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Random notes on Singapore

3quarksdaily has a well-written piece on Singapore.

It is true that changes are afoot in a nation that – after the Asian Financial Crisis, and the terror caused by the spread of SARs – realised its government could never offer it complete protection. The bargain for freedom from want in return for silent cooperation was not legitimately struck. It was based on the false notion that Singapore was a nation in charge of its own destiny rather than a small sliver of land, smaller than the dot that represents it on the global map.

It made me think of my last trip to Singapore, a couple of months back. Every time I visit Singapore, I am surprised by the pace of change. I, in my nostalgia, try to seek out places I knew from before, and am constantly reminded that I am oh-so-outdated.

But this time, I was struck by the number of foreigners. I still remember the time I first came to Singapore. The year was 1995 – sure, there were some foreigners around, but we felt like foreigners – I mean, we felt like we were a minority – as I assume, foreigners in any country are supposed to feel.

I was in Singapore for just a day and had way too many people to catch up with – so I set up shop at a cafe near Millenia towers and as I had cup of coffee after cup of coffee with friends who managed to sneak off work for a coffee break, I indulged in one of my fav pass times – people watching – and I was more than amazed by the proportion of foreigners – almost every other person seemed to be a foreigner!! And for the first time, I heard murmurs of dissent among my Singaporean friends, and we had some lively discussions on the topic.

I don’t quite get it – why is the Singapore Government so desperate for foreigners? Do they really need so many foreigners – to perhaps, the extent, that you have to ask who is the minority here? I can only imagine the government has a plan – and a good one too – that is behind this mass import of “talent”. But none of my Singaporean friends seemed quite able to explain to me the rationale behind the policy. Which begs a bigger question. This is just one of the many policies that the Government makes on behalf of the citizens. I wonder, without due political participation and debate, why do the people assume that the Government will get it right every single time? What if they are wrong?

Posted in Society, Travel on May 26, 2007

10 Responses

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  1. Edge says

    Singapore desperatly needs foreigners for many reasons, the 2 most evident are:
    1-to support the growing international financial hub. The local talent is just to weak to handle international matters, that’s why we ,’ang-mos’, come here with huge sallaries to work for people like Merryl-Lynch, ING and other mega-companies and the locals receive only 2500 – 3000 SGD per month.
    2-the Singaporean population the quickly decreasing. singapore needs to increase 50% its population by 2050 otherwise it will become an old country and the economic system will fall; for this many Asians are coming here to ‘have babies’ and reasonable jobs, and I would say the Indians are the responsible for the future of Singapore. Studies estimates that in 20 years Singapore will be ruled by today’s Indians sons and daughters, today they are already 15% of the foreign population here.

    I bet that in a few decades, Singapore can then change its name to ‘Indiapore’ :-)

  2. Surya says

    Edge, Thanks for your comment. I agree with your reasons. But seems kinda odd to have a gov-supported policy to change a country’s demography so drastically. As you say, changing Singapore to “Indiapore” – is that a desirable outcome?

    As for the first reason, I think a lot of capable Singaporeans have left Singapore, which is probably why they need to depend on foreigners. Shouldn’t getting them back (and not by threats) be the first course of action?

  3. Pradeep says

    A good point… The example of the US comes to my mind. One way, the US is run by the best brains in the world, not all of them Americans. They welcome talent, be it from any country… Probably Singapore is following that example?

    And, a lessone here for India?

  4. Surya says

    True, and I think it would def be good for India to have foreign talent too..

    But the proportions in Singapore are kinda alarming.

  5. Riot says

    I feel a bad immigration policy is a recipe for radical right wingism and xenophobia. It is very necessary to involve the public in any kind of policy formulaton.

  6. Surya says

    sadly, SG has never been known to do it..

  7. Dinesh says

    Not denying the huge influx of foreigners into Singapore in the recent past..but still, your vantage point may have skewed your observation? Millenia Tower/Suntec area houses MNCs/FIs with more than average “Ang-Moh” population.

  8. Pramod says

    Hey, didn’t realise that you were back to blogging.

    Its been a year for me now in Singapore – one of the foreign faces you might have seen :-)
    About Singapore – this place owes its existence to global trade, and no one community can actually claim to be THE local, I guess what the govt. is doing makes sense – to keep the economy growing. And I think to an extent the approach is succeeding. Yes in 20 years, it might be apt to call it Indiapore, but it will still be Singapore. and in another 20 years from that it could be anotherpore – but still be Singapore!

    Do let me know if you are visiting here next. Perhaps I can join you for a cup of coffee as well!

  9. Surya says

    Good to see you here again, Pramod. Hope you are having a good time in Singapore!

  10. Jeung says

    singapore need foreigners (skilled workers) to boost the country but what i dont understand there are so many people from china work in Spore & most of them they are unskilled people!! They work as waitress, butchers etc & spitting anywhere they like etc!! What has happened to Singapore??

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