More efforts by Singapore to attract foreigners

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Singapore, Singapore

#1 Feb 5, 2010
Economic Strategies Committee unveils ambitious plans for Singapore's economic transformation
by Mustafa Shafawi, Lin Jiamei and Hoe Yeen Nie Updated 09:10 PM Feb 01, 2010

A high-level committee has unveiled ambitious plans aimed at transforming Singapore's economy over the next decade.

Top most on the Economic Strategies Committee (ESC) report is to make significant improvements in productivity in every sector of the country's economy.

The target - achieve productivity growth of two to three per cent a year over the next 10 years.

That will allow Singapore to grow its GDP by three to five per cent a year.

Productivity will therefore account for about two-thirds of the country's GDP growth, compared to just one-fifth in the past decade.

Three priorities have been laid out:

One, boosting skills in every job; two, deepening corporate capabilities to seize opportunities in Asia and three, making Singapore a distinctive global city.

Chairman of the Economic Strategies Committee, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam told a news conference Monday morning: "Our assessment is that the next 5 to 10 years will provide greater opportunities for growth in the world around us than any decade we have seen in the past... But at the same time we will also face greater constraints than we have had in the past. In particular, because of a slow-growing workforce; and over time too, because we'll have run up against the limits of our land... It will require a change in how we work, how we create value. And it will require that our companies expand overseas to make the most of opportunities that match their strengths."

More than just laying out a vision, the committee has outlined broad strategies to ensure targets are met.

In upping productivity, the ESC has recommended the setting up of a high-level national council as well as a National Productivity Fund to support the efforts.

The council will oversee and drive the efforts while the fund will provide grants to support initiatives aimed at raising productivity levels.

At the same time, there is also a need to expand the Continuing Training and Education scheme at all levels.

The committee projects that at least 240,000 people will undergo the programme each year by 2015.

Mr Tharman who is also Finance Minister explained: "In 10 years time, we want productivity for our economy as a whole to be one-third higher than where it is today and this can be achieved because we are capable of a major national effort. We are capable of doing this consistently, in a concerted fashion, with everyone playing their part - government, unions, businesses, individuals playing their part."

The minister added that if Singapore can raise productitivy, income can also be raised.

There's also a call to manage Singapore's dependence on foreign workers.

The committee suggests that levies on foreign workers be raised progressively, although it did not give a quantum for this.

Foreign workers now make up about a third of the total workforce.

The ESC says Singapore cannot increase the number of foreign workers as liberally as it has done over the last decade due to "physical" and "social limits".

It says being less dependent on such workers will also incentivise companies to improve productivity.

Nonetheless, the ESC recognises that it's critical for Singapore to continue attracting highly capable and entrepreneurial people from around the world to work here.

Singapore, Singapore

#2 Feb 5, 2010
The proposed changes to the foreign worker levies should include greater differentiation between the skilled and the unskilled worker.
On the business front - there'll be sweeping measures to anchor Singapore as a Global-Asia Hub and strategies to build a vibrant and diverse corporate ecosystem.
Manufacturing will however remain a key sector - making up to 25 per cent of the economy.
But there's also a strong push to build Singapore into a trusted financial services hub and leading consumer business centre.
Companies in Singapore big and small, local and foreign should also form strong networks so they're inter-dependent on one another.
The target is to grow 1,000 Singapore enterprises with revenues of over $100 million by 2020.
Innovation will also be driven by R&D.
The recommendation is to raise Singapore's gross expenditure on R&D to 3.5 per cent of GDP by 2015, putting Singapore on the level of developed countries like Finland, Sweden and Japan.
Also proposed, public-private co-investment funds of up to $1.5 billion in the next 10 years for growth-oriented SMEs based in Singapore.
Given Singapore's limited resources, there's also extensive recommendations to ensure energy sustainability and land use is fully optimised.
Among the plans - a new waterfront city at Tanjong Pagar, currently a port area comprising Keppel and Pulau Brani. The current port lease in the area expires in 2027.
The land area is similar in size to Marina Bay and the committee believes it can potentuially allow for a substantial expansion of the business district, integrated with waterfront housing, hotels and other lifestyle attractions.
The committee says there's also a need for an underground masterplan.
The Government should catalyse the development of underground space over the next decade, as well meet the need to develop subterranean land rights, a valuation framework and to establish a national geology office.
Besides land constraints, Singapore also faces energy resource constraints.
One suggestion is for Singapore to study the feasibility of using nuclear energy in the long term. It's an idea which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2008 said he "hasn't ruled out".
The ESC says the option could help meet base load electricity demand as well as Singapore's energy security in the long run.
In the medium term, the committee suggests that Singapore should explore coal and electricity imports to diversify its energy sources.
Importing energy will also free up valuable land in the country.
The 25-member ESC took about eight months to come up with its comprehensive report.
The next step is for the Government to review the recommendations.
It's expected to respond to the proposals during the Budget debate later this month.

