The prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Song, this week urged Singaporeans to be more tolerant of expatriates and mindful of the important role that they play in Singapore’s economy.
Speaking during his annual address to the nation, during a National Day Rally which took place last Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Song said that there were “troubling signs” of increasing anti-foreigner sentiment in Singapore and that he was beginning to get concerned that Singaporean’s reception to overseas workers may earn the country a negative perception abroad. The prime minister said: “I think it’s fair enough to express concern or disagree with our immigration trends or oppose our immigration policies. That’s part of the democratic debate.
“But I am worried by some of the nasty views which are expressed—especially online and especially anonymously. When a foreigner says or does something wrong, especially to a Singaporean, response is overwhelming.
“But bad Singaporean behavior often goes uncriticized and a good deed by a foreigner often goes unnoticed.”
The prime minister went on to argue: “outbursts by citizens against foreigners, on the Internet and in public, reflect badly on us [and] damage our international reputation – people think that Singapore is anti-foreigner [and] xenophobic.”
Singapore is most certainly a popular expatriate destination and currently relies on foreign workers to support the economy and counteract the low birth rate. However, locals have been growing increasingly angry at the surge in immigration, rising house prices and lack of job opportunities. In order to ally their fears a number of measures have been taken to manage the negative impacts of large numbers of expatriates. These include introducing a 10 per cent extra stamp duty charge for foreigners who want to buy property on the island and axing a previous scheme that offered permanent residency in exchange for investing in the economy. Furthermore, last month the government announced that foreign workers that earned less than $2000 SGD per month would not be granted visas for their accompanying family members. Singapore’s Parliament is also currently contemplating changes to the immigration law, which will constitute the first major amendment since 2004.
Do you live in Singapore? What do you think? Have you experienced any anti-foriegner sentimentality? Leave a comment and let us know.