When Lee Kuan Yew struck a chill in expat hearts

Browsing through Elections in Singapore written by Pugalenthi Sr and published in 1996, I was struck by this passage, where he writes about the 1959 elections, which brought Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew to power:

He said the citizenship laws had deliberately been made very liberal to allow Commonwealth citizens to take up citizenship after a stay of only two years here. This was aimed at providing the large number of Britons here a say in local politics. But most of these Britons had no intention of making this their homeland and would "scoot off" as soon as things "got hot here".

The book does not give any references.

But Mr Lee and his People's Action Party in those days did strike a chill in the hearts of expatriates, according to the historian Constance Mary Turnbull. In A History of Modern Singapore (1819 – 2005), she describes the aftermath of the PAP victory in the 1959 elections, when PAP won 43 of the 51 seats (see the Elections Department page and Wikipedia: total voters 586,098, voter turnout 527,919 or  92.9%). Turnbull writes:

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Foreigners boost Singapore’s growth, lower productivity

The Wall Street Journal has come out with the best piece I have read on Singapore for a long time:


By some estimates, a third or more of Singapore's 6.8% average annual growth from 2003 to 2008 came from the expansion of its labour force, primarily expatriates, allowing Singapore to post growth more commonly associated with poor developing nations.

At the same time, though, foreign workers have driven up real estate and other prices and made the city-state's roads and subways more congested. Their arrival has kept local blue-collar wages lower than they would be otherwise, exacerbating Singapore's gap between rich and poor.

Some economists say the most damaging effect of the immigration is that the influx appears to be putting a lid on productivity gains, as manufacturers rely on cheap imported labour instead of making their businesses more efficient. Labour productivity, or output per employee, fell 7.8% in 2008 and 0.8% in 2007—a phenomenon that could eventually translate into lower standards of living.

The Wall Street Journal graphic is invaluable.

Expats love Singapore, but don’t mix much

Foreigners love Singapore but mixing with the locals is not a priority, according to the HSBC Bank International Expat Explorer, which surveyed more than 3,100 expatriates in 26 countries.

Singapore ranked fourth — behind Australia, Canada and Thailand —
in the survey, which looked at the job prospects, amenities and the
lives of expatriates in each of those countries. Bahrain was fifth, South Africa
sixth, France seventh, America eighth, Spain ninth, and Hong Kong 10th.
Britain finished 23rd, ahead of only Russia, India and Qatar. China was
22nd, the United Arab Emirates 18th, Japan 16th, Switzerland 13th,
Germany 12th and Malaysia 11th. The complete list is at the end of this

The survey found expats are most likely to fall in love in Thailand, Germany and Brazil and make friends with the locals in Canada, South Africa, India and Russia.


See how the countries rank when it comes to expats making friends with
the locals. Note that they don't make friends easily in Thailand and
Germany, too, though they are likely to fall in love.

The countries where expats live longest are Thailand (82 per cent of expats living abroad for more than five years), Bahrain (81 per cent), South Africa (73 per cent), Russia and the United States (both 70 per cent).

Length of contract and job prospects are what keep expats in Singapore though they generally like the environment and lifestyle too.

Expats like the infrastructure in Singapore, the quality of transport, the ease of organizing their healthcare and finances and setting up utilities at home. Overall, Singapore ranked fifth for the quality of life.

"However, expats in Singapore did not prioritise socialising with local people and it came 24th out of 26th for expats choosing to join a community group and 18th in terms of the ease of making local friends," says the report. You can download it here.

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