Richard Hartung is a consultant who has lived in Singapore since 1992, what we do not know is whether he has taken up citizenship after 20 years of immersion. What we do know is that his expat friends have gotten word of employment pass renewal rejections, and even permanent residents' (PR) re-entry permits are not being renewed as (easily as before). Writing plainly with sympathy to their cause, he quotes one blogger: "It's pot luck … Doesn't seem to be any rhyme nor reason." Or is it?
Well, we now know that the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) is targeting an intake of 20,000 to 25,000 to keep the population size stable, whatever that means. In countries that have free healthcare and social welfare for the needy, the number of working age available to support elderly citizens is a significant ratio in demography. In Singapore, young or old, our individual CPF balance is our own lifeline. Ask for a discount in transport fare, and the ogre of a minister will threaten to increase the GST.
The NPTD has also decided to be picky. It wants to emphasise that the new comers must be able to integrate well into our society. Other holistic considerations include the applicants' family ties to Singaporeans, economic contributions, qualifications, age, family profile, length of stay in Singapore, and their commitment to sinking roots in Singapore. Those flighty expats cruising the Clarke Quay bars to pick up SPGs will have to go the way of the dodo bird.
Associate Professor Paulin Tay Straughan, a sociologist at the National University of Singapore and Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) from 2009 to 2012, has some advice for attracting quality immigrants:
- don't just open doors;
- target younger new citizens;
- pick citizens that grow families
Maybe Hartung can now go back to his expat friends now and ask if they are migrant birds of fancy or committed to nation building. After 20 years in the country, he should be talented enough to get that right.
Lest we forget, PRs also put a tremendous strain on public amenities and housing. NPTD needs a projection for that number too, in order to envision the future landscape. Institute of Policy Studies research fellow Leong thinks the PR numbers are much larger than that of the new citizens. No wonder our trains are overloaded, the NPTD number crunchers have again missed the forest for the trees.