Saturday, April 28, 2007

Foreigners need Singapore, but Singapore needs them more.

This letter which appeared in the Today newspaper is typical of the attitude of Singaporean heartlanders* when it concerns professional immigrants (or "foreign talent" as the govt likes to call them).

* in Malaysia-speak - heartlander is similar to "kampung / Jinjang / ulu / ah beng-ah lian."

Heartlanders are pissed off about foreign talent because:

1. Foreign talents are taking jobs away from Singaporeans. They help themselves to the economic opportunities in Singapore, but...

2. ... they decline to become citizens, preferring instead to remain PRs (Permanent Residents) or WPs (Work Permits)....

3. ...because they don't want to shoulder an equal burden for the sustenance of Singapore in the form of national service.

Let me try to enlighten Singaporeans who are still oblivious to their 'situation'... or predicament as I'd call it.

Foreigners create jobs in Singapore. They take up jobs which wouldn't exist in the first place if they weren't there. Howzat, you ask?

Singapore has a shrinking local population. They don't breed enough to replace themselves. What follows is a dwindling population that gets older and older, and less and less productive. Without foreigners to supply the additional hands and wallets, many jobs wouldn't exist. Simply because there would be no critical mass in terms of talent (pool of people of sufficient nationalities, cultures and skills to employ from) and market (greater demand for goods and services) to create those jobs in the first place. Foreign talent is like foreign investment. They bring resources along with them to Singapore, and the economic multiplier works its magic. Without foreigners, Singaporeans are deluding themselves if they think that the big MNCs, international trade, tourists and high value industries would have been there anyway.

Singaporeans cannot keep fantasising that they have somehow singlehandedly produced this grand economic buffet, and foreigners are only now coming at the closing stages to tuck in to it. The Singapore economy is a product of both Singaporean and foreign hands and both parties partake equitably from it. Both reap only what they themselves have sown.

As for national service... think of it this way. Singaporeans spend a couple of years doing it. After which they think they are Jesus Christ, having "sacrificed and suffered" for all mankind. Wake up and smell the roses. Foreign talent uproot themselves from their homes, families and everything dear to them... for tens of years (if not permanently) to come to Singapore. And in the process, they expose themselves to the unestimable vagaries and hardships of migration and take up jobs that Singaporeans are unwilling to do, or are unable to do in sufficient numbers. That is the migrant's sacrifice for Singapore. If you ask me, doing a couple years of army training at a camp 30 minutes away from their HDB homes via MRT or feeder bus - pales in the harsh light of comparison.
Some foreigners, like the Taiwanese and Koreans have put in their years of national service... albeit in a country other than Singapore. How does one reconcile that?

In addition, Singaporeans themselves migrate overseas in large numbers, and usually at the most productive stage of their lives (economically and biologically). This is an issue which heartlanders seem to ignore... choosing instead to harp on 'unreliable' PRs / WPs instead of questioning 'disloyal' citizens. Who do they think values Singapore more? PRs and WPs who are actually there on the island or citizens who are somewhere else? Who's paying Singapore taxes? Who's standing in front of their faces right now, pissing them off, stepping up to be counted where it matters?

Lastly, former Indonesian President Habibie once said that Singapore is a little red dot in a sea of green. Singapore depends on migrants from other countries to survive. That is a fact of life. In many ways, the dependency is largely reciprocal. Singapore needs foreign skills and labour to maintain it's affluence and way of life. Foreigners need Singapore to improve their standards of living.

But at the end of the day, though Singaporeans may only admit it within the deepest recesses of their minds, they know that the relationship is not equal. Without foreigners, Singapore disappears into oblivion. Without Singapore, foreigners simply go elsewhere. They will only keep coming to Singapore and keep its economic wheel turning, if Singapore manages to keep itself attractive to them. Like for foreign investment, one of the main attractions is the freedom to come and go.

Foreigners need Singapore, but Singapore needs them more. Stop bitching and live with it.

4 comments:

Muhamad Nur said...

Well, can't blame them right. The locals are experiencing the same dilemma the Malays did 150 years ago. Economic benefits=loss of identity

sean-the-man said...

Yup, can't blame them for their feelings. But the world is changing, with or without their consent. So, although you can't blame them for feeling hard put, you can definitely blame them for trying to hold on to a past that's no longer viable, and resisting the future to the detriment of the entire country.

Anonymous said...

is there anyway we can retain the foreigners in singapore and convert them to singaporeans??

Anonymous said...

I am an engineer. Over the past year, I have been squeezed out of my job by cheaper Chinese, Malaysian and Indian engineers. To them, $2000 is much when they remit back home. To me, I can't even afford a HDB, as frugal as I try to be, because the foreigners keeps driving home prices up on a daily basis. To add insult to injury, more of the foreign graduates replacing me had their university fees paid by our very own Ministry of Education. These graduates were not only given free college education, they were even given a month allowance of few hundred dollars each. While I had to work part time to support my education in NUS, and I still remain in debt to my student loan. (BITTER LAUGH!!!!).

I spent 2.5 years of my precious youth serving the SAF, during which I lost my first girlfriend during training. These foreigners were given PRs and citizenship in less than 2.5 years and they don't even need to serve. If war breaks out, I have to protect 1/3 of the population fuilled with these people?? (Assuming they dun run away at the 1st sign of trouble??!!) SAF even sent me a letter threatening to fine me for going overseas without telling them...to attend a funeral of my uncle...(BITTER LAUGH!!!!). Hey, here's an idea, why don't I migrate to another country before migrating back. That will save me more time!

I am working in odds jobs now 7 days a week. I am now almost 30 already. Inflation exceed my savings rate, and I find a home, marriage, kids and happy future beyond me. A simple illness or a year of unemployment could wipe me out. Yet the government is wondering why there are less marriages and births....(BITTER LAUGH!!!!)

I bear no love to my country now. My country does not need to be attacked, it has already be invaded and taken over. Thanks PAP!