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Foreigner affairs is a balancing act

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					PA G E 1 2                                                                                                                                                                                  CHINA DAILY                         A S I A W E E K LY • JA N UA RY 14 -2 0 , 2 01 1                                                                                                                                                                      PA G E 1 3




Country Focus: Singapore
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   ‘Foreigner’ affairs is a balancing act
Of hot economy and sizzling growth                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 By ESTHER AUYONG

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Singapore is a country of opulence
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   and opportunities, always known for
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   opening its doors to foreign talents.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             us to seize opportunities, grow our
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             economy and in so doing, create jobs
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             and raise the incomes of Singapor-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             eans. However, we have become more
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             dependent on foreign workers, who
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          been reporting on the growing grous-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          es of Singaporeans over poor qual-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          ity customer service at restaurants
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          and retail stores, crowded subways
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          or having to compete for housing.
WITH NO NATURAL RESOURCES EXCEPT ITS PEOPLE, SINGAPORE HAS COME A LONG WAY SINCE IT BECAME INDEPENDENT IN 1965                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Even in difficult times the Republic      now make up almost one-third of the          And politically, the hot-button topic
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   has retained its aura and attraction      total workforce. Whilst this is com-         threatens to become a major issue in
By ESTHER AUYONG in SINGAPORE                  Singapore economy                              households year-on-year. According             Australia and South Korea’s this year          GDP growth for 2010, the high base                 18.7 percent, annualized. However,        economic fundamentals”, says the          for foreign elites thanks to its robust   parable or slightly lower than what is       an anticipated general election which
                                               The island nation posted its best              to Boston Consulting Group’s latest            to become the second-largest casino            will work against a repeat of double-              the government expects growth in          central bank and the ministries of        economic performance.                     seen in several other global cities, we      has to be held by February 2012.
   While the Western world is still            ever economic performance in 2010              Global Wealth report published in              market in the Asia-Pacific.                     digit growth in 2011,” explains Selena             the October to December period to         finance and national development in           To grow at the pace that it has,       have to manage this dependence and              The government has also moved
reeling under the economic crisis,                                                            June 2010, it now has the highest con-            The report, titled “Play to Win” looks      Ling, OCBC Bank’s head of treasury                 be positive, avoiding a second straight   a joint statement.                        this small island country imports         not let it increase indefinitely,” says the   swiftly to sharpen the distinction
                                               15
feeling the aftershocks and struggling                                                        centration of US dollar millionaires in        at the trends in casino and online gam-        research, in an interview late last                quarter of decline.                          Overall, Ling says, “MAS is likely     foreign labor at both ends of the         Economic Strategies Committee (ESC)          between citizens and permanent resi-
to recover, Singapore is making long                                       14.7%              the world.                                     ing. It says Singapore’s casino revenue        year.                                                 While growth is great for the coun-    in a wait-and-see mode, assessing the     spectrum — blue-collar workers to         in its report.                               dents (PRs) by decreasing certain ben-
strides. A 15 percent expansion in             10                                                However, while Singapore’s econom-          will grow to US$2.8 billion in 2011 and           While the risk of a technical                   try as a whole, day-to-day living for     growth data and inflation dynamics,        plug shortages in industries such as         “We cannot increase the number of         efits for PRs. Besides this, the number
2010 puts this small island country                                                           ic policies are sound, leading to already      reach US$5.5 billion next year and up          recession — defined broadly as two                 the man in the street may not be sig-     as well as other factors like the pace    construction and hospitality, and top     foreign workers as liberally as we did       of permanent residencies awarded has
on track to finishing the year as the                                                          rosy prospects, the super-growth seen          to US$8.3 billion by 2014. This would          consecutive quarters of economic                   nificantly easier considering two-three    of capital inflows and asset inflation,     talents to take up highly coveted posi-   over the last decade, or else we will        also dropped — from 79,200 PRs and
world’s fastest-growing economy after           5                                             in 2010 is fuelled by a number of fac-         put Singapore’s casino revenue in the          contraction — is reduced, it is still a            percent in inflation.                      especially property.”                     tions in the finance sector and the        run up against real physical and social      20,500 citizenships granted in 2008 to
