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
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.”