ST letter: Cash grants should benefit citizens more than others
ST Online letter by Mr Edmund Lin
29 Jan 2009
I REFER to last Friday’s report, ‘Cash grants to subsidise wage bills’.
In this economic downturn, I would like to see this cash grant benefit Singaporeans rather than permanent residents (PRs). A clearer distinction between companies that hire more Singaporeans and those that do not is needed.
In the figures released by the Ministry of Home Affairs, more than 50,000 foreigners became PRs in 2005 and 2006. But in the past 10 years, an average of just 8,500 a year became citizens.
In addition, many expatriate couples, with husband and wife equally qualified, have one spouse taking up Singapore citizenship to enjoy subsidies, while the other retains home country citizenship.
Many foreigners come here because they see Singapore as a land of opportunity which is clean, safe and good for families. But going by the number who become citizens, not many think of Singapore as their only home.
I know of Americans who cannot imagine giving up their US citizenship for a Singapore one. I presume US citizenship is something one is more inclined to take up than give up. I also know of a friend from India who, after living here for more than 10 years, decided to give up Singapore PR because she is concerned that her son would have to do two years of national service when he finishes his A levels.
To be sure, the Government has recently tried to draw a thicker line between PRs and citizens.
For example, non-citizens will have to pay more for education. They also pay more for health care. But many PRs consider these increases a small price to pay compared to other countries where they enjoy little subsidy at all.
As things stand, Singaporeans are losing jobs to foreigners in the face of competition for work. This affects even skilled workers and professionals.
Singapore workers feel vulnerable with the double whammy of globalisation and liberalised immigration. PRs choose to live in a place because it offers a certain standard of living, but they leave for another place if it makes a better offer. In applying this logic, I see using cash grants to subsidise wage bills as of little help to Singaporeans.