Address root causes of anti-foreigner sentiments

Source: The Straits Times Oct 07, 2014

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PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong has called upon Singaporeans not to be overly distracted by internal issues while losing sight of the bigger picture (“PM calls on S’pore to look outwards and to the future”; last Saturday).

In a globalised economy, Singapore’s success depends on reaching out to the world and staying connected.

While Mr Lee acknowledged ground concerns of tensions caused by immigrants, it is unrealistic for the Government to expect citizens to simply surmount the uneasiness.

Most Singaporeans are not jingoistic by nature and accept that immigrants contribute to the country’s growth.

However, with liberal immigration policies in the past, citizens have the perception that they are being marginalised in their own homeland.

Recent reports on how certain individuals could obtain permanent residency using fake credentials have reinforced the perception that we are accepting under-qualified foreigners as permanent residents.

In maintaining the social fabric between citizens and immigrants, the Government must address the root causes of anti-foreigner sentiments, to convince Singaporeans that only qualified foreigners are granted permanent residency and, eventually, citizenship.

Some measures to address such sentiments include revealing the criteria for granting permanent residency and citizenship, instead of keeping these conditions vague and hence allowing the public to speculate; reviewing the contributions of foreigners and PRs on a regular basis, so that only those who contribute have the right of abode; and recognising the contributions of citizens vis-a-vis the responsibilities shouldered, such as national service.

Lee Yong Se