Foreigners will be taken in at 'comfortable pace'

Foreigners will be taken in at a pace that Singaporeans are comfortable with, said former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew yesterday.

Speaking at a dialogue during the Russia-Singapore Business Forum, Mr Lee noted that there have been many complaints from Singaporeans "who see a large number of foreign faces on trains and buses".

"And they say, 'Look, I'm being squeezed out of my country'," he said.

Still, he highlighted the need to bring in foreign workers to meet the shortage of manpower, albeit at a slower pace.

Mr Lee was speaking to about 700 delegates, mostly from Russia and Singapore, at the forum held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Marina Bay Sands.

He reiterated the importance for countries to grow their population, when asked for his take on China's one-child policy.

Explaining how a diminishing population will place a heavy burden on young people to support an older generation, he said that such a phenomenon also "reduces the vitality and dynamism of the people".

"It is the young who buy new gadgets, like iPhones or Android (phones), not old people like me. If you have a shortage of young people, you will have a shortage of customers for new gadgets, new advances," he pointed out.

On his advice for youth here, Mr Lee said: "We tell them to expect change, rapid change... Every day, every week, every month, every year, we undergo change."

And although communication through technology may improve with time, Mr Lee feels that it will never equal a face-to-face meeting.

He said that in an online meeting over Skype or Chatbook, it is possible to see the colour of another person's face and note if it flinches at certain thoughts, ideas and proposals.

"(But) it's not quite the same when you sit down face to face and you can see him sweat."

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