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     FrontPage Edition: Sat 4 September 2004

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Q & A on immigration policies: Minister Wong Kan Seng

Source: www.gov.sg 

Q: PM Lee said in his 2004 budget Statement that the Government would also look at other ways of boosting our population, in particular, opening our doors to immigrants who can contribute to Singapore. Thereafter, we have to encourage them to become permanent residents, and then to take up citizenship. What are some of the plans?

A: We have to take a closer look at the ways which a foreigner can contribute to Singapore. To do this, we will need to broaden the criteria, beyond formal educational qualifications and immediate economic contributions, for evaluating whether and how a foreigner can contribute to Singapore. We will also need to see how we can help them and their families settle down and integrate with our society.

We will continue to treat foreigners living and working in Singapore well. But we should make some calibrations such that Singaporeans have more privileges than PRs, who will in turn have more privileges than other foreigners. This is fair to our citizens and will also provide more incentives for suitable immigrants to take up PR and then citizenship.

Q: How is the immigration approach going to help the fertility issue, given the observation by some that the procreation package might not help boost the number of babies born each year?

A: We want to build a competitive economy and a vibrant and cohesive society. Singaporeans, as well as foreigners who are committed to making Singapore their home, can help us realise this vision. The two approaches, i.e. having more babies and bringing in more foreigners and making them citizens, are therefore complementary.

Q: What are some of the possible criteria besides educational qualifications and immediate economic contributions?

A: Currently, we evaluate a foreigner on the basis of his or her formal educational qualifications and immediate economic contributions to Singapore through the type of work pass he holds. But there are those who may not have excellent academic qualifications but can contribute to our society.

We should therefore consider broadening the set of criteria so that they are not overly focussed on academic qualifications. For example, we can consider factors such as how the applicant and the rest of his or her family, for example spouse and children, can integrate with our society and contribute to Singapore's present and future growth. The ability to communicate effectively with Singaporeans and the time spent in Singapore would also affect how well a person can fit into, and be accepted by Singapore society. Singaporeans must make them feel welcomed too.

Q: How many foreigners (with PRs) are there in Singapore now and what age groups are they in? Of the foreigners in this group, how many have become Singaporeans and what age groups are they in? Which countries do they mainly come from and what kind of occupations do they hold?

A: There are currently just over 3 million Singaporeans and about 350,000 PRs in Singapore. There are another 800,000 foreigners residing in Singapore on various types of long term passes. Last year, about 6,500 foreigners became Singaporeans.

Q: Won't admitting more foreigners upset our population composition and social cohesion?

A: In revising the criteria, we will take into consideration how the applicant and the rest of the applicant's family, for example spouse and children, can integrate with Singapore society. The ability to communicate effectively with Singaporeans and the time spent in Singapore would affect how well a person can fit into, and be accepted by Singapore society. At the same time, we need to make greater effort in helping them and their families to settle down and integrate with our society.

Q: What kind of an environment needs to exist/be created in Singapore before immigrants are attracted to this place? Why should foreigners take up PRs and citizenship? There does not seem to be much perceptible differences between a PR and a SC. It seems that while SCs are no worse off, the benefits and privileges that PRs enjoy have been reduced. Why should a foreigner apply for PR then?

A: Singapore offers a stable and non-corrupt government, an efficient infrastructure that is conducive for business, an excellent education system and a safe and secure home for its residents. It is an ideal location to start a business, make a living and raise a family. Foreigners who can help Singapore progress and who are committed to making Singapore their home, will be welcomed to apply for residence in Singapore.

Let us not forget that the forefathers of many Singaporeans came to Singapore from China, India, the Malay archipelago during Singapore's early years. Their contributions subsequently helped transformed Singapore from a fishing village island into a modern country. So in the same way, the contributions of the new residents will help Singapore soar to greater heights.

Full text of News Release

Source: Ministry of Home Affairs News Release 3 Sep 2004

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