Have you heard of the Singapore promise?
Mr Wong, the Minister-in charge of population issues, said many immigrants – both past and present – came because they believe they can realise their aspirations and build a good home here. But there is more.
It’s not a direct quotation from him, so I’m not sure if I’m reading WKS right, but there are two flaws with this statement:
Immigrants in the past and those in the present cannot simply be discussed as if they were completely the same. Singapore was a different nation then, the immigrants too were different then! Immigrants of the past were not given extra incentives to come over here. Immigrants were not invited here with great promises given to them.
Not all immigrants come here to ‘realise their aspirations and build a good home’. I believe the thousands who are living in workers’ quarters and ferried in truckloads to the construction sites each days are not concerned with building a home here.
I have no issue against foreign talent, but I really don’t like this painting of an idealized picture of a ‘global community’ in Singapore where everyone comes here because Singapore can help them realise their aspirations. I really wonder if this image is being portrayed of Singapore in other countries as well.
About two months ago, I was walking along Bukit Timah Road after my tuition to catch a bus and I saw a whole bunch of Filipinos, walking aimlessly because they did not know how to go to Orchard from there. One of them just had a job interview at Serene Centre and was going down to Orchard for another one. He was a restaurant owner back in Philippines. In our conversation, he told me that the economy in Philippines was bad, so he decided to come down here because he had heard about the better prospects here. There was a sense of hope in their eyes, and arguably even a little excitement at the prospect of earning enough here to send his three children back home in Philippines to University.
A few weeks later, there was that article in The Straits Times about how the president of Philippines said that there were 5000 jobs available for them in the IR. It really seems that in Philippines, Singapore is being painted as the land of dreams, the land of abundant prospects.
Let’s be real here and not paint an over idealistic picture for these people coming over. The government, too, should stop making promises that are not within its power to keep. Singapore is evidently already struggling to cope with its burgeoning population as evident from the workers gathering outside MOM, increased worker fatalities and general dissatisfaction with being squeezed every single place you go to.
I really do hope this ‘Singapore promise’ does not become a catch phrase until it proves itself to be true. Let’s build capacity first and let that promise prove itself to be true for the majority before we actually promote ourselves as such.