At a virtual press conference by the Emerging Stronger Taskforce held yesterday (17 May), Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat commented that the “Singapore core” should not be too narrowly defined in terms of whether someone is Singapore-born, a new citizen, or a foreigner who is helming a company.
“That test for us must be the commitment to Singapore, the commitment to the well-being of Singapore and of Singaporeans,” he said.
In other words, Heng is comfortable with, say, a foreigner to be included as part of “Singapore core” in addition to those native-born Singaporeans who need to serve his national service and reservist duties to his country.
Drawing on his own experiences running the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) during the 2008 to 2009 global financial crisis, Heng said many chief executives of international banks in Singapore had given him outstanding advice on how to deal with the crisis – demonstrating that they had Singapore’s interests at heart.
“Some of the CEOs from these banks are as Singaporean as Singaporeans who were born in Singapore and went through national service… in fact, some of them, whom I knew personally, had become Singapore citizens,” said the minister, without elaborating.
Of course, these foreign CEOs of international banks probably also didn’t want Singapore to fail for if Singapore does fail and companies who have borrowed money from them go bankrupt, their whole banking business here will fail too. Their careers and international standings will also go down together with Singapore.
As a multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious society, Singapore must not end up like some other countries and territories in the world, where the fear of losing jobs leads to a protectionist instinct where people as well as goods and services from other places are kept out, Heng cautioned.
“On the whole, I think we must get our strategic direction correct – that we welcome people from all over the world who can add value to us, (and) who share our views,” he said.