From Today Report on Q&A session with LKY at the South Asian Diaspora convention, 22 Jul 2011
[Asked about the influx of foreigners], Mr Lee said: “For some time, the Singaporean has felt the competition from talented foreigners. But these are people who have come here to become our citizens and I am a firm believer that the more talent that you have in a society, the better the society will grow.
[Political Writings] What pisses Singaporeans is that many, if not most, of the foreigners who come here are not “talents”. Expat CEO’s are talent, some expat executives are talent. But S-Pass and work-permit holders are not talent. Neither are the majority of those granted PR in Singapore.
And for your info, the majority of the 1M+ foreigners in Singapore are not here to become citizens. By newspaper reports, it seems something like 200 become citizens every year. Maybe it has something to do with NS, or the fact that they are already so well-treated as foreigners they don’t see a need to step up to citizenship.
“If Singapore depends on the talent it can produce out of three million people, it’s not going to punch above its weight. It’s because we have been drawing talent from across the globe – South Asia, Northeast Asia, China, India and beyond that – you have a vibrant economy which is way beyond what three million Singaporeans with the talent they can produce can do.
“So you’ve got to accept the discomfort, which the local citizens fear that they are competing unequally for jobs. (It) cannot be helped.”
[Political Writngs] Why can’t it be helped? In other countries, employers have to prove that they are unable to find a local to do the job before they can get a work permit to hire a foreigner. Quotas for such work permits are set annually, approved by Parliament.
Why does Singapore not do this?
When asked how the political problem associated with the foreign talent issue could be managed, Mr Lee said: “You just have to assuage it.
“What is the choice – slow growth with no input of talent or faster growth with input of talent and the feeling that some of the top jobs are going to the foreigners? You may get no jobs at all if there were no growth.”
[Political Writngs] Either we have jobs and growth and lots of foreigners, or we have nothing? You make them sound like the only choices. Why is everything always black and white with PAP?
In everything there is a happy medium. Every economist knows it is best for an economy to grow at a moderate pace, not at an anaemic pace and not overheated. Why are you aiming for such overheated GDP growth?
* OTP = Out of Touch Party. This is an occasional series to provide commentary on how PAP is out of touch with Singapore.