Singapore has been increasingly attracting new citizens and permanent residents (PRs), who help sustain the country’s economic growth.
Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng said local Singaporeans alone are still not sufficient to meet the manpower demands here.
He revealed the latest immigration statistics during the debate on the Prime Minister’s Office budget on Wednesday.
According to the figures, more foreigners have decided to call Singapore home for good.
Last year, Singapore saw over 63,000 new PRs, an 11-per-cent increase from 2006; and the city-state also welcomed more than 17,000 new citizens, a 30-per-cent jump.
Mr Wong said, however, there were only 760 more babies born last year compared to 2006.
He added that Singapore must continue to keep an open-door policy, both to new immigrants and foreign talents, although citizens remain the core of the population.
“For now, Singapore is a talent magnet for many. However, the global competition for talent is intense. Whether we like it or not, those who are capable and talented will be drawn to places with better opportunities and where they feel welcomed. And if Singapore does not welcome them, they will simply look elsewhere and they will then compete against us,” said Mr Wong.
On integrating new citizens into the society, the minister cited some who have adapted to Singapore and are contributing to the city-state.
One of them is Kim Jin Ju from South Korea, a prefect at Yu Neng Primary. She participated in MediaCorp’s Roving DV competition in 2006 and her school’s entry came in first.
While he acknowledged MPs’ concerns over the pace of immigration and social integration, Mr Wong said attracting immigrants will remain a key strategy to ensure the country’s long-term growth and prosperity.
“So let us open our doors, minds and our hearts. We must work together, be welcoming to new immigrants and help integrate them into our community. There is a need for mutual acceptance, adjustment and respect. We can then live as one harmonious family to create even greater possibilities for ourselves, and our children and our future generations to come,” Mr Wong said.
He also said schools, companies and the People’s Association have implemented programs to help promote integration. But he noted that more can be done to break down barriers and dispel unwarranted biases.
Mr Wong added that Singaporeans based abroad are not forgotten. The government has been trying to engage them actively through events such as the Singapore Day. The inaugural event, held in New York last April, saw some 6,000 attendees.
He said another Singapore Day will be held in Melbourne, Australia this October. – CNA/ac
Source : Channel NewsAsia – 27 Feb 2008