Posted by: bigtalksingapore | December 25, 2009

Value of Singapore Citizenship (Compare to PR)

The issue of citizen vs foreigner have and will always be a topic of contention in every countries.
Singapore is not spare, just look at the recent talk about differentiating between Singapore citizen and PR (Permanent Resident) (See Attachment #1).
Manage well and it will strengthen the nation.
Manage badly and it will break it.

Today, I will take a “Big Look” on this topic and try to “Big Talk” my way out of it.
Hopefully, we can find a win-win situation.

I will be looking at the value of Singapore Citizenship (as compare to PR) using the SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat) analysis.

STRENGTH

  1. Better hospitalization and medical subsidies for citizen.
    In general, Singapore PR recieve about 10% less subsidies than citizen (See Attachment #2)
    Singapore medical subsidies have switched to a “Mean Testing” system whereby each citizen pay according to their household income (Attachment #3).
    .
  2. Better Education benefits for citizen
    It was recently announced by the MOE (Ministry of Education) that Singapore citizen parents will be entitled to one additional ballot slip during the primary school balloting exercise.
    School fee was also tweaked to make it less attractive for Singapore PR (See Attachment #4).
    .
  3. Other Benefits.
    These include GST offset, Singapore shares and some election goodies that may benefit some citizens.
    .
  4. Election tools
    For every crisis, there is always an opportunity.
    The issue of citizen vs PR can actually be utilized to achieve political gain.
    In this case, where Singapore election is round the corner, it is difficult not to suspect that the recent differentiation between citizen and PR is part of a elaborate package to win support for the next election.
    .
  5. Force PR to reconsider their loyalty.
    Let’s face it, most PR came to Singapore with the purpose of money (Of cause, some of them may actually grew to love Singapore later on).
    Singapore government initial intention was to get Singapore population to 6.5 millions.
    With that target in mind Singapore open its door “Super-ly” wide for foreigner to come in and become PR.
    When the PR came in, they were enjoying same (Or even better) benefits as Singapore citizen.
    Some of them may have developed the mentality that Singapore cannot survive without them.
    So there was really no reason for PR to turn citizen when they are already getting better benefit.
    The recent action to differentiate citizen from PR is a good knock on their head to remind them not to take things for granted.
    There is no such thing as free lunch, they have to make a decision to become citizen if they still want all their benefits.
    We want people to join Singapore with the heart and mind of helping Singapore develop and not people who only think about taking advantages of the system.
    .

WEAKNESS

  1. National Service (2 ~ 2.5 years)
    This is a big topic in the mind of most Singaporean.
    But it remain mainly in the mind of most Singaporean and stay there.
    Not enough have been discussed in public by our media, politician or even the opposition parties.
    I will look at this issue in the following points.
    * Most male Singaporean go into National Service around 18 years of age. At this point in time, they would have completed part of their education (Eg A Level).
    From a student point of view, this disruption in education is not good. This break in studies may interfere with the studying process. At this point in time, the student would be at his prime where learning is most effective.
    * Delay in education will cause our male Singaporean to graduate slower than their foreign counterpart.
    * Male Singaporean who go into National Service have the tendency to pick up bad habits. Some of these habits are vulgar language (which may impede communication skill in their coming professional career), smoking, drinking, gambling, prostitution lifestyle  and a SAF mentality to “Siam” or work avoidance (Army term is “Take cover”).
    * Male Singaporean will lost at least 2 years of working experience compare to PR. The salary difference will become progressively wider over their working career compare to PR.
    A very crude calculation (See Attachment #5) shows that PR earn $143,923 more than male Singaporean over a working life cycle from 22 to 45 years old.
    * As our male Singaporean graduate 2 years later than others, it will translate to a reduction in work force which in turn generate demand for more foreign worker and PR. So our PR should be grateful that our National Service take out their competitors.
    .
  2. Reservist (13 years cycle), IPPT and RT (Remedial Training)
    The argument is that Singapore is small and need an army to deter our enemy, therefore reservist is inevitable.
    But that does not mean that the system is perfect and should not change.
    To continue the present reservist system without changes, there will be a price to pay for male Singaporean.
    * First is the disruption from work. Reservist ICT (In Camp Training) may fall on a date where the employee’s company is most busy. Even though there is usually a 6 months grace period for the company to prepare for the lost manpower, it may still be difficult to find a replacement in 6 months just to replace the employee for only 1 month. Then there is a problem of RT where reservist may have to take time off to attend their RT. Some old reservists (35 to 40 years old) cannot pass their IPPT no matter how hard they train (Over training will cause injuries). Taking time off once in a while is alright, but do it more often and it will leave a terrible impression on the employer or manager.
    * Employee may ask for ICT deferment but approval is usually very difficult unless the employee absence can cause million dollar losses. Most of us are not in this category. Of cause we can say that Foreign worker or PR may also take long leave to go back to their homeland. But their situation is different because they can have the choice to cancel their leave if needed. Reservists will not have this freedom.
    * Lost chance of promotion. Just imagine, if I’m the boss of the company and I want to promote two equally capable person, a male Singaporean (with reservist liability) and a PR. Who will I chose ? Do I want to promote the male Singaporean who will leave for reservist ICT yearly, leaving me to deal with the unfinished task or the PR who got freedom to manage his time better ?
    .
  3. Buying of HDB flat
    Singapore citizen must join name with spouse, parent or sibling in order to buy HDB flat directly. This privilege is the same as a PR who only need to find another PR to buy HDB flat. This logic is not right because Singapore citizen need the flat more than the PR. PR are here mainly for temporary basis, once they earn enough money, they would probably return back to their home land to retire. To the PR, a HDB flat in Singapore is mainly to be used as a wealth appreciation tools. Whereas, most Singapore citizen buy their HDB flat to live. Many may not even sell their flat during their whole life. Citizen will surely want Singapore to prosperous, a roof over their head is the basic necessity and responsibility of the Government.
    .
  4. Most of the PR will still be reluctant to give up their PR status for Singapore citizenship.
    If the PR are far sighted enough, they would see that Singapore is a good place to earn money but less desirable place to retire.
    If they take up Singapore citizenship, they will have to give up their old citizenship. That would mean that when they retire, they will waive off their rights to live in a less costly place.
    And don’t forget, why should PR subject their sons to National Service and Reservist liability. Their sons may grew up resenting them for their decision.
    .
  5. My personal opinion is that most well to do PR would not convert to Singapore citizenship.
    Only those PR with a lesser social status and skill sets may convert purely for economical reason.
    Question is are these people the one that we want and need to contribute to the progress of Singapore ?
    .

