Citizen-PR distinction has sharpened: MM
But Singaporeans urged not to forget foreigners' contribution. -ST
By Clarissa Oon
SINGAPORE citizens and permanent residents (PRs) receive very different treatment in government policies, and this distinction has sharpened further in recent months, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said yesterday.
As the Government slows down the inflow of foreign workers, he urged Singaporeans not to forget the contributions that foreigners have made to the economy.
However, should the foreign worker tap be turned down too much, it could lead to a 'deflating economy', he warned, in a speech that also dwelt at length on the importance of boosting productivity.
Excerpts from MM Lee's speech:
"Singapore citizens and permanent residents (PRs) receive very different treatment in government policies, and this distinction has sharpened further in recent months."
"...should the foreign worker tap be turned down too much, it could lead to a 'deflating economy'."
"(But) citizens receive numerous perks not available to these non-citizens."
"Foreign workers were needed for the building of the two integrated resorts, which will create more jobs for Singaporeans, draw tourists and boost the economy."
"Foreign workers also built housing and infrastructure projects like public transport, schools and hospitals all over Singapore. Without them, these projects could not have proceeded and our economy would slow down, to the detriment of Singaporeans."
"Without them, the two IRs would not be built, all the schools, buildings would not be there."
"So when you grumble about - Serangoon estate grumbles about the workers near the neighbourhood - please remember they're human beings. They come here to earn a living and do the heavy work for us. Without whom, you'll not be here."
"The crucial thing for any country is to make economic progress. Without economic progress, with no growth, you'll not be here tonight."
"Let me explain what happens when we make progress. HDB prices go up, private home (prices) go up, all asset prices go up. Everybody finds he owns something more valuable in the house, his shares are worth more and he can live a good life. Of course we have to put up with more crowded trains, more crowded buses, (but) it cannot be helped."
"Let me tell you what happens when we slow down too much. You get the reverse spiral. Low growth, maybe even zero growth. Last year we had minus two per cent. Prices go down, property prices go down, incomes go down, you can't refurbish your houses, no new lifts, no new SERS, no upgrading and the country goes down."
"So between the two - growth against no growth, I have no doubt we've chose the right decision - growth, whatever the inconveniences or competition for space, buses, MRTs, and even schools. But we always give preference to our own citizens."
"Without growth, Singapore will not be what it is and the key to our growth is a government taking right decisions and labour unions, employers, and the government working together. No other country in the world has got this combination."
"To slow down our intake of foreign workers and yet continue to grow and prosper, our local workers must increase their productivity."
"The same number of Singaporean workers must produce more by getting better training, acquiring higher level of skills, working smarter and making a collective effort as the Japanese do to make their companies succeed."
"If we cannot increase the productivity or the output of our citizens, our economy will slow down. We will have a deflating economy, with a series of knock on effects as prices of all assets, including flats will go down... demand will lessen, pay will fall and so will the number of jobs and promotions."
"Then Singapore will discover that instead of many job opportunities and rising asset values, including prices for resale HDB flats, the reverse will happen across the board."
"When this happens, many of our own talents will leave for greener pastures, which will exacerbate the downward spiral and eventually lead to Singapore's decline."
"That is why the government decided in the past five years that it was better to grow the economy and manage the accompanying social pressures rather than slow down the economy. If our neighbours grow and we stagnate, Singapore will face a very different geo-political environment in the future."
"To do well in the next five years, we must raise skills across the board, have enterprise innovation and a restructuring of our industries."
"Every worker has to be re-skilled, re-trained and re-educated to achieve higher standards of capabilities."
"Keep together, work together, grow, so your children will have a better futures, better schools ... Once you have no growth, nothing can happen, and we go down."
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