The first time I stepped into Singapore almost 9 years ago, the most striking thing is how there seems to be various “colours” and races in one this tiny city. Where are these people from? Who are the real locals? As a naïve teen, little did I know that that’s how Singapore is – a multiracial, multi-cultural country. But, the worrisome thing is how this “cosmopolitan” “dynamic” quality that Singapore prides itself in is now slowly tearing the country apart.
Who are “we?”
Singaporeans are said to be afraid or vengeful of foreigners but walk down the streets of Orchard Road. Can you tell me how to differentiate who’s Singaporean and who’s not? In a “metropolitan” society, it’s seem like there’s never a clear cut identity. It seems like the nuance of yellow to brown hardly indicates who the true Singaporeans are anymore. Some foreigners came just a few months ago but there are others who have been here for years, decades, half their lives, or even their whole lives. Do we categorise them according to who has done National Service? Then what about the women? Do we label them according to the language they speak? Wait. Which is that again? Teochew, Mandarin, Singlish, American English, British English? Where do you put the Permanent Residents who needs to renew their status every 5 years? How many generations will it take to count for an immigrant family to count as a true Singaporean? How about those foreigners who have integrated themselves into the society and have been “Singaporeanized.” How about those who have been overseas for numerous years but are still holding a Singapore passport?
Making it about the us.
Some say that the Singaporean’s sentiments over incoming foreigners is a rational fear while others say it has just been inevitably increasing over time. Either way, the issue can be solved if Singaporeans don’t feel threated by the foreigners. This can be done in numerous ways. The government can assure the citizens that they are not being replaced or marginalized. The citizens can be informed of why foreigners are needed in the land. Salaries for foreigners can be further decreased. Salaries for locals can be further increased. A limit can be put on the number of foreigners entering universities. The foreign workers levy can be increased. But is this enough? Will it make Singaporeans feel that they above other nationalities in their own land?
How patriotic are we?
Somehow, I feel that the issue of “xenophobia” is more of a pragmatic one than something that concerns nationalism and a sense of belonging. The aforementioned solutions show that Singaporeans’s concerns are mostly based on their fear of their jobs, houses, and education. On one hand, these are concerns of any normal citizens. Yet, on the other, are we forgetting that Singapore is (supposedly) a meritocratic system where the issue goes back the “survival of the fittest?” By being scared of foreigners, aren’t we insinuating that the foreigners are better than us? Regardless, locals still need to fight to be the crème de la crème and reach the top, don’t they? It may seem a little tougher but foreigner or not, that’s how the cookie crumbles in this competitive country. Hence, the foreigners aren’t the ones to be blamed. And, if the locals feel that they deserve something, they better work for it.
To be or not to be
At the end of the day, the number of foreigners in Singapore depends on Singaporeans themselves. It’s not like foreigners would force their way in or wage a war if they can’t get in. As the foreign ones, they will ALWAYS accept, if not respect the country’s sovereignty. In simple economics, the supply is only present when there’s a demand. If you think about it, foreign students are invited to study in Singapore for an exchange in knowledge and culture and make universities more “cosmopolitan and dynamic.” In the low income sector, workers are “imported” to do the dirty, dangerous, and demeaning jobs that locals aren’t willing to work for. In the high income sector, relatively low tax rates are meant to attract multinational companies and “foreign talent.” Nevertheless, as a national principle, meritocracy and fairness is always be practiced in every sector. If the government restricts the inflow of foreigners, who will do all these? What will happen to the countries identity, and not to mention, competitiveness. So, before trying to chase away all “the imported ones” maybe the more important question we should be asking is, “can we live without foreigners in the land?”
Disclaimer: These are my opinons. I’m just saying. I do not intend to offend anyone. Thank you for reading.