WORKERS' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang yesterday accused the People's Action Party Government of kicking the can of economic restructuring down the road and resorting to immigration as the easy way out.
He called on it to stop using immigration as a policy tool to grow the workforce - an approach he said it has relied on for the last 30 years, and is the cause of today's problems.
"When 2030 arrives, what solution are we going to turn to? Immigration again? Another White Paper to project a population size of 10 million in 2050 as a road map?" the secretary-general of the opposition WP asked.
He said his party's proposal to focus on getting more Singaporean women and seniors working is more sustainable.
With enough Singaporeans in the workforce, the WP will freeze the number of foreign workers at today's level.
In his speech, delivered in English and Mandarin, Mr Low did not mince his words in opposing the Government's White Paper on Population, a road map to take Singapore to 2030.
Referring to the WP as a "rational and responsible co-driver", he said: "It is our duty to tell the driver that he's reading the road map upside down."
Among his criticisms: The Government is sticking to handing young couples incentives to have more babies, when the method has not arrested a decline in birth rates and "serious roadblocks" remain in the form of high housing costs, lack of family and social support, and poor work-life balance.
He also charged that the Government was "trying to go forward and backwards at the same time" when it tells businesses that they are addicted to cheap foreign labour and need to improve productivity, but at the same time proposes to grow the foreign workforce to boost a slowing economy.
The White Paper's proposals, he warned, will also result in Singaporeans becoming a minority in their own country.
He also was not very confident that the Government could integrate new citizens with "thoroughbred Singaporeans", whose national identity was formed over decades of nation building.
He said in Mandarin: "Some ministers said our ancestors were all foreign immigrants, so we should be able to take in new immigrants like what we did in the past.
"It's like saying we were part of Malaysia in the past, so we should be able to go back to Malaysia as and when we want. There's no logic."
Mr Low also accused the Government of downplaying the 6.9 million population figure in its White Paper as a worst-case scenario, saying it should clarify "once and for all whether it has control over immigration, or is immigration an impending tsunami we have to plan for".
He said: "The problems of low birth rate and ageing population lie in the social and physical environment that is not conducive to family life. Therefore, the solution must be sought by focusing on promoting the quality of life of Singaporean families.
"By focusing on immigration, the Government is using the cause of the problems today as a solution for tomorrow. What the Government is doing is kicking the can down the road."