Singapore, Singapore

#3 Feb 5, 2010
Opposition parties weigh in
They agree with general thrust of ESC report, but call for minimum wage, more help for SMEs
by Teo Xuanwei
05:55 AM Feb 04, 2010SINGAPORE - Several opposition parties have responded to the Economic Strategies Committee's (ESC) report and in general, they felt the recommendations were a thrust in the right direction - though more could be done.
While the Workers' Party will give its views when Parliament debates the Budget in March, when Singapore People's Party secretary-general Chiam See Tong will also have a chance to respond, other parties not represented in Parliament seized the chance to comment yesterday.
The Reform Party and National Solidarity Party (NSP) cited similar aspects of the report for discussion: The lot of low-wage workers, ways to help local small-and-medium enterprises and how the economy should grow.
In a media statement, Reform Party secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam called for a minimum wage - in tandem with the proposed hike in foreign worker levies - to "force" employers to use labour more productively. He said the ESC's suggestion to raise levies "may be a means of achieving the same goal but does not directly raise or put a floor under the wages of less-skilled Singaporean workers".
He added: "It may look more efficient on economic grounds, but if employers go further afield in search of cheaper and cheaper labour, it may nullify the effects of the increased levy."
The NSP did not offer suggestions on how to help low-wage workers, but secretary-general Goh Meng Seng felt the ESC should not dissect the economic issues without considering the social, cultural and political ramifications. "We need a more holistic approach instead of formulating quick fixes for short term gains," he said.
On ways to encourage more start-ups, both parties agreed Government-linked companies hindered the growth of local SMEs. The NSP said the Government should "provide funds and facilities for technological research and upgrading SMEs into Original Equipment Manufacturers". If not, local SMEs would remain "mere vendors providing parts and services for MNC plants".

Singapore, Singapore

#4 Feb 5, 2010
Mr Jeyaretnam suggested "dismantling or privatising the whole GLC structure", including Temasek Holdings and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation.
On the ESC's suggestions for growing Singapore into a Global-Asia Hub, the Reform party said manufacturing should eventually comprise less than 20 to 25 per cent of the economy, as suggested by the ESC, "given Singapore's limited land and other resources".
Mr Goh suggested wooing regional economies to overcome constraints: "There's no mention whether Singapore will work actively towards a more comprehensive free trade zone in South-east Asia."
He also expressed concern at the possible plan to price energy to reflect real costs.
"Singapore's energy pricing is already on the high side in this region. We should take care of implementing pricing policy that would affect our cost of living, as well as doing business," he said.
The possibility of nuclear energy as an option for Singapore worried both parties, due to Singapore's small size and dense population.
On the ESC's overarching theme of improving productivity, the Reform Party said it "supports in-principle the idea of a high-level national council to boost productivity".
As for higher investments in education, Mr Jeyaretnam said the target amount should rise to between 5 and 6 per cent of gross domestic product, from the current average of 2.8 per cent over the last five years, to be on par with other advanced countries.
Meanwhile, the Singapore Democratic Party called the ESC's suggestions "old wine in a new skin". SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan said: "Save for the development of nuclear power, haven't we heard all this before?"
He cited examples such as the Government's National Technology Plan in 1991 to become a world-class innovation-driven economy by 1995; the SME21 plan in 1996, targeted at helping start-ups; and the 2001 Economic Review Committee report, which touched on using levies to regulate the demand for foreign workers.
"If all these initiatives had been effective, why the persistent problem of declining productivity and the need for another report?" he said.
Dr Chee said it will present "concrete alternative proposals in the days and weeks ahead".
Amy Chua

