Singapore is eagerly awaiting Prime Minister Lee Hsien’s National Day Rally speech today. He is expected to announce new policies. He has made important announcements in this annual speech in the past, communicating changes in government policies and thinking.
Immigration has been a key issue. Singaporean unhappiness at the influx of foreigners is said to have hurt the government in the May 2011 general election. The government responded to the people and began curbing the inflow of foreign workers.
Here is what the prime minister said supporting immigration in his 2010 National Day Rally speech — and favouring restrictions in his 2011 National Day Rally speech just three months after the election held on May 7.
Supporting immigration, August 29, 2010
This year, with the booming economy, we will definitely need more foreign workers so that we can create more jobs in Singapore. A few months ago, I mentioned to the press that we could need more than 100,000 foreign workers more this year. There was a big ooh which you could almost hear. Well, since then, we have recalculated. Maybe, we will get by with a few less, perhaps 80,000 workers. But I said this to highlight the trade-off which we face and which we cannot avoid. You want higher growth which will benefit our workers, that also means accepting more foreign workers to come and work in Singapore. You choke off the foreign workers, the economy is stifled, growth is not there, our workers will suffer.
Favouring restrictions, August 14, 2011
All Singaporeans, nearly every Singaporean is working. Unemployment is only about 2.2 per cent overall but still I know that Singaporeans worry about competition from foreigners…
I understand those feelings but we need some non-Singaporeans to complement the Singaporeans and to make up our shortfall. But at the same time, we also realise that it is important that Singaporeans remain the core of our workforce. We cannot become like the Gulf states where 80 per cent of the people who are working are foreigners and if you go there, whether it is the person in the hotel, whether it is the bank, whether it is the airport counter, or any of the jobs, it is foreigners working and we cannot be like that. We have tightened up on foreigners progressively. We have tightened up the foreign workers levy, we have tightened up on the dependency ratios… But we also have to be mindful of the impact on companies, especially local SMEs, because they need the foreign workers the most and if we squeeze out the foreign workers too drastically, we are going to kill the SMEs…
The prime minister spoke on relations between Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans in his 2012 National Day Rally speech.
Singaporeans vs foreigners, August 26,2012
There is one particularly difficult area where we need to be big hearted and that is in relations between Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans. I think most Singaporeans understand the need for immigrants for foreign workers and accept them but many Singaporeans have concerns because the influx has caused some real problems and I completely understand this and I think it is fair enough for people to express concern or to disagree with our immigration trends or oppose our immigration policy. That is part of the democratic debate. But I am worried by some of the nasty views which are expressed, especially online and especially anonymously, which brings out the worst in people. When the foreigners say or do something wrong, especially to Singaporeans, the response is overwhelming. But when a Singaporean does something wrong, which I think we all have to admit once in a while does happen, very often the behaviour is un-criticised. And when a foreigner does a good deed, very often that goes unnoticed.