PM Lee says Singapore will make greater efforts at fostering integration
SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke at length on Tuesday evening, to some 1,500 students at the Nanyang Technological University on Singapore’s immigration policy and also gave the assurance that the interest of citizens will always come first.
Mr Lee explained that it was important for the issue to be discussed with the students because it concerned their future and eventually would be taken forward by their generation.
He said that the country will make greater efforts at fostering integration of new arrivals and that the National Integration Council will announce its initiatives soon.
"This is not a one problem you can solve one off, just answer an exam paper and settled. But it is a continuing issue with no final solution, where you have to manage it, decide, adjust your policy from time to time and as circumstances changed, adapt it in order to keep on going forward. And it’s a problem where what we do doesn’t just depend on the government or the government’s decisions but on how open our society is and how well Singaporeans adjust to and integrate new arrivals. And that depends on you, as your enter the workforce, work, settle your families and become the next generation of Singaporeans, what kind of Singapore you want," said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
He said that while Singaporeans understand the need for immigrants and foreign workers, they still have some concerns given the large inflow in the last few years.
When the Singapore economy was booming the country admitted many foreigners — more than 100,000 per year in recent years. Mr Lee, however, said the country will not continue to admit people at this pace as the nation cannot expect to continue booming as in the last few years.
So over the long term while Singapore needs to continue bringing in immigrants, it will be mindful of how quickly its society can absorb and integrate new arrivals.
"In the midst of all these discussions about Singaporeans and non—Singaporeans, I should emphasise one point— that in Singapore, the interests of citizens have to always come first. Not a short term interest but a long term interest. It is to safeguard the long term interest of Singaporeans, we must have a sustained, calibrated inflow of immigrants. We will make this differentiation sharper over time to reflect the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. But we cannot make it so onerous for PRs and non—residents that nobody wants to come," Mr Lee said.
Furthermore, he mentioned that Singapore’s critical constraint isn’t with physical space but with its people — that with more good people, the country can generate new and creative ideas to expand the space and create more opportunities.
At the start of his speech, Mr Lee also had a word on the Singapore economy for his audience.
He said the third quarter economic forecast didn’t look bad.
But he cautioned that the nation must be psychologically prepared for a slow pickup and even surprises like a W—shaped recovery.