Singapore, Singapore

#5 Feb 13, 2010
More Myanmar nationals flocking to S'pore to work

Jermyn Chow
Thu, May 01, 2008
The Straits Times

MYANMAR nationals are making their presence felt here, not just in their red t-shirts joining the queue outside their embassy along St Martin's Drive, but in other sectors of Singapore too.

The Myanmar embassy estimates that there are about 100,000 of its nationals living here now, up from 60,000 in the beginning of last year.

That is a 40 per cent jump, fuelled by the domestic unrest in the country triggered by the 'saffron' protest in August last year, when monks demonstrated against the price of fuel.

Some 75,000 people reportedly fled their homes in East Myanmar amid the conflict, which left about 500,000 people displaced.

Most of the Myanmar nationals here hold employment passes or work permits, and jobs in the accounting, engineering, construction sectors. More and more of them also come as maids.

Most come here in search of money and a better life, they told The Straits Times.

'There are more opportunities here, and we can get access to the Internet, a wide range of books and reference materials from the library,' said Ms Ei Thet Khine, 29, of the privileges she does not get at home.
Siti Aminah

Singapore, Singapore

#6 Mar 14, 2010
Flexible approach to check foreign influx
by Loh Chee Kong
05:55 AM Feb 02, 2010

SINGAPORE - The influx of foreign workers has to slow, this much has been made clear. But instead of keeping "rigidly to a fixed number year after year" - in the words of Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam - the Republic will rely primarily on a pricing mechanism, in the form of higher worker levies, to manage its dependence on foreign labour.

This flexible approach will allow the employment of foreign workers to fluctuate according to business cycles, according to the Economic Strategies Committee.

And it means dynamic firms short of workers can still seize opportunities without being "hamstrung by rigid quotas", the panel added.

Currently, the Government manages the hiring of foreign workers through a two-tiered system: The dependency ratio, which sets out the maximum ratio of work permit to S-Pass holder to local workers that each company can hire; and a monthly levy where firms must pay between $50 for each S-Pass holder and $470 for each unskilled construction worker.

As dependency ratios now get relooked, foreign worker levies will be raised "progressively" - giving companies time to adjust.

And while foreigners will continue to make up "roughly one-third" of the workforce, according to Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong, the group's make-up would change markedly over time: He stressed the need to "upgrade foreign workers and for companies to bring in higher skilled foreign workers".

Make no mistake, foreigners will continue to make up for the labour shortfall in certain jobs that "we got to attract Singaporeans into" over time, said Mr Shanmugaratnam.

Foreign workers are "part of the solution", which requires "retaining them for longer, upskilling them - at the same time that we place more emphasis on upskilling workers on the lower end of our own workforce," he added.

Still, several journalists questioned if the Government's intention to slow the influx of foreign labour would reduce output and stifle economic growth, particularly in industries that have become over-reliant on foreign labour.

One journalist also asked, was the new policy "economically or politically motivated"?

In response, Mr Gan said the past decade - in which productivity growth hovered at just 1 per cent, as the number of foreign workers spiked - should be seen "in perspective".

Singapore had "leveraged on the availability of workers to allow us to grow the economy when the opportunities were there", he said. "But now we have to shift our focus ... because we do have constraints, if you look at our land, energy and infrastructure."

