The poorly calibrated influx of foreigners is the most controversial topic in town for the past 2 years. Initial protests from Singaporeans have been dwarfed by nonchalant claims from the ruling party until the severity of the issues emerges and forces them to implement populist policies. The National Day Rally held a week ago also revealed the state's degree of understanding towards this sensitive topic. Today, MyQueenstown Team, in a two-part series, will lay out arguments for and against the influx of foreigners into Queenstown, by uncovering various myths and theologies about their existence.
First of all, the influx of foreigners have raised many issues on the state's capability in managing social dissents. Crowded public transport, oversubscribed properties, increased competition for education and National Service were some of the apparent concerns. While the public housing worries were "effectively dealt" by HDB to curb overzealous investors, it remains to be seen how these proposed changes to public transport can ease crowding when no new MRT lines are built in the West (home of the foreign workers). The issue of dishing out bond-free government scholarships to foreigners who treated Singapore merely as a stepping board has been controversial at the moment, particular because these scholarships can be better presented to needy Singaporean youths who are going to serve the National Service, work and die in Singapore. Furthermore, the monetary incentives for serving National Service go a long way in monetizing and devaluing NS when compulsory Community and Social Service can be enforced for these new citizens to "serve the nation" and integrate with the local community.
Don't get us wrong! In a cosmopolitan and globalised world, foreign workers and talents are a "must" to give Singapore a comparative advantage in the sectors where we are resource scarce. For the past 200 years, Singapore's success and achievements hinge on a flexible migration policy.
In Queenstown, foreign Bangladeshi workers are employed to clear our waste or clean our neighbourhood, a job scope which very little or no Singaporeans will do. These Bangladeshi workers in Queenstown work for long hours (around 6am-5pm) and received low pay of $650.
The dormitory in Margaret Drive is home to Chinese construction workers who built beautiful homes for us. The construction industry requires hard labour, which many Singaporeans aren't willing to do.
These foreign workers, like foreign migrants who applied for Permanent Residence or citizenship, are searching for a better life and a better home for their families. They view Singapore as a "land of opportunities" as compared to their homes back in India, China or other parts of the world. They are willing to contribute to our nation. What they do is nothing wrong. Who doesn't want to lead a better life?
Kumar, a Singapore citizen who migrated from India, is a prime example. He works as a scientist in a leading research company. He is volunteering in various community involvement programmes and stays in Stirling Road.
Dear Queenstown folks, when you see these foreign labourers and Bangladeshi workers on the street cleaning the roads, do say "hi" or smile at them. They have certainly contributed to our community to a large extent.
Certainly, this love-hate relationship continues when we felt compelled in dire circumstances as mentioned above. Occasionally, we tend to think that the influx of foreigners and new citizens have marginalised our existence. At Queenstown MRT, residents may feel angry when they are unable to board a crowded train. At New Town and Queenstown Primary Schools, many parents are disappointed because they are unable to register their children, especially this year. While these concerns are relevant and logical, it will be sweeping and irresponsible for us to blame these foreigners because they are not the ones at fault. They need a home and their children need education.
With regards to those who felt "surprised or stunned" at the impact of foreigners on our society although they are the very ones who brought them in, it is despicable and outrageous for them to "chid" Singaporeans to lower our expectations when it is their incompetency and inability to manage them or calibrate their impact. Have they forgotten that Singapore is a democratic country where these leaders are supposed to represent and work for the benefit of the greater group of people? The mismanagement of foreign workers and migrants, like what is happening at the moment, will go a long way in destroying the social fabric of the nation, whatever scintillating performance or economic growth we are getting. So, who appears more like a trash?
P.S.: It's human to make mistakes. An apology can make a whole world of difference =)
Stay tuned next week for Part II of our insights on "issues caused by foreigners" in Queenstown.
Discuss your views on foreigners in Queenstown at our facebook page now.