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P.R. Venkat & Gaurav Raghuvanshi
The Wall Street Journal
Singapore will continue to regulate the entry of foreign workers as the city-state seeks to address the concerns of its citizens while meeting a local shortfall of talent, and it will maintain a rapid pace of economic growth, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Sunday.
“We will develop and invest in our people, but we also need to reinforce the Singapore team with talent and numbers from abroad…We must make up for the shortage of Singaporean workers in our economy and the shortfall of babies in our population,” Mr. Lee said in his National Day message.
On the eve of Singapore’s 45th National Day, the prime minister sought to allay fears among the local population that foreigners may flood the tiny nation that currently has a population of nearly five million people.
“I understand Singaporeans’ concerns about taking in so many foreign workers and immigrants…We will control the inflow, to ensure that it is not too fast, and not too large,” he said as part of a televised address. “We will only bring in people who can contribute to Singapore, and work harder to integrate them into our society.”
Singapore announced in February new steps to curb immigration.
In the budget presentation in February, the government said that it will raise levies on foreign workers in phases in order to make it less attractive for companies to import labor.
On the economy, Mr. Lee said that the export-dependant nation’s gross domestic product growth is likely to moderate in the second half of the year after a red-hot first six months as the global economy recovered from a meltdown.
He said the economy grew 17.9% on year in the January-to-June period, making Singapore’s rate of economic expansion among the fastest in the world
Still, the economy faces risks and is likely to moderate in the second half of the year, Mr. Lee said. He reiterated the government’s estimate from last month that the economy is predicted to grow between 13% and 15% in 2010.
“Let us not get carried away. Risks remain in the world economy, especially in Europe and the U.S. The global financial system is not fully mended. Singapore is small and open. If the world economy turns bad, we will be buffeted,” the prime minister said.