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The SDP launched our alternative policy entitled Building A People: Sound Policies For A Secure Futurethis evening to deal with the problems of immigration and populationin Singapore.$CUT$
As the title suggests, the focus of thepaper is on the people and how we can take care of their future andtheir needs.
Our policy is aimed at loweringthe number of foreign workers currently in Singapore as well astightening the entry of foreigners into the country in the nearfuture thus creating an environment where Singaporeans can thriveand enjoy a high quality of life.
To do this, we have drawn up acomprehensive six-point plan:
1. Enact the Singaporeans First Policy
We will introduce the TalentTrackScheme to process applications of foreign PMETs wishing to work inSingapore. Their suitability will be a merit-based system withpoints awarded for a number of factors (age, qualifications, skills, experience,number of dependents, etc.) to determine if the applicants meet theeconomic and population needs of Singapore.
The employment visas of foreign workerscurrently in Singapore will be allowed to lapse whereupon they willhave to apply to the TalentTrack Scheme if they wish to continueworking here. Otherwise, they will have to leave.
Singaporean employers will be able tohire these professionals if they demonstrate that they have madeevery effort to employ a Singaporean first but cannot find a localwith 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 andsectors of our economy. The EVC will provide the necessary input to the TalentTrackScheme to determine the weight given for the various types of professions.
The EVC will comprise representativesfrom 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 torestructure and upgrade their operations over a period so that theywill not be dependent on lower-skilled foreign workers. Bymechanising and automating their businesses, they will be able toemploy more Singaporeans who are increasingly becoming more highlytrained.
The net effect of the SingaporeansFirst Policy is that we will be able to considerably reduce thecurrent 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 analarming rate. To stem the brain-drain, we need to lower the cost ofliving which is creating a highly stressful lifestyle for the people.Two of the biggest components of a family’s household budget ishousing and healthcare.
Lowering HDB prices is dealt withextensively in our housing policy (see Housing A Nation). Cheaperhousing also means lower office and shop rental which translates intolower prices of goods and services. The SDP has also proposedconcrete measures to reduce healthcare costs in our NationalHealthcare Plan.
Another major reason that Singaporeanscite for leaving Singapore is the education system which emphasizesrote-learning. School curricular are geared towards exam-taking whichleaves little room for the development of lifelong learning andcreative thinking. The details of the SDP’s educational policy willbe laid out in a separate paper.
3. Raise the Total Fertility Rate
Many younger Singaporean couples putoff having children because of two main reasons: the high expensesincurred with raising children and the difficulty of obtaining an HDBflat.
Reducing the cost of living is outlinedin the preceding section. This will have a significant impact onSingaporean couples’ decision on whether to have more children. TheSDP has also proposed facilitating the ease of younger couples ofobtaining HDB flats through our Young Families Priority Scheme. Thiscan be read in our housing paper.
4. Introduce the GPI
The PAP uses GDP as a reason to increase population size. It cites GDPgrowth as an important factor for Singaporeans’ well-being. In truth,the GDP is not a good indicator of the economic well-being of ourcountry and it certainly is not a measure of the wealth of thepeople.
For example, couples going throughdivorces pay for legal services. These fees go into increasing theGDP. 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 theGenuine Progress Indicator (GPI) which not only takes into accountthe GDP but also the costs incurred in building up the GDP (costssuch as crime, pollution, family breakdown, psychological health,etc).
The GPI is a better indicator of theoverall happiness and quality of life of our people. The GDP mayincrease because of the influx of foreigners but the GPI willaccurately capture the effects of an overcrowded city onSingaporeans. The Government should base its population policy on theGPI, and not the GDP alone.
5. Strengthen the Singaporean Identity
A massive inflow of foreigners over ashort span of time will not enable the new immigrants to assimilateinto the Singaporean culture. This tears at the social fabric of ournation. To strengthen our national bond, the Ethnic IntegrationPolicy which determines the percentage of ethnic HDB dwellers in eachestate should be abolished. The identification of “race” inour Identity Cards should also be removed.
Such practices serve only to divideSingaporeans and reinforce how different and separate we are. In theprocess, they weaken our identity as Singaporeans.
6. Revamp the ministerial pay formula
Ministerial salaries are based on GDPgrowth. This runs the risk of government leaders pushing up thepopulation size which will increased the GDP but adversely impact onthe well-being of the people.
If ministers’ salaries are to be pegged to anindex, it should be the GPI. In this way, the happier Singaporeansare and the higher their quality of life, the better the ministers arepaid.
Building A People: Sound Policies for A Secured Future (pdf) is available for download here.