Tuesday 20 January 2015

Govt puts interests of Singaporeans first

Grace Fu addresses residents' concerns during ministerial visit to Tampines
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 19 Jan 2015

CONCERNS about the number of foreigners in Singapore dominated a dialogue that Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu had with pre-university students and residents yesterday.

Six of the 10 questions raised during the hour-long session during her Tampines East constituency visit were over worries about the impact on Singaporean culture, the size of the foreign population, and occasional tensions that may crop up. All except one were asked by students aged 17 to 19.

Addressing the view that there may be too many foreigners, Ms Fu, who is in charge of population issues, explained that the low birthrate over the last few decades has made it necessary for Singapore to turn to foreigners to supplement the population and workforce.

"But in all our policies, we always put the interests of Singaporeans first," she said. The Government's strategy is to ensure that Singaporeans are equipped with the right skills and given opportunities to upgrade, even as the foreign labour supply is tightened.

Ms Fu also responded to questions about how the Government would deal with foreigners who make insensitive remarks against Singaporeans. Earlier this month, a Filipino nurse who made such comments online was later dismissed by his employer, Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

"These occurrences aren't something we should tolerate… But we should also know that for every foreigner who makes such remarks, there are many others who respect us," she said. "And maybe, (there are) also many Singaporeans who make similar remarks against foreigners."

The questions concerning foreigners, despite the Government's regular explanations about the foreign worker policy and moves to tighten the labour supply, did not surprise Ms Fu.

Such concerns are "perennial problems" that the Government must address with each new generation, she said.

Ms Fu, who was in Tampines East for the first ministerial community visit of the year, later gave out about 70 Edusave awards to students.

Earlier yesterday, she visited two sets of parents with Jubilee babies. She also launched the Active Tampines-Peter Lim Community Sports Programme, under which the businessman and billionaire is donating $1 million over five years, to encourage young residents to pick up unusual sports, like rugby and bowling.

Also in attendance during Ms Fu's community visit were Tampines GRC MPs Mah Bow Tan, Irene Ng, Baey Yam Keng, Masagos Zulkifli and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Mr Desmond Choo, who moved from Hougang to Tampines East as second grassroots adviser three months ago, was also present.

"Our focus remains the same - we need to deliver good, local solutions and there's no way we can do that without working hard on the ground.

"We can't do that once a month, or even once a week. We have to be here all the time," Mr Choo said when asked about a walkabout yesterday in Tampines by Singaporeans First.

The opposition political party was conducting its fourth constituency walkabout since its official registration in August last year.

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