By: Kheng-Liang Tan
A key point of PM Lee’s National Day Rally speech was on how Singaporeans should take a more united role in collectively shaping up our future as a nation. To quote, PM asked, “Will we be stronger as one people? Will the Singapore Spirit grow? Will we feel more pride and togetherness as Singaporeans?”
My personal view is quite the contrary: Can Singaporeans still forge a strong national identity when the actions of our political leaders seem to have a preference for foreign ‘talents’ who do not necessarily show interest in acquiring roots?
This roots of this philosophy was first born through Goh Chok Tong’s National Day speech 19 years ago when he argued that “it would be difficult for us to compete with [other countries] for high value added industries and services” and “we must try and increase our proportion of able people by drawing in able people from outside.”
The essence of this open-door immigration policy has taken a step further when the late Lee Kuan Yew was quoted as saying in a 2010 interview with National Geographic Channel that native Singaporeans were “less hard-driving and hard-striving” compared to immigrants. The latter group was praised as “hungry” and “pushed their children hard”.
Moving forward, such a skewed philosophy has entrenched in the mind-set of subsequent generations of PAP leaders so much so that the necessity for such foreign capabilities seems to be a preference for instant success through importing rather than build up of intrinsic capacity.
Our ASEAN counterparts – some of whom do not speak standard English – are given scholarships at our Public universities while imported ‘talents’ are dominating Singapore’s presence at international sporting events via the aptly named “Foreign Sports Talent Scheme”.
Joseph Schooling was congratulated by the PM, various PAP Ministers and their Parliamentary colleagues immediately after his victory while those who have yet to win a medal – such as Aisyah Saiyidah and Laurentia Tan – who were largely left to fund their own passion.
In fact, it was the PM himself who defended PRC scholar Sun Xu at a time where sentiments towards foreign students were most heated due to an embarrassing Parliamentary question by the Worker’s Party. It was also his cabinet colleague who spoke up for Nisha Padmanabhan despite public uproar.
(And oh, our new citizen is now working in San Francisco).
There are many citizens who have gone through our arduous education system and yet unable to secure a place in our tertiary school, left for overseas instead and most have done well. Singapore is losing many of our own talents who have since migrated for more opportunities.
Let’s not even talk about how businesses should revamp themselves and the supposed government support they can get: Just look at Sim Wong Hoo’s Creative which was initially scorned by the NCB (predecessor of the iDA) when Sim applied for seed funding, claiming that no one would ever want to hear a sound from the PC. It was eventually an $800k investment from private venture capitalists which allowed him to take the Singapore brand International.
When the governing philosophy is like this now, PM Lee’s government should walk the talk rather than make promising speeches which otherwise mean nothing.