Saturday, 2 February 2013

Open Letter To Our 1.8 million Foreigners – Please Don’t Convert To Singapore Citizenship

2nd February 2013


Editor’s Note: This letter was penned on July 18, 2012
Dear Foreigners,
We welcome you to work among us but really we are more against the government’s liberal immigration policies than you personally.
We apologise if some of the anger was mis-directed though we hope that you will better respect us as this is our country.
As you know by now,  our government has tried  it’s best to convert at least 20,000 new citizens each year to arrest the low birth rate  in our  country.
Some of you have taken the bite and decided to become citizens of our country – welcome!
There are at least half a million permanent residents  (PR) and some have being working here for many years.
There are  a total of 1.8 million foreigners living and working among us now and one million are from mainland China.
I have known of a Malaysian PR who has being working here for the past two decades without ever thinking of converting to become a Singaporean citizen for personal reason.
Our government has being doling out permanent residency rights like tiolet paper a few years ago but recently they have clamp down hard on new PR applications due to a stiff voters’ outcry in the recent general election.
I have met stall hawkers  from PRC China who have managed to become PRs which is an amazing feat – reiterating the fact that our government has no clear transparent system of only bringing in the best for our country.

Why PRC Chinese Likes Singapore Citizenship
I know that PRC Chinese prefer to convert their citizenship as what good is it to hold on to a communist China passport which restricts your travel movement internationally?
This  is probably  why mainland Chinese movie stars  like Gong Li and Jet Li have converted to become Singapore citizens mainly for ease of international travelling.
Sadly, many PRC Chinese converts have this sinister plan  of migrating to  either Australia or USA once they received our coveted internationally-recognised passport.
One recently-converted citizen from PRC China  even told me that if he commits a crime in China and as a foreigner now he will receive  a lighter sentence than if he is convicted as a  local mainland Chinese!
To make matters worse, we continued to hear news of  how employment pass holders managed to find work in Singapore with all sorts of bogus educational certificates and false identity papers. Some even became PRs later on…
Those who want to maintain their PR status instead of converting to citizenship probably prefer to have a back door to escape to if things go awry  whereas others do so due to patriotic reason.

Pros and cons of citizenship conversion
It is hope that by now, after staying in our country for a while,  you  will know that there are both pros  and cons to converting your citizenship.
You can of course buy a so-called government subsidized HDB Build-To-Order (BTO) flat after becoming a new citizen but  the subsidy is minimal after factoring in land and building cost.
The subsidy amount  should not be more than 25% of the surrounding second-hand flats in open market and you will need to pay off the housing loan within a 25-year loan period.
It is an open secret by now that our government is trying to shore up voting advantage by converting at least 20, 000 new citizens each year so that by the next General Election in 2016, they will have at least 100,000 new voters rooting for them.
New citizens will naturally vote for the ruling party especially when they have provided  you with a new home, better employment  opportunities  and a positive future compared to back home.
I have spoken to some PRs from India and they are favourable of staying on in our milk-and-honey country for the long term as opportunities are very limited back in their own country.
The salary they can get from India is only 10% of what they can earn if they work in Singapore.

New citizens politically manipulated
Nevertheless, I want to remind my foreign friends that you are being  politically manipulated.
During the last GE 2011, more than 100, 000 new citizens were able to vote and they helped the ruling party restored their majority rule but the percentage was reduced by 6%.
If not for the large new-citizen contingent, the ruling party would have suffered a larger loss at the polls.
Though there  is  no hard evidence to support, chances are new citizens will understandably vote for the ruling party out of gratitude and loyalty as how can you bite the master who feed you?
After staying on for more than ten years, we believe that new citizens will definitely feel the urban strain of staying in Singapore and may even vote against the ruling party especially if they are unemployed or under employed for a long period.
It is envisaged that if the status quo remained with the same number of voters as GE 2011 and another 6% swing votes against them, the ruling party will be out of power within 2-3 elections.
Most Generation Y voters are voting against the ruling party as they clamour for  political change which is slow coming so far.
Each year leading to GE 2016, at least 25, 000 new voters from the Generation Y group will come on board – all ready to cast their vote  against the ruling party for change in a stifling  political environment.
If the ruling party does not resort to getting new citizens on board to nullify the opposition votes, there is every chance that it will be displaced from power within 2-3 general elections.
No political party in the world – however strong they are, has managed to hold on to  power for more than 50 years.
It is my belief that our country will undergo rapid political change in the near future despite the fact that the ruling party is trying to hold on desperately to power.
It is very short on ideas due to a rigid top-down governance philosophy and it’s total reliance on a elite scholarly team to govern the country has it’s own critical shortcomings.

Changes bring forth discomfort and sometimes pain as it attacks the ruling party’s  comfort zone especially if you have stay in power for almost five decades uninterrupted.