Just like wine...

Urging companies that have grown too reliant on foreign workers to rethink their business models, Mr Gan said a "certain balance" between the local and foreign labour force was needed to maintain the country's "social balance".

For companies that "took the easy way out", labour chief Lim Swee Say had an apt analogy. "They always run to the Ministry of Manpower to ask for more foreign workers," he said. "But just like drinking wine, wine is good but too much wine is bad - same thing applies to foreign workers. Foreign workers are good but too many foreign workers, growing too fast, is no good for the economy."

Apart from being more selective in attracting foreign labour, Mr Shanmugaratnam noted the importance of retention, as the low productivity in sectors such as construction was due to worker churn. "Many come and leave after three or four years and the skills don't accumulate over time," he said.

And borrowing Mr Lim's analogy, he quipped: "Just like wine, foreign workers get better the longer you keep them."
Jobless Singaporean

Singapore, Singapore

#7 Mar 14, 2010
Thursday, August 13, 2009

Singapore gets big lift
from Pinoys amid crisis

By Llanesca T. Panti, Reporter

Filipinos in Singapore have helped their host country stay afloat despite the onslaught of the global financial crisis, Singapore Ambassador to the Philippines A. Selverajah said on Wednesday.

According to Selverajah, there are more than 150,000 Filipinos in his country who play key roles in various sectors of the economy including banking, healthcare, retail, food and beverages and digital media.

“Their attitude toward work and their warm nature make them highly demanded,” he said in a speech during the Singapore National Day held at the Mandarin Hotel in Makati City recently.

Selverajah also cited Filipino tourists who continued to flock to Singapore even with the ongoing global economic meltdown. The city-state was also affected by the global crunch because its economy depends much on exports.

“Singapore’s tourist arrival from the Philippines has continued to increase, there are in fact 400,000 Filipinos who visited our country in 2008,” he noted.

The ambassador credited the continued influx of the Filipino tourists to an expanded air transportation agreement between Manila and his country.

“We have really worked on more direct flights to Singapore from Manila, Clark, Cebu, Subic and Davao. It would not be only good for business, but for better understanding between peoples as well,” he said.

Based on records of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Singapore is the Philippines’ fourth-largest trading partner, with bilateral trade amounting to

$8.5 billion, or P382 billion in 2008.

Selverajah told The Manila Times during an earlier interview that Singapore was continuing to upgrade its trade mechanisms so that it would not have to depend on one industry. He said that Singapore has also become a hub for knowledge-based industries such as biotechnology, logistics, tourism and financial services.

Singapore, Singapore

#8 Mar 16, 2010
News: The Straits Times - 5 February 2010
No U-turn in foreigner policy: SM Goh
By Jeremy Au Yong, Political Correspondent
MANAMA (BAHRAIN): The Government's recent moves to slow the influx of foreigners do not mark a 'sudden turnaround' in policy, said Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday.
Rather, it is simply a recognition that the country is nearing what it can accommodate. While foreign worker numbers may still rise, it will now grow more slowly.
Speaking to Singapore reporters in Bahrain at the end of a six-day visit to the Middle East, SM Goh explained that Singapore needed to be open to foreign workers in the past to fuel its rapid growth.
'If you look at the last decade, we wanted to grow fast. And there were opportunities to grow fast. Employers were crying for workers. We were trying to tighten the dependency on foreign workers, but the demand for goods and services from Singapore was high, so we liberalised. Then once we reach the limit, you've got to tighten,' he said.
The Government, he said, constantly monitors its policies and tweaks them where needed.
'Past models which have worked may not work in the future, so we've got to constantly monitor, adjust when necessary, sometimes even discard. But in our case it's modifying the model, not discarding the old model,' he said.
SM Goh also made it a point to stress that striking the right balance was just one aspect of the foreign-local issue. Permanent residents were another major part.
He said the Government was reviewing the PR scheme to try and make sure foreigners do not exploit it:'If you want to come to Singapore, decide to be a PR, the logical conclusion must be Singapore citizenship. Do your fair share contributing as Singapore citizens.'
The balance between foreigners and locals in Singapore has been a key focus of the Government in recent years, and this week's Economic Strategies Committee (ESC) report also addresses the issue.

