SINGAPORE - The People's Action Party (PAP) and the Workers' Party (WP) tussled over immigration again, two days after a fiery debate between their party leaders.
Backbenchers sparred over the subject of foreign workers yesterday, albeit on a far less feisty note than the exchanges between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and WP leader Low Thia Khiang on Wednesday.
PAP's Mr Cedric Foo (Pioneer) pressed WP's Mr Chen Show Mao (Aljunied GRC) on whether he felt immigrants were necessary to deal with Singapore's ageing population. This came after Mr Chen's speech, which focused on successful ageing in Singapore.
Replying with pauses in between, Mr Chen said the focus should still be on "the growing of a resident workforce".
He added: "When targets we set for the growth in our resident working population... are not met, then I think at that time foreign workers may be... increased so that we're on a path to growth as we have planned."
But Mr Foo took issue with this, stressing that he was asking specifically about the flow of immigrants into the country.
"There will be 900,000 Singaporeans above the age of 65 and families are getting smaller... we do need immigrants and I'd like Mr Chen's comment on whether he welcomes immigrants and whether he would rally the support of Singaporeans to bring about these immigrants," he said.
Mr Chen said the WP has "nothing against immigrants coming to Singapore", but also is in favour of "orderly growth within limits".
Mr Foo pursued his point but this time, Mr Low jumped in and said the WP is "not an anti-immigration party".
He added: "We welcome foreign talent but talent, real talent, not immigrants who are taking away the jobs of Singaporeans or taking away opportunities that Singaporeans could have been better served."
Mr Low also stressed the need to keep a strong Singapore core. He argued that with immigrants coming in, it would be too simplistic to assume "they will integrate with Singapore and Singaporeans".
Later, PAP's Mr Arthur Fong (West Coast GRC) hit out at Mr Chen, saying he had "prevaricated on Mr Foo's question on immigrants". Mr Chen pointed out that he was himself an immigrant, and said helping older workers stay productive would help to grow Singapore's workforce and prevent an over-reliance on immigrants and foreign workers.
This article was first published on May 31, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.