Flaws of our system
If you  become new citizens in our country, you will have to accept our system of monopolistic governance,and more importantly the  lack of human  rights and personal freedom.
Our legislation prohibits even a one-man protest in the street and you will be hauled up by the police for questioning.
You will also have  no arbitrary right  if you are sacked indiscriminately at the work place as so far the employment act does not cover you if you are an executive or earn above a certain income bracket.
Employers can sack you anyhow giving you one month’s notice and even a trip to the Ministry of Manpoer (MOM) may not yield any favourable result as the advantage lies with our employers here.
By now, you should know that our government is very pro-employer and our workers have little rights and are treated like digits ready to be cast away when you are old and useless.
We don’t even have a minimum wage here when third countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and China have already introduced them!
Here in our age-bias employment environment, chances are you will go out of work for a very long time if you are  above 40 years old and most likely retrenched for younger foreigners to take over your place.
There is also no social welfare programme available for you if you are unemployed for a long time. You are left to fend for yourself -  foreigner or  citizen.
I have seen close to five hundred jobless PMETs – mostly in their 40s – 50s while working full time for  Transitioning – a  non profit organisation -  they are all well educated but because of their age they are unable to find viable employment opportunities.
Do you think that you can be any  different here when you grow old?
Your children will also face tremendous amount of pressure in schools as our educational system is very stressful and tend to milk out the very best for the elites.
If your children are of above average intelligence chances are they will go through a very tough time trying to compete with one another for a prestigious scholarship where life will be smooth sailing after that.
Moreover, currently, only 26% of the primary school cohort will be able to enter our three prestigious universities and many of us have to spent six-figure sums  to ensure that our children have higher tertiary education abroad if they fail to gain a place in our own local unis despite garnering all the As and Bs.
As our government maintains  a co-funding policy in all it’s social welfare programmes, you will be shocked to know that many of us do not have enough to retire on let alone check in a public hospital to treat our ailments when we are old.
Despite gathering record-breaking revenues from GST to land sales to casino levies, it bothered to  spent only 5% of the budget on healthcare each year so far.
I spent a year teaching in China some time ago and  realised that most of the mainland Chinese people  could retire comfortably at age 55 years old.
In Singapore, you will see our aged ambling along at foodcourts and the airport, clearing rubbish and food trays off tables.
Is this the kind of life you want to lead when you are old?
Most of all, Singaporeans are pretty unhappy people due to a very stressful lifestyle and many people live lonely sheltered  lives without friends.
Divorce is also sky high in our country with a record 7,800 divorces registered for last year as the country goes through social mobility stresses and money-related issues.

Unhappy local workers
 A poll of employee attitudes in 14 countries has ranked Singapore last in workplace happiness.
Talent management company Lumesse polled about 4,000 employees from a wide variety of industries.
People were asked about how happy they were at work, whether they felt their skills were properly utilised, the career paths open to them, and the training and career development opportunities they had.
The results put Singapore last in three major areas – we least enjoy going to work, are the least loyal and have the least supportive workplaces.
There is no reason to believe that you will not feel the similar frustrations if you have being working and living here for at least five years or more.
Except for the solid infrastructure shell,  our country  is somwhat hollow inside. Local Singaporeans will know what I mean here.
We also have a serious wage division here and  a record 140, 000 Singaporeans earn $1500 and below per month.
Right now, India, PRC China and even Myamar possess abundant opportunities for future expansion and you can contribute better by  helping to build up your own country’s economy using your experienced  niche skills.
In fact, many Singaporeans have flocked to India and China to look for business opportunities as their  economies are  still brewing over there.
On the other hand, Singapore’s economy is on the decline after the GFC in 2008/9 and we have to desperately import cheap foreign labour to attract MNCS to our shore.
Once this cheap labour source dries up, many MNCs will leave us to our economic demise as we can’t depend on our own local SMEs which  are still struggling and fighting to survive.
By converting to become a Singaporean citizen, there is also a high chance that you will be made a political pawn and  cast aside when you are redundant and old.
I hope that you are conscious of the fact that you may be standing in the way of a political change in our country – which will go on with or without you.
Of course, you can re-convert back to your own citizenship after a while as I have heard of some Indians already doing that.
They took on citizenship here, bought a new BTO HDB flat, earned some money in the process and after a while re-applied to revert back to their Indian citizenship.
The money earned from the profit of the flat sales can set you up for comfortable permanent retirement back in your own home land.
I have also seen some converted citizens in Sydney  living and working  on a Australian PR – with no intention of returning to Singapore for the long term.
It looks like our country is used by many  as a stepping stone  to other better greener pastures.
So,  if you decide to become a new citizen in our country, do think at least ten to fifteen years ahead – the short-term may look good for now but it’s the long haul that you should worry about.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

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