Qatar, according to the International                                                         tors that came together with perfect           No 2 slot in the Asia-Pacific, behind           possibility. Economists, however, say                 The government has already adopt-         Meanwhile, it is widely speculated     academia. The philosophy is not just      limits,” observes the ESC which was          59,500 and 19,900 respectively in 2009.
Monetary Fund.                                                                                timing: a strong recovery in exports,          Macau’s US$28.4 billion.                       any technical recession should be                  ed some inflation-busting moves. The       that a general election would be held     to help grow these sectors, but to cre-   formed in May 2009 to study the coun-           But the foreigners are unfazed. In
   With no natural resources except its         0                                             manufacturing inventory restocking in             The economic story is going to              seen in perspective, against the super-            Singapore dollar, which has already       in the next few months to capitalize on   ate more jobs and opportunities for       try’s long-term economic transforma-         fact, many of them are attracted to
people, the tiny 691.5 sq km-country                 Real GDP growth %                        the first half of the year, a strong phar-      be drastically different this year             growth in 2010.                                    risen a record seven percent against      the country’s spectacular growth.         locals as well.                           tion and develop specific strategies to       this country because of its practical
— at 779.6 square kilometers New York                2005 market prices                       maceutical and bio-technology sector,          though, according to a forecast by 22             Tai Hui, Standard Chartered’s                   the greenback so far, may be allowed         But “a general election should not     Foreign workers now number almost         develop different sectors. The govern-       “work-equals-rewards” philosophy.
City is bigger in size — wasn’t seen as a      -5                                             a tourism and hospitality boom thanks          economists who took part in a survey           regional head of research in Southeast             to climb further as wages need to be      directly impact the economy per se,       a third of the workforce. In August,      ment has in fact accepted the commit-           “I agree that there ought to be a dif-
strong economic power when it gained                1970            1990            2010      to the opening of the integrated resorts       released by the Monetary Authority             Asia, says, “The risk is real. However, it         increased to combat the tight labor       except where fiscal policy may be         Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong            tee’s recommendation to raise foreign        ferentiation in the benefits for citizens
a difficult independence in 1965. “To                          SOURCE: MTI SINGAPORE          (IRs), real estate boom and the revival        of Singapore (MAS), the city-state’s           is worth noting that although it sounds            market.                                   slightly more conducive to putting in     announced that Singapore would            worker levies — a pricing mechanism          and non-citizens, even Permanent
understand Singapore, you’ve got to                                                           of the construction sector.                    central bank.                                  bad, any real drawback is unlikely to                 The MAS survey shows that another      place medium-term economic infra-         need 80,000 foreigners this year. This    to control the number of foreign work-       Residents,” says Daphne Maia Loo.
start off with an improbable story — it        formed the former British colony into             The opening of the two IRs                     Gross domestic product is expected          appear. Domestic demand is still high              six percent appreciation is expected      structure, and addressing concerns of     was a revised figure from an earlier       ers in Singapore — which will force          “Citizens should always come first
should not exist,” Singapore’s Minister        an economic superpower that boasts             — Resorts World Sentosa in February            to grow by a median forecast of 5.1 per-       and job prospects remain good. In                  next year. This year alone, the govern-   the domestic population such as ris-      estimate of 100,000.                      companies to either hire higher-skilled      when it comes to subsidies. If there’s
Mentor, and its first Prime Minister,           one of the highest per capita GDPs             last year and Marina Bay Sands two             cent, a third of last year’s expansion.        reality, the double digit growth we                ment has moved several times to cool      ing prices for housing, transport and        However, a committee has observed      workers or increase automation. Both         no real differentiation between the
Lee Kuan Yew, himself said in a New            in the world. A preferred place to do          months later — had a big impact on             This is in line with the government’s          are seeing is unsustainable in the                 fast-rising property market, with the     medical care,” Ling opines.               that the growth of and dependence         would raise productivity.                    benefits and policies for citizens and
York Times interview in 2007.                  business, due largely to its political sta-    the economy, say analysts.                     own four to six percent outlook for            long run.”                                         latest regulation change in August.                                                 on foreign workers needed to be man-         On the social front too, the rise of      non-citizens, then why would anyone
   Fast forward 45 years later, Lee’s          bility and good financial regulations,             According to a recent Pricewater-           2011.                                             The economy has already suffered                The objective was to “to ensure a         Esther AuYong is a Singapore-based        aged. “The rapid increase in foreign      foreign workers is causing frictions.        want to be a citizen?” explains the 27-
tenacity and forward thinking — and            Singapore has consistently produced            houseCoopers report, the Republic’s               “Given the bar has been set so high         a quarter-on-quarter dip in growth in              stable and sustainable property mar-      writer for China Daily Asia Weekly        workers in recent years has enabled       The local media for some time has            year-old social media consultant.
some say ruthlessness — have trans-            the highest growth in millionaire              casino gaming sector will overtake             with an expected 15 percent on-year            the last quarter contracting a record              ket where prices move in line with