OPPORTUNITY

  1. We should look at increasing the ballot slip for Singapore citizen when they go for HDB flat balloting exercise.
    .
  2. I would propose a new PR re-classificaiton system, basically my classification goes like this …
    * PR Elite: These are the super rich class who will bring money and investment into Singapore.
    * PR Professional: This class is for professional with specialist skills that can contribute to Singapore progress.  The occupation involved must be make known to public. It may be subjected to revision as the world economy changes. Singapore citizen should have a say to determine this list. When the skills gap of a certain profession has been filled, this list should be revise to take it out. There should be a public forum conducted yearly to discuss this issue and update this list.
    * PR General: This class of PR will need to serve a 13 years cycle of “Civilian ICT” similar to male Singaporean. It will be a sort of nation contribution and integration program with Singapore citizen. Its training or activities should not be military base and related to national security. It could be in the form of SAF logistic support, camp and installation maintenance, public amenities servicing and maintenance (Eg. Parks, community center, road and infra-structure). During these ICT, they will be assessed on their performance in term of behavior, competence  and ability to integrate with Singaporean. There will be a probation period, if they fail to prove their sincerity and ability, immigration should have to right to fail their probation and take away their PR status.
    .

THREAT

  • PR will ultimately return to their home land for retirement because Singapore is probably  too  expensive. When this happen, they will bring the main bulk of their money (earn in Singapore) along with them. This will be a lost to Singapore.
    .
  • Without the PR classification, Singapore may lose its appeal to attract desirable world talent. But with the PR classification (Elite, Professional and General), this problem will be much lessen.
    .
  • PR converted to Singapore citizen may still retain their native citizenship in secret. This is a problem of illegal dual citizenship. Singapore immigration should take proactive action to arrest new citizen who posses more than one citizenship.
    .
  • PR may have developed the mentality that Singapore needed them to survive. Without them, Singapore will crumble (Attachment #6). This kind of mentality will create social tension and need to be weeded out. PR who posses this kind of mentality should not deserve to be granted with Singapore PR status.
    .

Attachment #1: Today, 18 May 2009, Page 10
.

Attachment #2: Today, 7 Dec 2007, Page 6
.

Attachment #3: Today, 18 May 2009, Page 10
.

Attachment #4: Today, 21 Dec 2009, Page 1
.

Attachment #5: My crude computation of salary earned between male Singaporean and PR
.