Singapore, Singapore

#9 Mar 16, 2010
For instance, it suggests increasing productivity to reduce the dependence on foreign labour.
Speaking about the report, SM Goh noted that increasing productivity had been a focus as far back as 1978, when it prescribed high wages for locals as a way to boost productivity.
This time around - though the aim is largely the same - there is an additional weapon: the foreign worker levy.
'Unlike 1978 when we raised wages of our local population by a very high margin, this time you can calibrate the increase in prices through the foreign worker levy,' he said.
This was not a case of going out just to cut foreign worker numbers, but rather to 'price them more correctly'.
Said SM Goh:'When you price the foreign levy at a more correct rate, then the market will decide what industries can still be in Singapore paying this price of levy.'
However, he said it would be a challenge doing this at the right pace, without putting off too many:'If you overdo it, at too fast a pace, for example, and too many companies cannot cope with the higher cost of production, you may end up with a mild recession. If you are not careful at all, you can end up with a deep recession.'
Fortunately, he said, Singapore can draw from past lessons:'We have the advantage of the 1978 experience in using prices to raise productivity and of course the advantage of knowing how far you can go and how fast you can go.'
To the Senior Minister, both 1978 and 2010 will mark 'turning points' in Singapore's economy. In fact, he described this year as a turning point for many countries, as they have to work out their next move after the financial crisis.
SM Goh concluded his visit to Oman and Bahrain yesterday, a trip which helped to deepen bilateral ties with both nations.
He said that as Senior Minister, he saw his role as trying to help Singapore expand its economic and political space.
Since stepping down as prime minister in 2004, SM Goh has been at the heart of Singapore's push into the Middle East. The country now has substantial business ties with many countries in the region, and has signed a free trade agreement with the six-nation grouping known as the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Mr Goh arrives back in Singapore today.
- end of ST article
Overseas Singaporean

Canberra, Australia

#10 Mar 23, 2010
We have enough foreigners in this country. Don't allow any new ones in and send back the ones that we've already got.
Opposition supporter

Singapore, Singapore

#11 Mar 23, 2010
Overseas Singaporean wrote:
We have enough foreigners in this country. Don't allow any new ones in and send back the ones that we've already got.
This will only happen after the opposition wins more seats in parliament.

Sydney, Australia

#12 Mar 23, 2010
Does S'pore have enough of locksmiths?

Keen to come over & do that kind of work, does Singapore have a locksmithing industry at all?
brain drain

Singapore, Singapore

#13 May 4, 2010
Medical grads lured away by higher pay


By Minderjeet Kaur

KUALA LUMPUR: Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia has reported the highest number of brain drain this year, with about 15 per cent of its top medical and health graduates leaving the country before completing their housemanship.

They left for Singapore after receiving job offers that paid S$6,000 (RM13,800) a month compared with RM3,000 locally, UKM vice-chancellor Prof Tan Sri Dr Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan Shahabudin said yesterday.

She is appealing to them on "moral and ethical grounds" not to leave the country as the university has spent millions of ringgit training them.

"These are our best medical students who are leaving the country for Singapore. Previously, Singapore took in students who had completed their housemanship but now it is taking them in upon their graduation," she said after the Asia-Pacific Conference of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences here.

About 200 people graduate from the UKM Medical and Health Faculty every year.

Another group of graduates also leaving for work in Singapore are those who studied language and speech therapy.

Those unlikely to leave the country were graduates from the Dentistry Faculty as most found well- paying jobs, Sharifah Hapsah said.

She said other universities, such as Universiti Malaya, faced the same problem with their top students going to Singapore.

