During a ministerial dialogue at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) on Thursday (28 March), Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat mentioned that Singaporeans need to be more open and understanding of foreigners, regardless whether they’re immigrants, workers or students from other countries. This is so they will have the confidence to interact with people of all races.
He added that it’s wrong for Singaporeans to form an exclusive circle for themselves because Singapore would not have a place in the world then.
“We don’t want a world where people build walls around themselves. Our pledge – regardless of race, language or religion – is not to be taken lightly…but really as a way of life for Singapore,” he said.
In the two-hour forum, one of the Finance Minister’s keynotes were the need for Singaporeans to have an open mindset as well as a multicultural outlook.
According to the Government’s 2013 Population White Paper, the population forecast by 2030 is only 6.9 million, which Mr Heng said is beyond how densely populated Singapore would be. He also cited former planner Liu Thai Ker, who highlighted in 2014 that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long run.
“On the one level, many Singaporeans understand, rationally, we should have more people join us because our workforce is declining. But at the same time, emotionally, we don’t feel comfortable that there are people who appear a little different from us and I would like to keep this to my circle. This almost tribal feeling is a very deep one,” he explained.
Although Mr Heng encourages locals to be more open and understanding of foreigners, but one netizen brought up a rather serious issue that affected her daughter.
Upon reading the Minister’s remarks, Helen Leong wrote in the comment section of The Straits Times (ST) Facebook page, noting that while her daughter was doing her internship, she was told off by Filipinos to not snatch their jobs. As such, Leong questions who exactly is bias against foreigners in this country.
Her comment sparked a debate and many Singaporeans felt upset that such an incident happened. They said that foreign talents (FTs) have outnumbered locals and Singaporeans now feel like a minority in their own country. Due to their high volume, netizens said they have become extremely arrogant and even look down on native Singaporeans.
Ridzie Ridz said that although it’s fine to bring foreigners into the country to work and study, but it’s not right for them to rob away opportunities that were meant for the locals. He also added that it’s too much to actually provide finances to overseas scholars when these funds can be used to help local students instead.
Besides that, contrary to Mr Heng’s point that Singaporeans are forming their own circle, both MaaNuu Faraway Tree and Yong Yun Fui said that in reality the foreigners (Filipinos) are the ones who have their own clique and only stay within their own circle. They even converse in their own language, causing locals to feel left out. In addition, when the higher ranking positions are filled by Filipinos, they will ensure to “groom only their own and will do stuff which will try to get the Singaporeans to leave on their own”.
Yong added that locals are the one who are being discriminated by them, and not the other way around. As someone from the Human Resource industry, he highlighted that Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is not doing enough to solve such discrimination. He also said MOM should tighten the quotas for certain roles so they won’t be “hijacked by FTs”.