I was not surprised that netizens took strongly to what our Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsein Loong has mentioned on the new cracks between newly-converted citizens and native ones.
A check with the Yahoo article saw 1800 comments listed on the page – which should be a new high for the news portal.
Transitioning also did a poll study on the subject Do you think that the current foreigner-local integration tension will worsen in future? two months ago and a total of 1,111 readers responded of which 93% or 1,033 felt that the foreign-local integration tension will worsen in future.
Foreign migrants – unpopular worldwide measure
Countries with a huge pool of immigrants such as USA, Canada, Australia and Europe have all face stiff resistance from their own population when it comes to such a thorny national issue.
People often took to the streets in protest and racism rears its ugly head in many of these affected countries – sometimes with fatalistic result.
I remembered been shouted at when a car load of young Aussies drove by when I was staying in Sydney few years ago.
Shouts of “Chinese go home!” echoed loudly across the busy road and many Aussies stared at me silently in their cars while they waited for the lights to change as I crossed the road to the oppositie side.
Of course, I felt lousy and isolated but what could I do then? It would be worse if I retaliated…
Fortunately, such occurence is uncommon and so far I have only experienced two direct incidents of racism here in Sydney over the past five years.
I must reiterate that Singaporeans have behaved most admirably in front of our immigrant friends compared to those staying in other countries.
At least, we don’t subject them to racist taunts or worse physical violence.
However so far, unfortunately, Singaporeans have yet to hear of the government’s blue print for our newly-arrived migrants except the usual rhetoria – to accept them with open arms.
Probably, only our local employers will receive them with a warm embrace as foreign workers are always nice to exploit.
An annual 20, 000 newly-converted citizens will be here to stay come rain or shine.
Many foreigners however could feel the displeasured stares of native citizens in MRT trains and market places with some incidents turning unpleasant.
It is envisaged that the relationship between new and native citizens will be cold for a while until the government has tried successfully to engage the population and convince them that mass influx of migrants will be beneficial for the whole country despite its’ inherent shortcomings.
The country now has half a million permanent residents and the government will try it’s level best to tempt them to become citizens with good jobs, nice BTO flats and no national service or reservist liability so that they can focus on their work.
Government silent on mass emigration blueprint
For all the government’s favourable attempt to reach out to the population to forge a reasonable consensus on important national issue - the one on immigration has fallen tragically short.
Many netizens have speculated that the government knows that the population will not take to mass immigration favourably and thus it is useless engaging them at all in dialogue or even a national referendum.
The agenda on mass emigration was literally pushed through at the top and the ultra-hot topic was not even discussed in Parliament!
It was only barely discussed in Parliament when hundreds of thousands of foreigners have already literally landed on our shore with a one-way ticket and many family members in toil.
EP Pass holders can bring along their own parents and parents in law to stay for six months on a dependent pass which is renewable.
The few men at the top must have knew that there would be a split if such contentious subject is being debated in a Parliament sitting – not unlike the one that happened many years ago when they debated on the casino issue.
The ruling party – already facing a confidence crisis issue at the recent polls in GE 2011 – could not bear to have another major split within the party.
To make matters worse, many citizens have felt that the mass influx of foreigners was not carried out properly as there were cries of locals been replaced by foreign executives and worse of all, foreign human resource managers are also starting to hire back their own people at the work places.
Employers have a field day selecting manpower from new blood coming in almost on a daily basis due to the ease in applying for a work permit for a foreign worker.
Many employers eventually replaced their aging expensive local work force with younger, fitter and cheaper foreigners.
Fresh young local graduates not only have to compete with themselves for jobs but also foreign graduates hailed from dubious third world universities who are willing to work for less than $2000 a month.
No clear transparent system to identify PRs
To add salt to the wound, there is also no clear transparent system of identifying relevant skilled permanent residents out of the 1.8 million foreigners residing in our country now.
We saw how stall hawker assistants became permanent residents and there is even one unsubstantiated rumour that a PRC Chinese tiolet cleaner is a PR here!
Singaporeans are generally receptive to the fact that we need skilled migrants to complement our aging workforce but so far there is nothing in the system which could clearly prove that the current crop of PRs or new citizens are worth the administrative trouble.
Many PRs are in fact clearly competing with our average locals for jobs e.g. administrators, managers, sales executives – jobs that do not require too much niche skills.
