The SDP launched our alternative policy entitled Building A People: Sound Policies For A Secure Future this evening to deal with the problems of immigration and population in Singapore.
As the title suggests, the focus of the paper is on the people and how we can take care of their future and their needs.
Our policy is aimed at lowering the number of foreign workers currently in Singapore as well as tightening the entry of foreigners into the country in the near future thus creating an environment where Singaporeans can thrive and enjoy a high quality of life.
To do this, we have drawn up a comprehensive six-point plan:
1. Enact the Singaporeans First Policy
We will introduce the TalentTrack Scheme to process applications of foreign PMETs wishing to work in Singapore. Their suitability will be a merit-based system with points awarded for a number of factors (age, qualifications, skills, experience, number of dependents, etc.) to determine if the applicants meet the economic and population needs of Singapore.
The employment visas of foreign workers currently in Singapore will be allowed to lapse whereupon they will have to apply to the TalentTrack Scheme if they wish to continue working here. Otherwise, they will have to leave.
Singaporean employers will be able to hire these professionals if they demonstrate that they have made every effort to employ a Singaporean first but cannot find a local with the requisite qualifications/skills.
The Employment Visa Commission (EVC) will also be established to survey, and review at regular intervals, the skills and human resource needs of the various industries and sectors of our economy. The EVC will provide the necessary input to the TalentTrack Scheme to determine the weight given for the various types of professions.
The EVC will comprise representatives from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Manpower, independent trade unions, Singapore National Employers' Federation, and other professional organisations.
Businesses will also be required to restructure and upgrade their operations over a period so that they will not be dependent on lower-skilled foreign workers. By mechanising and automating their businesses, they will be able to employ more Singaporeans who are increasingly becoming more highly trained.
The net effect of the Singaporeans First Policy is that we will be able to considerably reduce the current number of foreign workers in Singapore while, at the same time, only allow into Singapore real foreign talent that our economy needs.
2. Retain Singaporean talent
Singaporeans are emigrating at an alarming rate. To stem the brain-drain, we need to lower the cost of living which is creating a highly stressful lifestyle for the people. Two of the biggest components of a family's household budget is housing and healthcare.
Lowering HDB prices is dealt with extensively in our housing policy (see Housing A Nation). Cheaper housing also means lower office and shop rental which translates into lower prices of goods and services. The SDP has also proposed concrete measures to reduce healthcare costs in our National Healthcare Plan.
Another major reason that Singaporeans cite for leaving Singapore is the education system which emphasizes rote-learning. School curricular are geared towards exam-taking which leaves little room for the development of lifelong learning and creative thinking. The details of the SDP's educational policy will be laid out in a separate paper.
3. Raise the Total Fertility Rate
Many younger Singaporean couples put off having children because of two main reasons: the high expenses incurred with raising children and the difficulty of obtaining an HDB flat.
Reducing the cost of living is outlined in the preceding section. This will have a significant impact on Singaporean couples' decision on whether to have more children. The SDP has also proposed facilitating the ease of younger couples of obtaining HDB flats through our Young Families Priority Scheme. This can be read in our housing paper.
4. Introduce the GPI
The PAP uses GDP as a reason to increase population size. It cites GDP growth as an important factor for Singaporeans' well-being. In truth, the GDP is not a good indicator of the economic well-being of our country and it certainly is not a measure of the wealth of the people.
For example, couples going through divorces pay for legal services. These fees go into increasing the GDP. However, it does tremendous damage to our families and children. These have economic costs which are not captured in the GDP.
A better and more accurate index is the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) which not only takes into account the GDP but also the costs incurred in building up the GDP (costs such as crime, pollution, family breakdown, psychological health, etc).
The GPI is a better indicator of the overall happiness and quality of life of our people. The GDP may increase because of the influx of foreigners but the GPI will accurately capture the effects of an overcrowded city on Singaporeans. The Government should base its population policy on the GPI, and not the GDP alone.
5. Strengthen the Singaporean Identity
A massive inflow of foreigners over a short span of time will not enable the new immigrants to assimilate into the Singaporean culture. This tears at the social fabric of our nation. To strengthen our national bond, the Ethnic Integration Policy which determines the percentage of ethnic HDB dwellers in each estate should be abolished. The identification of "race" in our Identity Cards should also be removed.
Such practices serve only to divide Singaporeans and reinforce how different and separate we are. In the process, they weaken our identity as Singaporeans.
6. Revamp the ministerial pay formula
Ministerial salaries are based on GDP growth. This runs the risk of government leaders pushing up the population size which will increased the GDP but adversely impact on the well-being of the people.
If ministers' salaries are to be pegged to an index, it should be the GPI. In this way, the happier Singaporeans are and the higher their quality of life, the better the ministers are paid.
Building A People: Sound Policies for A Secured Future (pdf) is available for download here.
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