Avoid anti-foreigner route

Several hundred people showed up at Hong Lim Park's Speakers' Corner yesterday for the third protest against the Population White Paper.

Recent events, such as the online backlash against some Filipinos who were planning a Philippine Independence Day event here, remind us of the need to guard against anti-foreigner sentiments ("Filipino group gets online flak over event"; April 16).

With changing demographics in Singapore, it is inevitable that some citizens feel a sense of frustration and displacement. This feeling is worsened when the influx of immigrants coincides with strains on infrastructure, inflation and rising income inequality.

Despite the discomfort, Singaporeans must concede that, without the contributions of immigrants, there would be no way for our city-state to survive in this globalised economy.

In fact, every country where there has been a backlash against immigrants has gone into decline, and we simply cannot afford to go that route.

Blaming immigrants for our problems is not the answer.

With a declining birth rate, it is inevitable that Singapore has to continue to attract talent to remain economically viable.

For its part, the Government should continue to fine-tune immigration policies by:

Ensuring that only qualified foreigners are granted permanent residency and, eventually, citizenship;

Periodically reviewing the status of foreigners such that only those who can contribute get to remain here; and

According privileges to citizens vis-a-vis the responsibilities shouldered.

Elgar Lee

This article was published on April 25 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.