"Our neighbour is also facing a brain drain. That's why its offers are becoming more lucrative. The trend of students leaving the country is on the rise."

Sharifah Hapsah said UKM was planning to delay issuing testimonials to medical graduates to encourage them to do their housemanship and serve the country.

She said the brain drain was unhealthy for the country.

"We continue to train them. But they keep leaving the country. They may be paying to study in public universities but the fees are heavily subsidised. It is the taxpayers' money."

Sharifah Hapsah said she was not against students leaving the country to gain knowledge and training but they should return home to contribute in their fields. But medical students who left without doing their housemanship showed that they were not interested in coming back to work in the country, she added.
mongolian nurse

Singapore, Singapore

#14 May 5, 2010
June 8, 2009
Patient hit doctor, nurse
By Esther Tan

A PATIENT got into more trouble than it was worth during a hospital stay to treat an injured leg.

Lee Soo Guan, 21, was sentenced to 10 months' jail on Monday for punching a doctor and flinging a metal hole-puncher at a nurse during an altercation at Alexandra Hospital in February.

Another charge of behaving disorderly in a public place on Feb 25 was taken into consideration.

Lee, a sales assistant, who occupied a bed in a ward where the victim, Dr Paul Tan Sze Hiang, 29, was working in, mimicked a vulgarity, which the doctor had said under his breath after realising he was looking at the wrong case notes of a patient in the same ward.

Dr Tan told Lee to pipe down but he shouted vulgarities back at him. The two had an exchange and Dr Tan walked away, but Lee suddenly got out of his bed and went after the doctor.

He also flung a metal hole puncher at Dr Tan and a 27-year-old assistant nurse. The puncher hit Ms Altai Erdenetsolmon, on the wrist after she tried to break up the quarrel.

Ms Erdenetsolmon, a Mongolian national, was put on two-days medical leave for a swollen wrist, while Dr Tan suffered pain from the punches.
new road for foreigners

Singapore, Singapore

#15 May 7, 2010
Oct 7, 2008
Dorm access road to cost $2m
But Tai Hwan Gardens residents say plan pushes problem to them
By Lim Wei Chean

IT IS a $2 million compromise that the Government has worked out to appease Serangoon Gardens residents unhappy over the foreign worker dormitory to come up in their neighbourhood.

This is what it would cost to build the 400m access road to the dorm, which will occupy the old Serangoon Gardens Technical School premises.

National Development Ministry spokesman, responding to Straits Times queries, cited $2 million as the 'ballpark cost' for the new access road of the temporary dorm, subject to adjustments based on the detailed design.

With the new two-way road to the dorm from Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, vehicles ferrying the workers to and from their lodgings will not need to use Serangoon Gardens' Burghley Drive.

This was one big bugbear for residents of Burghley, as the proposed dorm - just 10m from their front doors - presented the prospect of foreign workers being emptied out into the small street.

Now, the Burghley Drive entrance will be sealed up, and the dorm will be set further in.

But another lot of residents are fuming - those living in Tai Hwan Gardens, who see the move as merely having shifted the problem into their backyard.

Business owner Mabel Koh, 46, who lives in Tai Hwan Heights, said:'Now they are pushing the whole thing to our side without solving the problem.'

Dwellers of Kingsgrove Condominium next to Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 will face the entrance to the new access road; others living along the canal - along Tai Hwan Terrace, Tai Hwan Grove, Tai Hwan Crescent and Tai Hwan Drive - will face the road.

Banker Mark Giblett, 40, worries about the noise and pollution caused by buses fetching the workers to and from their work place in the IT and electronics factories in Ang Mo Kio. He added that, with these workers working shifts, they will be going in and out of the compound at irregular hours, potentially causing disruption at all hours.

Other residents pointed out that Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 is already jammed during the morning peak hours, with motorists using it to avoid the Electronic Road Pricing charges on the Central Expressway (CTE). Having more vehicles will only worsen the situation, they said.

