S’pore plans for new wave of immigrants to help economy’s growth

August 4, 2010
Singapore Democrats

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Florence Beaugé

Guardian weekly

Singapore to welcome the highly skilled and qualified as it aims for world’s highest growth rate

With the financial crisis a thing of the past, the authorities in Singapore are looking at ways of letting in a fresh wave of immigrants. This year 100,000 foreign workers should be needed to cope with the powerful surge in the city-state’s economy, with 18% growth for the first half of the year.

Singapore aims to achieve the world’s highest growth rate in 2010: 13% to 15% of GDP. The International Monetary Fund is forecasting 12%.

During an official visit to the United States in mid-July, the prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, started to prepare public opinion for another wave of immigrants. This being a sensitive issue at home, he measured his words: “If we don’t allow the foreign workers in, you are going to have overheating,” he said. “We have to accept that.”

The prime minister is understandably cautious, the government having reasserted its determination to end Singapore’s dependence on foreign labour in February. Foreigners account for about a third of the city-state’s 4.7 million inhabitants, a situation that fuels tension among Singaporeans who are afraid of being sidelined.

In 2009, as Singapore’s economy dipped into recession, shrinking by 1.3%, there was a drastic cut in the number of foreign workers and departures exceeded arrivals. But in previous years large numbers of foreigners arrived: 157,000 in 2008 and 144,500 in 2007. Most hold largely unskilled jobs in construction or catering. According to labour minister Lim Swee Say, the 100,000 workers allowed into Singapore this year will need to be better qualified and more productive.

This article originally appeared in Le Monde