The following is a letter by Ms Quah Ley Hoon, Director, National Population Secretariat, to questioned raised in the media about the influx of foreigners. (Straits Times Forum Page, 29 August 2009)
I REFER to the letters on the subject of foreigners and new immigrants, and Monday’s commentary by Ms Bertha Henson, ‘Keep a hand on the tap’.
As Ms Henson acknowledged, Singapore faces a serious population challenge. Our total fertility rate of 1.28 is one of the lowest in the world. The Government will continue to support marriage and parenthood but, realistically, we will still face population and manpower shortfalls.
Our ageing population will increase the burden on future generations. We, therefore, need to attract talent and immigrants, like what many other countries are doing.
Closing our doors and refusing entry to newcomers will not reserve jobs for citizens. On the contrary, investments and job creation will shrink. Essential services like health care, education and transportation will be badly affected. Our ability to defend ourselves will be compromised. This will not benefit Singaporeans at all.
The Government is mindful of the concerns of Singaporeans over foreigners and new immigrants. We have been calibrating the inflows, and adjusting our policies to best meet Singapore’s needs, while maintaining our identity and social fabric.
We are not flooding the country with new immigrants. Indeed, 70 per cent of the foreigners here are transient workers and only 30 per cent are permanent residents (PRs).
A key challenge is to integrate new citizens and PRs into our society. This will take time and effort on both sides. Our forefathers did not feel Singaporean when they first arrived here. But progressively, they and their children sank roots here, adjusted to one another, and developed a shared Singaporean identity and values. So in time should this new generation of newcomers and their children. The National Integration Council will foster this process.
Our citizens’ interests will always be the priority of the Government. The Minister Mentor had reiterated this in his speech at the Tanjong Pagar National Day Celebration Dinner on Aug 13.
Citizens enjoy greater subsidies in HDB housing, health care and education, as well as grants under the marriage and parenthood packages and surplus sharing schemes. But the way to ensure a bright future for our children, and for Singapore, is to remain open to new arrivals, and come together to build our nation.
Quah Ley Hoon (Ms)
Director, National Population Secretariat