An industrial designer who gave his name only as Mr Low suggested having the dorm link to the CTE directly, instead of looping out to the main road.

Responding to this, a Land Transport Authority spokesman said the request would be looked at 'based on careful consideration of the safety and traffic implications'.

Ms Koh noted angrily that none of the solutions tackled the basic concern - that of residents having to deal with 600 new foreign dwellers coming into their estate.

Singapore, Singapore

#16 May 8, 2010
Township for foreign workers could house up to 20,000 under one roof
By Imelda Saad, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 10 September 2008 1855 hrs

SINGAPORE: The idea of a township for foreign workers had taken off in places like the Middle East, where dormitories for foreign workers, which are sustainable and self-contained, are said to house more than 100,000 people.

In Singapore, dormitory operators said this idea could take off, given the acute shortage of foreign workers' housing.

There are 756,000 foreign workers in Singapore in 2006, with a higher number during the construction boom. Most of the workers live in 36 permanent commercially-run dormitories and 18 industrial or warehouse developments.

To meet the shortage in dormitories, the government has said it will be releasing 65,000 more bed spaces in 11 new dormitory sites by 2010.

The concept of foreign worker townships is new in Singapore, but self-contained dormitories had sprung up, like the one at Penjuru Place in the Western part of Singapore which houses 6,000 foreign workers.

The Penjuru Dorm has a canteen, a minimart and even a wet market. For recreation, there is an exercise corner and a space for the workers to play a game of sepak takraw. Cable TV is also available in the flats.

Each unit is the size of a 2-room HDB flat and comes with a bedroom, a living area, a kitchen and toilets. Housing is paid for by the workers' employers and can cost about S$180 per person per month.

Dormitory operators said townships will be similar to this, but on a much larger scale.

Director of Mini Environment Services Pte Ltd, Mohd Jinna, said: "We will be able to handle 18 to 20 thousand workers in one location, with segments of maybe four dormitories.

"There will be a cinema theater, shopping centre, minimarts. We (will) have a beer garden for these workers to consume their liquor in-house rather than going out to disturb the residents." But with such a big township, security may be an issue.

At the Penjuru Dorm, foreign workers are housed in 2 sections of 3,000 units each for better crowd control. Workers are also given biometric passes to move in and out of their quarters.

A group of these workers has even partnered government agencies like the Singapore Police Force and the National Environment Agency, as well as the nearby Teban Garden estate's Residents' Committee, to form a patrol group.

The group of 10 foreign workers call themselves the "Kampong Spirit". They conduct walkabouts on weekends around nearby housing estates every fortnight.

One such foreign worker, Nathan Neduzcheliyan, said: "When we go for the patrolling, we advise the workers.(If) they (are) sitting under the block, talking loudly, drinking, we go advise the people -'don't do this'. All try to cooperate with everybody. Don't disturb other people."

Property manager of Mini Environment Services Pte Ltd, Jimmy Wee, said: "Workers are involved because sometimes Singaporeans do not talk the foreign workers' lingo."

The company said residents' complaints against the foreign workers had dropped since the patrol initiative was introduced a year ago.

But even with such progressive management practices, the question still boils down to whether Singaporeans are comfortable with living in close proximity to townships housing these workers.

Singapore, Singapore

#17 May 8, 2010
Aug 8, 2009
Worker cuts 'not solution'
Sliding productivity cannot be addressed totally by tweaking quotas, say two ministers
By Sue-Ann Chia, Senior Political Correspondent

TWO ministers on Friday cautioned against calls to reduce employers' access to foreign workers as a way to improve the productivity of the Singapore worker. Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong said it may be too simplistic to assume that such a move will automatically lead to higher worker output.

Echoing this view, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said at another event:'Just zeroing in on foreign workers alone is not the total solution.' But he conceded that 'it is something that needs to be looked at'.

Their comments come a day after labour MP Josephine Teo called on the Government to re-tune foreign worker policies, saying easy access to foreigners could be a reason productivity is sliding.