Attachment #6: Today, 24 Dec 2009, Page 18

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Responses

  1. I’d like to comment constructively on some of your points:

    The way I see the general situation is that Singapore has decided to catch up with Western countries, despite sharing its history with less developed countries in South East Asia. This is certainly a good thing.
    Thus the government has cleverly understood that knowledge (as in “working knowledge”) is what they need to bring to the country, so that the population can generate wealth for the country by building new industries, like financial services, etc., and gain self sustainability.
    As this knowledge was missing, the government decided that a way to achieve their objective was to make Singapore an attractive place for foreign workers. They would come here, setup their businesses, give jobs to Singapore citizens, and finally transfer their skills to them.
    This challenge comes with its problems.
    Here are some points I’d like to highlight. They are a direct response to some of the issues you raised:
    1 – The HDB program is not something used in our Western countries on the scale used in Singapore. I’m referring to Europe and America, where I’m from. Back home our government does not provide us with a house. We rent out, often for generations, until we can buy one on the open market without government help. I think this is better than the HDB program for few reasons:
    A – If you don’t own a house you will study and work extra hard to be able to buy one. If the government gives you one you’re less likely to do so. In contrast though you will be more likely to keep the current government in power instead. They give you a house, a job and meal and you are a happy voter. I would dare to say this lack of hardship among Singapore citizens might be one of the reasons why many foreign employers lament lack of hard working attitude. In fact many foreign employers try to hire other foreigners and the government has started to clamp down on permits, in an effort to force them to hire local staff.
    B – The HDB program is an artificial market where prices are not truly free. This is not what a democratic and free country should have I think. I admit though that I have little knowledge of the inner workings of the HDB program so this opinion of mine is very superficial here.
    My suggestion would be to end the HDB program so that people would be pushed to work harder and competitiveness would grow among citizens. They’d complain less about foreigners, study harder, work harder and the whole country would gain from this. If you want to compete with HK, London and NY you cannot take a 2h lunch break. You’ll instead buy a sandwich and go back to your desk where you’ll proceed to eat the sandwich, you front of the screen.

    2 – Disparity of treatment: in our western countries once you obtain a permit to work and live in the country (regardless the length of the permit), you are treated equally to the local citizens. To us, it sounds really unfair that school fees be different and whatever else that I’m not aware of. I could understand this is if there were a big difference between PR’s and citizens’ salaries (which might be the case). But the problem then is another one: it’s about making sure there are enough schools so people don’t have to bid up to obtain a place for their children.

    3 – Returning of capital – You say that when foreigners go back to their countries they might likely bring the money they earned back with them. I think if they have earned the money it belongs to them and they can do what they like with it. Assume you went to America, made and investment and doubled your money. You want to bring them back to Singapore and the US Govn. told you that you can’t do that, because it’s bad for the US. Wouldn’t you think of that as an arrogant and dictatorial system? In your comment you sounded like greediness was ingrained into your mind. Sorry but this is how it sounded. Just because something is good for Singapore doesn’t mean it’s not unfair to other people. Taking your liver to replace mine is certainly good for me but it wouldn’t be for you! 😉

    – Need for foreigners: this might be a hard one for you to swallow but try to think about it: if you decide to paint your house you could either do it by yourself or call a painter. So now you ‘need’ a painter. Maybe the painter has an attitude (cultural difference) you don’t like, but you still need the painter. If you really can’t stand him, you can send him home and do it yourself. Now, as the Singapore Govn. has decided to catch up with Western countries quicker than everybody else in South East Asia, they need foreign talent, thus they are bring us in. I think this makes logical sense. If Singapore Citizens, for whatever reason, don’t want the foreigners here, they can tell the Govn. to start instead creating local talent though the Singapore Universities. It will take longer but eventually the country will get there. As things are now though, whether you agree or not, Singapore ‘needs’ foreign talent. In Europe now the economy is not well. For as much as I’d rather be back home earning a good salary rather than having to adapt to a Chinese culture I don’t particularly share much in common with, I still have to be here to build a future for myself. Cultural integration is hard and it goes both way for both cultures. Singaporeans like to think their society is fully integrated. In reality it’s not. Chinese things Malay are lazy and I hear from Indian friends they are not given the same opportunities by the Chinese minority. So there you go again. Integration is a great goal toward which all of us still have a lot of work to do.

    In the mean time you can look at the positive side: Singapore is gaining a lot of new knowledge and capitals from foreigners. We get our experience from working abroad, build some savings too, Singapore gets what it wants, and things are pretty well I think.

    I ofter heard Singaporeans complain about the new 7% GST. In Europe we pay around 20% (!!). Without your guaranteed house and job and low taxes I think you’d see things more positively and blame it less on PR’s and see how they are helping the country. Maybe you have an Philippino/Indonesian maid, and they are cheap too. I believe your fellow citizens wouldn’t be cleaning your house for the same money. Where I come from immigrants come without a permit, they ask for housing and medical assistance, they have no education and often commit crimes. Among Singapore PRs most are professionals and make a real contributions to the country.

    Many Singaporeans’s dream is to speculate in the real estate market: buy a cheap condo and sell it into an inflated market. That’s the dream of a lazy person who wants money but doesn’t want to work for it. Not dreaming but hard work is what you’ll learn and thrive from.


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