S'pore's position not 'old-fashioned'

S'pore's position not 'old-fashioned'

SINGAPORE - It is heartening that permanent residents like Mr Stephen McNulty regard Singapore as their home, or home away from home ("Barrier preventing PRs from taking up citizenship"; last Friday). This is a very good first step towards harnessing social cohesion among all nationalities, and not just between Singaporeans and foreigners, in this global hub.

Mr McNulty and the like may act as a useful bridge between their respective countries and Singapore via various platforms, including joint cultural activities, to foster better understanding of our similarities and differences.

It is unnecessary to require PRs to take up citizenship after a certain period ("How to help foreigners integrate" by Mr Christopher Chong; last Tuesday).

The Government has already taken steps to further differentiate the perks enjoyed by Singaporeans and those for permanent residents and work-pass holders. More may be in the pipeline as it rebalances benefits towards low-income Singaporean families and the pioneer generation.

As long as PRs with no immediate family ties to Singaporeans continue to contribute to our society's development, are economically active or financially independent, and do not cause trouble, there is no reason to begrudge them their status, or not renew it should permanent residency assume a fixed-term structure in future.

PRs who fully understand and appreciate the ethos of Singaporean society, and are ready to make a whole-hearted commitment to this country, will always be welcomed as new citizens. But the concept of dual citizenship should never be allowed into this equation.

"Polygamy" or potential "divided loyalties" in nationhood would be a step backwards for the security of a small city-state like Singapore, which legislates compulsory national service for all Singaporean men.

Mr McNulty may regard this as "old-fashioned", but a thriving global metropolis should have few problems attracting qualified talent to expand its citizenry, and hopefully help make up for the shortfall in its population replacement rate.

The Singapore passport is one of the most highly respected and sought after in the world; it offers visa-free access to many nations.

The few remaining countries that impose visa requirements on Singaporeans should keep up with our holistic progress over the last couple of decades and remove this archaic barrier in reciprocity to Singapore's courtesy towards their nationals for visa-free entry here.

PRs like Mr McNulty can play a key role in promoting this "borderless" concept of people-to-people exchanges to his government, even if its implementation is insufficient to convince him to switch allegiances.

This article was published on May 20 in The Straits Times.

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