When Malaysia’s capital is 90 minutes away, can it help reduce our need for a bigger population? By Seah Chiang Nee
Jun 30, 2013
(Synopsis: Speeding into new frontiers – The new fast travel will bring in more opportunities for both Malaysia and Singapore.
2020, Singapore – with a proposed 6,000,000 population – may be linked
by a fast train arriving from Kuala Lumpur in just 90 minutes.
For many commuters from Johor towns, the travelling time will be a lot shorter.
Meanwhile, an agreement has already been reached to extend Singapore’s mass rapid transit (MRT) to Johor Baru.
new rail connection will not only be a new social and economic link for
the two countries, but could also help resolve Singapore’s manpower
some planning, it may reduce Singapore’s requirement for more foreign
workers within its over-crowded space – if enough Malaysians find it
attractive to commute here to work.
many Malaysians, it would offer new job options, allowing people from
as far away as Kuala Lumpur to work without having to live in Singapore
and paying its exorbitant rents and high cost of living.
Working in Singapore is, of course, not every one’s cup of tea.
for some, the idea of earning Singapore dollars while living and
spending money in Malaysia with its cheaper living costs may be an
Right now, Malaysians make up the largest proportion of the estimated 553,000 permanent residents (PRs) here.
The large majority has declined to take up Singapore citizenship and many have said that their hearts remain in Malaysia.
However, they would prefer to continue to work or study in Singapore as PRs.
The starting date for building the speed train is not known, but completing it by 2020 is the target.
of my Singaporean and Malaysian friends are looking forward to it.
Singapore needs manpower and space, while Malaysians could do with more
job and business options.
In fact, some parents prefer that their kids study on the island.
people in Singapore probably prefer to resolve their country’s manpower
shortage in this way if possible, rather than continue to import
hundreds of thousands of Chinese, Indians and Filipinos into the
densely populated island.
people in the Federal capital, spending 90 minutes on a rail trip to
Singapore (compared to the current five hours by road) isn’t an
impossibly long trip.
It is just about what many suburban Japanese spend travelling to work in central Tokyo every day.
Five towns in Malaysia were reported to be earmarked as “stop stations” in the initial plan for the high-speed rail link.
are Seremban (Negri Sembilan), Ayer Keroh (Malacca) as well as Muar,
Batu Pahat and Iskandar Malaysia in Johor, according to the Transport
Many Malaysians who currently work in Singapore or potentially may decide to work in Singapore live in these places.
Singaporeans have been protesting against their government’s
immigration policy, particularly that of the proposed six-million
population by 2020.
fact, a government White Paper, which has been approved by Parliament –
but strongly opposed by the public - talks of a 6.9-million population
All this government-people tug-of-war in Singapore is being watched by the Malaysian PRs with growing concern.
years ago when public feelings here were beginning to rise, some
Malaysian friends had expressed their fear to me that this backlash
might one day affect them.
Malaysians had made up the largest number of permanent residents in
Singapore, many having arrived since the separation in 1965.
before many of today’s Chinese, Indian and Philippine professionals
began to arrive, the Malaysians were already a large part of the
landscape and a major contributor to this economy.
as the trend intensified and local anger rose, many Malaysians began to
feel uneasy and were worried that it could result in restrictions
against foreigners – including them.
2009, quite a few spoke of their worries to me. The Malaysians, who
once shared this country with Singaporeans and still occupy a special
place in their hearts, were uneasy that their lives here would change
for the worse.
concern was not misplaced. Since then the government has reacted to
placate public feelings, and foreign workers had found it harder to get
work approvals here.
feared that there was now a closed door policy. For example, in 2009
Singapore had 533,000 PRs – or a rise of 146,000 or 37.7% over the
previous four years. However, between 2009 and 2012, only 20,000 PRs
It wasn’t only the fewer numbers, but the reduced subsidies in healthcare and children’s education as well.
this year, Singapore got tough on foreign property buyers, including
PRs, by imposing additional stamp duty of up to 15% for
non-Singaporeans in order to cool the booming market.
the pressure has grown. Malaysian PRs working here now fear that with
such strong public sentiments, things may become worse as Singapore
heads for a general election in 2016.
Until now PRs in Singapore have had plenty of official support.
It is one of the few places where they are classified together as “Singapore residents” with Singaporean citizens.
In most official statistics, PRs are described as part of the local citizenry.
example, when a government official says that 70% of workers in the two
casinos are locals, he means they are Singaporeans and PRs - even
though foreigners may form the majority.
most countries, a PR is half a citizen but remains an alien who is
waiting for citizenship. Like the name suggests, he can stay in the
Singapore, a PR cannot vote but enjoys certain perks not given to
foreigners, including cheaper fees and buying resale public flats.
He is spared from serving in the national service as required of an actual citizen. However, his children are not.
all the pushes and pulls of politics, history will probably tell that
most Singaporeans are in favour for Malaysians here.
They will be still be closer than most others to Singaporean hearts.
(This article was first published in The Star, Malaysia)