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   New immigrants in struggle for integration
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   By ESTHER AUYONG                          times described as, are descendents          reach out to locals and who contrib-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             of immigrants. Most of them belong           ute to society at large.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Attracted by the modern, easy liv-     to several linguistic-cultural groups,          Local English daily, The Straits
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   ing and relatively high wages, many       originating mainly from the southern         Times, reported recently that an
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Chinese nationals immigrate to Sin-       parts of China, predominantly Fujian         increasing number of immigrants
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   gapore. But although the country is       and Guangdong provinces. They                are participating and contributing
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   over 70 per cent ethnic Chinese, the      migrated to Singapore in the 19th            to grassroots work. According to
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   local culture is very different from      century and the early half of the 20th       the report, about 1,500 PRs serve as
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   what these new residents are used to.     century. New Chinese immigrants are          grassroots leaders, an increase from
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “I am no longer a Chinese national.    generally those who came to live in          about 1,000 a year ago. A further
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   I have become a Singapore citizen,        Singapore in the 1990s and the early         4,800 are new citizens. In total, they
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   or just a Singaporean,” says Michael      21st century.                                make up 20 per cent of the 30,500
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Wang, who has lived in the city state        Much of the “problem” that local          grassroots leaders.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   since 1991.                               Singaporeans have with the Chinese              For example, new immigrants now
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “But because of my cultural back-      nationals in their society (or vice          form one-fifth of the 1,200-strong
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   ground, I just cannot squeeze myself      versa) seems to be caused by a “diffi-       membership of the 100-year-old
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   into the Singapore mainstream             cult integration”. Local media reports       Singapore Futsing Association, an
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   society. Nor do I have Singaporean        and Internet forums often dish               organization for people from Fuqing in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   friends either. Therefore, I don’t play   out “uncharitable accounts” of the           Fujian, China. Recently, the clan raised
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   much of a role in this society,” avers    lifestyle of these immigrants in this        S$900,000 (US$698,800) from mem-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Wang, who became a Singaporean            country of wealth and affluence. The         bers to build a new block of classrooms
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   in 1997.                                  comments sometimes reflect snooti-            for Poi Ching School in Tampines.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Wang, a director of a small lan-       ness and smack of elitism.                      Other immigrants also serve in the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   guage translation company, feels             Grace Zhou, director of a public          volunteer police division and help out
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   that “language and culture are the        relations agency, talks about an influx       in Meet-the-People sessions, where
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   two main factors” that deter Chi-         of lowly-educated workers from               Members of Parliament meet their
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   nese immigrants from being heavily        various countries in the region. “It’s a     constituents and try to assist in what-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   involved in community activities in       social phenomenon existing not only          ever problems they may have.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   this country.                             in Singapore, but in other countries            Largely, these volunteers hope that
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      While the 52-year-old’s case isn’t     as well. Chinese women in my circle          by mingling with Singaporeans and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   common, it isn’t rare either. Many        of friends are intelligent, successful       joining in their community activities,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Singaporeans like him feel the same       and confident. Many are happily mar-          they can help soothe some locals who
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   way. The disconnect between each          ried to their school sweethearts from        are not quite happy over the influx of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   group’s culture and the increasing        China, some married to Westerners,”          foreigners and PRs.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   number of foreigners in their midst       says Zhou, who is in her late 30s.              Jun Jiang from Xiamen, 40, who
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   has been feeding a growing unease.           New Chinese immigrants are also           was interviewed recently by The
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Foreigners and Permanent Residents        now setting up their own clans or            Straits Times, advised her country-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   (PRs) now make up a third of a 5.1-       joining existing clan associations           men: “Make the first move. It’s good
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   million population in Singapore.          here. But these are not groupings            to mix with people of different races
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Historically, Singaporean Chinese,     merely to bond with fellow immi-             and make friends. It makes me feel
Singapore boasts one of the highest per GDPs in the world and is the preferred place to do business due to its political stability and financial regulations. The city state also consistently produced the highest growth in millionaire households year-on-year.                                                           AFP    as local Chinese people are some-         grants, but also associations who            less of an outsider.”

				
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posted:9/3/2011
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