There is also this rumour long ago that you could receive your PR within three months of working here if you are a Malaysian Chinese, below age thirty years old and are already working in a stable job.
However, I have heard recently that the criterion has been tightened somewhat for PR application as the government is trying to reduce the numbers from the current half-a-million high.
Yet, after administering close to half a million PRs over the past decade, there is still no clear transparent system in place to identify skilled permanent residents from the 1.8 million foreigners living and working here.
Singaporeans are also clearly unhappy that PRs can have access to almost-similar perks promised to citizens though the government has being trying recently to reduce the benefits extended to PRs.
For example, PRs now have to pay slightly more when they see a doctor in our publicly-funded government polyclinics whereas in the past tPRs pay the same cost as citizens.
What probably irks citizens most is that there are many PRs who have being staying on and milking our system all this while without becoming citizens. Some PRs have even stay on without ever wanting to convert to become citizens for decades!
Singapore has being the number one migration country for many third world neighbouring countries due to our solid infrastructure, good economy and most importantly we provide a safe environment for families to reside in.
Children can play safely in the playgrounds unwatched and teenagers can return home late at night unharassed.
Intelligent government tactic – low birth rate issue
By finally playing up the low birth – rate issue intelligently, the government has being pinning the blame on a population that refuses to get married earlier and bear enough children.
So now they have to pay the price of mass foreign migration to boost up population growth.
Before that, it has offered several suggestions of GDP growth due to population growth, lack of sufficient skilled/unskilled workers for the employment sector and even a declining Chinese population as more Malays wanted to give birth than Chinese to tackle the growing dissent at mass influx of foreigners into our country.
The citizens retaliated that they could not date earlier due to the 2-year compulsory national service for guys and our infamous work stress which rob couples of the mood for making love in the evening after a hard day at work.
Many couples also refuse to give brith to more kids due to our pressure-cooker educational enviroment of which the government is not willing to relent.
Personally, I didn’t want to give birth to more children due to the financial constraint and the severe pressure our children face in the school system.
I only have a 18-year-old daughter who is studying in Sydney now since secondary two.
The government also uses the local press to good effect and as recent as two months ago, we saw regular articles featuring the low birth rate problem here.
Some citizens have even fallen for the ruse and believed that our government is indeed bringing in more immigrants to resolve a serious issue here.
In fact, if we study the low birth-rate issue for the past decade, our government had done little to resolve the decade-long problem except by increasing the baby bonus money to young couples.
Part of the money is also locked away in a educational fund for the kids to use when he is schooling. Less than half of the bonus is placed in the hands of the couple as real disposable cash.
You will receive a monetary gift of $4,000 each for your first and second child. For your third and fourth child, you will receive $6,000 each. The money will be given out in four equal installments over 18 months. There are no monetary incentives for the fifth child onwards.
There is also the Child Development Account (CDA) of which the government will match your savings set aside for a child dollar for dollar subject to a limit.
The savings you contribute to the CDA have a cap of $6,000 each for the first and second child, $12,000 each for the third and fourth child and $18,000 for the fifth child and beyond.
There is also attractive tax rebate if you give birth to more kids i.e if you are on the high income bracket.
There is no real attempt to take a serious look into tackling why couples refuse to give birth to more kids.
Chief of the reasons is the work stress which deter many couples from wanting to have more kids.
Many Chinese women prefer to have one or two kids and provide them with the best that is available rather than have 3-4 kids and neglecting most of them in the process due to the limited time that they can spend with them at home after work.
Political agenda to convert new citizens
There is also the political connotation to the whole new citizen conundrum.
Many native citizens know that the government is trying to convert as many new citizens as possible to shore up desperate support for the next election in five years’ time.
Everything points to the fact that the 130, 000 new citizens have helped the ruling party recovered from a otherwise whitewash at the polls in GE 2011.
The ruling party knows that their reign is short on popular support from the population due to a lack of ideas and change necessary for political progress.
It still refuses to open up politically and continues to rule with an iron hand.
Active political dissidents still get the occasional rap from the law and our Prime Minister lacks leadership for strong active change from within.
As our country grabbles with the senstive issue of social integration between new and native citizens, let us hope that the government will continue to engage the population actively and tackle issues head on rather than waving them aside.
If not, the ruling party may see it’s power fast eroding in five years’ time at the polls – even if there are 100, 000 new citizens rooting for them.
Those who will swing their votes against them will surely exceed that figure…
Written by: Gilbert Goh