous than Charles. While Charles’ concealment concerned only one GRC, Goh’s policy affected all citizens living as far as Pulau Ubin. Despite his FT policy, Goh still enjoys tremendous support from Marine Paraders.

According to the 1991 URA Concept Plan, the PAP targeted a population of 4 million between 2031 to 2041. But by 2000 – after only 10 years in office – our population had hit 4.02 million. Lau Goh was 31 years ahead of his time.

Other KPIs which confirmed Goh’s leadership include a resident population target of 3.6 million in 2030 which was achieved by 2008. At close to 4 million today, our resident population has already exceeded the 2030 target, by miles.

Population Target.jpg

But of course this was never an issue because figures could also be suka suka amended by our scholars. Our leaders also can’t be wrong and the target was subsequently upsized to 5.5 million in the 2001 Concept Plan. This minister in charge was none other than 6 ‘O’ Levels-distinctions-2-credits Mah Bow Tan.

Mah’s targeted population between 2041 to 2051 was achieved last year, 26 years ahead. But this credit should go to Goh’s successor and another courageous leader, Lee Hsien Loong.

Before the population target of 5.5 million was about to be breached, the PAP government rammed the PWP through Parliament and increased the target by 1.4 million to 6.9 million. Instead of a 5.5 million population between 2041 and 2051, Singaporeans were told we needed a 6.9 million population in 2030.

PAP was effectively almost doubling the population from 2000 to 2030. Social costs? No issue.

It was Goh who had the courage and encouraged his successor to look decades ahead. There was no fear of voter backlash and PAP was rewarded at GE 2015.

The takeaway from this is leaders should not be afraid to rewrite population targets so long as our GDP goes up, up and away. It doesn’t matter if costs are socialised as what matters most is the privatisation of profits.


The PWP has nothing to do with arresting the declining TFR; its objectives are mainly to support real estate prices and drive economic growth.

It’s a waste for Goh to ride off into the sunset, unappreciated and lambasted by citizens. The Americans should have invited him to run for President and the US GDP could easily top US$100 trillion in about a decade or so. This could be achieved by growing their population, eventually overtaking China’s. Goh could become a foreign talent himself and help spur global growth.

The impossible has been achieved by Goh Chok Tong who is clearly a courageous leader way ahead of his time.


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