It dipped 15.4 per cent in the first quarter, compared with the same period last year, continuing a steady decline since the last quarter of 2007.

Responding to Mrs Teo, Mr Gan said such policies must be calibrated carefully.'If we are not careful, it will instead create rigidity and distortion in the labour market, add costs to businesses and undermine their competitiveness,' he said in a speech at his ministry's National Day observance ceremony.

'To achieve real sustainable growth in productivity, there is no alternative to concerted efforts by all parties and a lot of hard work on the ground.'

The issue of reducing reliance on foreign workers also cropped up at the National Day ceremony at NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute, which Mr Mah attended.

Citing the construction sector, he told reporters:'Just reducing the dependence on massive amounts of cheap labour is not the answer to our productivity problems...We need to make the job more attractive, make the industry more attractive.'

The Government has begun to boost productivity with an inter-agency task force. Set up in February, it is focusing on raising output in three industries in the service sector. They are retail, hotels, and food and beverage.

The issue is also being tackled by the Economic Strategies Committee which, among other things, is looking at having a 'sustainable foreign worker population that complements the local workforce and supports a high productivity economy'.

Singapore, Singapore

#18 May 8, 2010
PM Lee cautions S'poreans to prepare for economic slowdown
By Dominique Loh, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 01 May 2008 1808 hrs

On the issue of foreign labour, PM Lee said foreign workers are willing to work longer hours to keep the airport, factories and hotels open 24 hours a day throughout the year. That gives Singapore a more competitive edge, he said, adding that keeping foreign workers away is not the answer.

He said: "It's because we have the foreign workers here, that's why our economy has grown, that's why the employers,...companies are here, and that's why Singaporeans have jobs.

"You send away the foreign workers,... a few hundred thousand (of them), Singaporeans (won't) go into those jobs, the companies will close or leave. I think the Singaporeans unemployment will go up, and hardship will go up."
Foreigners first

Singapore, Singapore

#19 May 12, 2010
Mar 3, 2010
Do more for new migrants

AN MP has argued for more spending to help new immigrants integrate with Singaporeans, going against the general calls from many locals for lesser privileges for permanent residents and foreigners.

Noting that the Government has set aside $10 million in the Budget for national integration, which has generated criticism online and in coffee shops on the use of public funds for foreigners, Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng said more needs to be done to help new immigrants 'work with the old team and feel a part of us'.

'First, we need to make sure that they are called new Singaporeans rather than new migrants. They are not even new migrants - they are an old hand at migrating, and want a new life. They want to settle down and to make Singapore a new home,' said Mr Seah in his speech during the debate on the 2010 Budget Statement on Wednesday.

He noted that no large scale survey has been done to find out what these new Singaporeans need.

'We have not done any large scale survey, we do not know their problems but we have already gone ahead and decided that the funds will go towards organizing activities. But songs, dances and performances are entertaining but do we perhaps need something more?' he said.

'What we ought to do is first - find out what new Singaporeans need, and then target funding at helping them meet these needs. If it is language skills, then we should subsidize language classes. If it is educational information, or integration at schools, then we ought to target that.'

With 20,000 migrants becoming new citizens each year, Mr Seah then suggested rewarding such parents with some form of baby bonus when they have a new Singapore baby.

'I have made the argument for national integration with new Singaporeans on the basis that they are members of the same team,' he stressed.
wrong signal

Singapore, Singapore

#20 May 12, 2010
The first MP to comment on the Budget statement, Ms Jessica Tan (East Coast GRC), who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Finance and Trade and Industry, said: "Although the rise in the levy is graduated over three years, there is concern expressed by some business leaders that this may impede the ability of companies to leverage upon and capture the opportunities of the recovery, as their capacity will be impacted."

And if the increase is not calibrated, it may "send the wrong signal to companies looking to invest in Singapore or to foreign talent that Singapore is not as open as it used to be", she said.

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