To all expats and foreign workers

Dear expats and foreign workers

Yesterday, I spoke with a PR (let’s call her A) from London whose family has been living here for 3 years. I would like to address an important misperception created by the mainstream media and PAP politicians – Singaporeans are against foreigners working here.

A could not understand why Singaporeans are against foreign workers here.

I managed to enlighten and assured her this is a misperception. Below is the gist of what I said:

1 In the 80’s and 90’s, there was no issue with expats and foreign workers who were really talented and contributed to our economy. Trouble started in the early 90’s when the PAP implemented its immigration policy of allowing any Tom, Dick or Harry into Singapore under the “foreign talent” label.

2 Singapore is a small country where space and jobs are limited. Not all jobs are shunned by locals as claimed by the PAP and mainstream media. Instead, the PAP uses the low salary yardstick of foreign workers to justify the need for more foreign worker because there are no takers for the job. (Fortunately, she was aware of our extremely high cost of living and agreed with the points I had made.)

3 Infrastructural planning is extremely poor as is evident by the hundreds of ongoing construction activities.

4 The mannerism of our ‘foreign talents’ leave much to be desired, especially those from Asian countries.

5 The PAP has been using a simplistic model of immigration to generate growth. This is untenable. Instead of acknowledging its epic failure, the PAP deflects the blame by using the mainstream media to pit locals against foreigners. After having successfully reframed the real issue, it steps in to play the ‘good guy’.

6 I was happy to hear that after A’s husband has restructured a company (with due respect I will not reveal the name), all jobs will be going to Singaporeans.

After the conversation ended, I thought there might be many others who have read too much of our state controlled press. The ‘facts’ need some correction.

No educated person should simply buy into PAP’s argument without some thoughts about the issues. The PAP seems to believe there are daft Singaporean who reject foreigners working here to help increase our standard of living.

The truth of the matter is Singaporeans are upset with the PAP’s shortsightedness. The problems created by PAP’s growth-at-all-cost policy far outweighs its benefits. Our GDP has tripled from a decade ago and so have our problems. High GDP never did equate to a higher standard of living but has benefitted only the rich.

Our high cost of living has also affected one expat family – instead of attending an international school in Singapore, their 3 children cross the causeway daily. This can be verified by the ICA.

As the government continues pussyfooting (tweaking endlessly a system which needs an overhaul), more Singaporeans continue to lose jobs to foreigners whose lower salaries increase the company’s bottom line. Few who have lost their livelihoods in this manner will no doubt blame foreigners. Foreigners in their own countries who suffer a similar fate will likely react in the same manner. It is a normal human reaction but such cases are exceptions.

Singaporeans are a tolerant people. 40 per cent of marriages involve a foreigner. Other family members, relatives and friends are eventually acquainted with a foreigner. It defies logic to claim that foreigners are not welcomed and stretches the imagination to generalise Singaporeans as xenophobic. Please be aware the media in Singapore is state-controlled.

Regards

Phillip Ang

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