Singaporeans are raring to do something extraordinary: protest.
That might not seem like a big deal with the Arab Spring uprisings; Chinese journalists taking to the streets; and thousands of typically docile Japanese rallying against government policies. But tropical Singapore is the land of quiet brooding, where mass street demonstrations are as common as snowstorms.
What has people so riled up? Well, people. The impetus for the Feb. 16 march is a report that the tiny island’s population may rise by as much as 30 percent to 6.9 million by 2030. This seems to be the government’s answer to the question of how to sustain prosperity in one of the most crowded and expensive cities in the world.
The signs of overcrowding and urban stress are palpable to any visitor. Prices are surging, public services in a nation famed for nanny-state tendencies are slipping and some of the finest infrastructure anywhere is buckling under the strain. Locals blame the influx of immigrants, which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong‘s ruling party touts as one key to Singapore’s success in the years to come.
The city-state, with about half the area of New York City, has 3.3 million citizens and 2 million foreign residents, many of whom have contributed greatly to Singapore’s growth in finance and construction. Yet complaints that overseas workers deprive locals of jobs and drive up housing prices fill the air. Singapore is the third-most-expensive Asian city and ranks as the sixth most costly in the world, according to an Economist Intelligence Unit ranking of 131 cities.
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