Foreigners galore
Visitor impressions with the large increase of foreigners, especially Indians, in Singapore. By suria. Comments
May 27, 2007

Random notes on Singapore
(This article on Singapore was published in 3quarksdaily)

It is true that changes are afoot in a nation that – after the Asian Financial Crisis, and the terror caused by the spread of SARs – realised its government could never offer it complete protection.

The bargain for freedom from want in return for silent cooperation was not legitimately struck.

It was based on the false notion that Singapore was a nation in charge of its own destiny rather than a small sliver of land, smaller than the dot that represents it on the global map.

It made me think of my last trip to Singapore, a couple of months back. Every time I visit Singapore, I am surprised by the pace of change. I, in my nostalgia, try to seek out places I knew from before, and am constantly reminded that I am oh-so-outdated.

But this time, I was struck by the number of foreigners. I still remember the time I first came to Singapore.

The year was 1995 - sure, there were some foreigners around, but we felt like foreigners - I mean, we felt like we were a minority - as I assume, foreigners in any country are supposed to feel.

I was in Singapore for just a day and had way too many people to catch up with - so I set up shop at a cafe near Millenia towers and as I had cup of coffee after cup of coffee with friends who managed to sneak off work for a coffee break, I indulged in one of my favourite pastimes - people watching - and I was more than amazed by the proportion of foreigners - almost every other person seemed to be a foreigner!!

And for the first time, I heard murmurs of dissent among my Singaporean friends, and we had some lively discussions on the topic.

I don’t quite get it - why is the Singapore Government so desperate for foreigners? Do they really need so many foreigners - to perhaps, the extent, that you have to ask who is the minority here?

I can only imagine the government has a plan - and a good one too - that is behind this mass import of “talent”. But none of my Singaporean friends seemed quite able to explain to me the rationale behind the policy. Which begs a bigger question.

This is just one of the many policies that the Government makes on behalf of the citizens. I wonder, without due political participation and debate, why do the people assume that the Government will get it right every single time? What if they are wrong?
Posted by Surya


Singapore desperatly needs foreigners for many reasons, the 2 most evident are: -
1. To support the growing international financial hub. The local talent is just to weak to handle international matters, that’s why we, 'ang-mos', come here with huge salaries to work for people like Merryl-Lynch, ING and other mega-companies and the locals receive only S$2,500-$3,000 per month.
2. The Singaporean population is quickly decreasing. Singapore needs to increase 50% its population by 2050 otherwise it will become an old country and the economic system will fall; for this many Asians are coming here to ‘have babies’ and reasonable jobs, and I would say the Indians are the responsible for the future of Singapore. Studies estimates that in 20 years Singapore will be ruled by today’s Indians sons and daughters, today they are already 15% of the foreign population here.
I bet that in a few decades, Singapore can then change its name to ‘Indiapore’.
By Edge

Edge, Thanks for your comment. I agree with your reasons. But seems kinda odd to have a government-supported policy to change a country’s demography so drastically. As you say, changing Singapore to “Indiapore” - is that a desirable outcome?
As for the first reason, I think a lot of capable Singaporeans have left Singapore, which is probably why they need to depend on foreigners. Shouldn’t getting them back (and not by threats) be the first course of action?
By Surya

A good point.. The example of the US comes to my mind. One way, the US is run by the best brains in the world, not all of them Americans. They welcome talent, be it from any country… Probably Singapore is following that example?
And, a lesson here for India?
By Pradeep

True, and I think it would definitely be good for India to have foreign talent too..
But the proportions in Singapore are kinda alarming.
By Surya