Quote: CNA; Photo: Straits Times

If more S’poreans leave, country will be ‘depleted’, ‘shrunken’: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has once again raised a perennial problem faced by Singapore – those who have chosen to leave the country for good.

In an interview with TIME magazine which was published on Thursday, Mr Lee said:

Quote: CNA; Photo: Straits Times
Quote: CNA; Photo: Straits Times

In 2008, Mr Lee’s father, then Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, had raised the same concerns.

The late elder Lee revealed in an interview with United Press International then that Singapore was facing a ‘pretty serious’ brain drain problem.

He said Singapore was “losing about 4 to 5 per cent of the top 30 per cent of its population every year.”

Mr Lee said every year; some 1,000 people at the top end are giving up their citizenship. And he believes the numbers are growing. To counter this, he was reported to have said he would be spearheading a brain gain campaign by bringing in more and more global talent.

The late Mr Lee said Singapore “has wooed many top professionals from China and India here” as part of the effort to stem the brain drain.

Straits Times, Feb 2008
Straits Times, Feb 2008

PM Lee Hsien Loong also said the challenge was how to manage a more diverse society, made up of people from different cultures and backgrounds.

However, the “Singapore core” must be maintained, he said.

“If you don’t have that Singapore core, you can top up the numbers, but you are no longer Singapore. It doesn’t feel Singapore, it isn’t Singapore and we can issue everybody red passports, but where is the continuity?”

In 2012, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean told Parliament that 1,200 Singaporeans give up their citizenship every year.

“The reasons for emigration vary,” DPM Teo said. “Some emigrants leave for family reasons, because of marriage or to reunite the family members overseas, while others do so for a different living environment,”

Yahoo Singapore, 2012
Yahoo Singapore, 2012