The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Lee Kuan Yew reconsiders population

Living, as I do, in Singapore, I was rather relieved to learn that Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's Minister Mentor (an advisory leader), has stated that he now believes that Singapore should not have a population of 6.5 million, but that one of 5 to 5.5 million would be optimum.

He is quoted in the papers as saying: "I have not quite been sold on the idea that we should have 6.5 million. I think there's an optimum size for the land that we have to preserve the open spaces and the sense of comfort".

He went onto say that he wouldn't like to see Singapore turn into another Hong Kong, with its towers, one after the other, each blocking out the other's light. He indicated that he thought Hong Kong's 7 million population was an undesirable number.

I don't know if Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew is aware of it, but Singapore's population density is already rather high, even compared to Hong Kong's.

A quick search of Wikipedia, brings up the following figures from the United Nations World Populations Prospects Report (2004 revision), with estimates calculated for July 2005. In that data set, Hong Kong is listed as the 3rd most dense place on Earth at a population density of 6,407 people per sq. km. "Wow...that's high!", you might think. But where is Singapore on this United Nation list? Fourth place. Singapore comes in at 6,369 people per sq. km for these figures. So, you might think that Singapore's population density is high - indeed very similar to Hong Kong's - but not quite there yet. However, Singapore's population has risen since these figures were gathered - and guess what? Hong Kong's population has declined, a little.

Recalculating for the new population of Singapore which Lee Kuan Yew said was 4.8 million a couple of days ago, gives a population density for Singapore, as of now, of 6,823 people per sq. km. This is 6.5 % MORE dense than Hong Kong at its population peak. How about now, though?

Well, Hong Kong's population has declined from 7.04 million in 2004, to 6.98 million for the latest figures in July 2007. That means Hong Kong's population density is now 6,351 people per sq. km. That means that Singapore's population density is presently 7.43% greater than Hong Kong's. No wonder it was beginning to feel crowded.

What this means is that Singapore is now the 3rd most densely populated nation on Earth. Hong Kong has slid to fourth position.

Let us look forward. The projected population (now) by Lee Kuan Yew, of 5.5 million would represent a density of 7,812.5 people per sq km. That is a full 23 % more dense than Hong Kong is presently.

What about the fabled 6.5 million population projection tabled last year? Well, that would give a population density of 9,233 people per sq. km. That is a population density of 45.4 % more dense than Hong Kong - basically half as dense again.

These figures are sobering to read. Anyone of imagination can understand what they mean for the quality of life for Singaporeans. Yet, it is good to hear that Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew is re-evaluating the situation himself. He is, perhaps, listening to how people feel about it. Perhaps he is imagining the situation himself. Yes, by all means have a growing economy - but one must also consider the quality of life for every Singaporean and foreigner who lives and works here. If that quality of life becomes too low - they will simply leave, Singaporean and foreigner alike.

Personally, I have never visited Hong Kong. However, I have seen many pictures of its crowds - and my family have visited - so I hear that its crowdedness is hardly enviable. How much less enviable would Singapore be at 23 % more dense, or even 45.4 %? It would be a very different city - and probably an utterly unlivable one. It would be difficult to put that many people on these 704 sq kms of a city state and still afford them all a decent life.

I am relieved that Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew himself is re-addressing these issues. There is hope, from what he is saying, that moderation in population growth might be a new aim.

It should be - for Singapore is already too crowded - and getting more so every day. Let us, indeed, as Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew says himself, not be as over-populated as Hong Kong. If that is to be so, however, we would, in fact, have to reduce the population hence forth. For Hong Kong is already taking the lead in becoming a less dense, more livable city, than Singapore. Let's follow her down (in population) shall we?

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and seven months, and Tiarnan, two years exactly, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:48 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One shouldn't compare total land area verses total area that could be inhabited.

I am of the opinion that Hong Kong is probably too hilly and the concentration of buildings are really too close for comfort.

Singapore is typically quite flat...

11:42 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

You are forgetting one thing. The number of people in our small island in relation to the size of the main areas that people want to go to. The more people we have, the more crowded are the central areas like Orchard Road. Have you seen Orchard Road at peak periods recently? It is horrible. It can only get worse. Increasing population density is what causes this.

Have you tried living in a country in which the cities are spread out and not high rise and everyone has a house? The density is orders of magnitude less - and the feel of it is very different. People feel that they have space to themselves. It is very much more comfortable for most people. There is a real practical limit on how dense Singapore can become before it starts to push people away. The question is: has it already begun.

As for Hong Kong's hills - they are inhabited and have buildings on them. So I am not sure how much that bears on the matter...

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Onlooker said...

Density in the city area can be partly alleviated by allocating government's services to other area which have lesser density.One example will be the moving of HDB hub from bukit merah to toa payoh .But the side effect is the crowd that will go to these place(people buying house) will go to the new location,creating a vacuum in a previously lively place. Decentralization of non critical civil services. The key is moving in demand service to less dense location.

11:37 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Decentralization could lessen the burden on central areas - yes. However, it wouldn't make Singapore one bit less populated - and that problem, even if spread around a bit better, would still remain.

To make Singapore truly less crowded you would have to start reducing the population by hundreds of thousands - at least.

However, I don't see that being done.

Hong Kong will have to be satisfied with fourth place in the population density stakes from now on, it seems.

Best wishes

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may need to consider hong kong's geography feature, 60% area are hill, that's why it looks much more crowed than Signapore. Singapore land area much small, but most are flat and suitable for various buildings.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. 60% unavailability in HK...Singapore has the same problem for a different reason: much of Singapore's land is actually set aside for military and other purposes (I once read half the land...but I can't recall precise percentages) so Singapore has a man-made/politically decided version of the same situation.

Thanks for your comment.

11:46 AM  

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