Tuesday 17 July 2012

New Citizens and Integration into Society

Public support needed to balance foreign talent and economic growth: Ng Eng Hen
By Alvina Soh, Channel NewsAsia, 15 Jul 2012

Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen said Singapore will be able to strike a proper balance between economic growth and foreign talent - with public support.

He urged Singaporeans to play their part in helping to achieve such a balance.

Dr Ng said it will always be difficult to do so, and added that Singapore should not pretend that it is going to be easy.

He said: "The balance depends very much on what Singaporeans are willing to support. Because if you tighten too much, your jobs are at risk. And not only your jobs, because you become less competitive. But not only that, for example in essential services, we need people to build our homes, man our hospitals, so on and so forth. Your quality of life will be affected.

"On the other hand, we are reaching the limits of some of our land, our ability, our transport, our housing, so we have to adjust to that. And I don't think that it's only the government that will have to decide this. Singaporeans must also support the balance."

Dr Ng made these points on the sidelines of a community event in Bishan in response to questions from reporters on the government's advance estimates - showing that the economy contracted 1.1 per cent in the second quarter of this year.

Dr Ng, who joined some 2,000 residents at the sports festival, also urged Singaporeans and new citizens to integrate with the rest of the community. He is confident that the process will be faster if Singaporeans remain open and new citizens take the initiative.

"Integration is a two-way street. It takes two hands to clap. And so we have to be open, for those of us who have been here longer. And I think for new citizens, they also have to step forward. So if one side remains open, the other side takes the initiative, both sides meet together, I think that will make it much faster," said Dr Ng.

S Iswaran urges new citizens to integrate, be part of larger society
By Wayne Chan, Channel NewsAsia, 15 Jul 2012

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, S Iswaran, has urged new citizens to learn to integrate and be part of a larger society.

He said this on the sidelines of a racial harmony event in his constituency, West Coast GRC, on Sunday morning.

Permanent Resident Dolly Thwaet met and fell in love with a Singaporean while she was working at a jewellery shop in Myanmar. When her husband brought her back here seven years ago, she was in for a bit of a culture shock.

She said: "Because our country's (Myanmar) people, they are calm and they are shy. So when I came here, people talk like they're very aggressive or something."

But other new citizens, like Prakash K Hetamsaria from India, felt right at home from the start.

He said: "You can see a lot of Indian friends, we have. Lots of Indian food you have. In terms of culture, I don't feel like it's too far from India."

Many new citizens have said that events like racial harmony carnivals have helped them to integrate better with Singaporeans.

One of the simplest ways to promote racial harmony is the sharing of food from different cultures. To do that, the West Coast Constituency has organised a Cultural Food Street where residents can enjoy traditional favourites like the Chinese Popiah.

Mr Iswaran also stressed the need for ongoing dialogue, not just across ethnic or cultural groups, but with different religious groups as well.

He was responding to questions from reporters on the recent investigations involving several leaders of City Harvest Church.

To a question on how this has affected religious harmony, Mr Iswaran replied that legal action was taken against individuals, not against any particular church or religious group. 

"One of Singapore's basic tenets has been that we view multi-culturalism as a basic organising principle," Mr Iswaran said.

"We have got to make sure that we continue to keep that a very vibrant part of Singapore, where (when) people from very different cultural and religious backgrounds come here, they feel free to practise, pursue their faith, pursue their religion, but being a part of a larger Singapore society and integrate in that manner."

Approach integration with same spirit as racial harmony: Chan Chun Sing
Channel NewsAsia, 15 Jul 2012

Singapore will be able to integrate new immigrants in the coming years, if it approaches integration with the same spirit it has approached racial harmony.

Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing said he is confident of this, but stressed that everyone needs to play a part.

He said: "That will require two hands to clap, it will require fellow Singaporeans to remain open to people from different backgrounds.

"Yet at the same time, it will require new immigrants, our new friends, to come on board and play a part in our society, to reach out, to understand our social norms and to reach out to fellow Singaporeans. Only so, will we be able to build an inclusive society for everyone."

Mr Chan was speaking at a street parade in Punggol North to celebrate racial and religious harmony.

More than 10,000 residents took part in the event.

Mr Chan said Singapore still celebrates Racial Harmony Day, because it is easy to forget Singapore's more difficult early years during times of peace and harmony like now. He also said Singapore should not take this peace and prosperity for granted.

At the event, some 530 residents also muscled their way into the Singapore Book of Records for having the most number of people taking part in a tug of war.

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