Foreigners help grow our pie too

During our forefathers' time, Singapore was a tropical backwater. We had nothing, so there was little to share. One's loyalty to Singapore was manifested by staying put despite the odds ("The Population White Paper - Time to revisit an unpopular policy?"; Jan 9).

But things are different now. We are now a thriving world-class city.

We see foreigners in our public amenities, schools and workplaces more frequently. Naturally, there is the worry that more people are here to share the pie.

However, people are perhaps oblivious to the fact that foreigners help us grow the pie too.

Without enough workers, Singapore will lose its buzz as an economic hub. The standard of living will fall and the tax burden will be greater, amid an anticipated increase in social spending to support a fast-ageing population.

Immigrants are needed to avert such a stark and bleak future, and we welcome those who wish to be a part of us.

Labour is a commodity. In a globalised world, our own workforce is just as mobile. There is no stopping them from going where the highest bidder is.

Should we not retain our own while we attract foreigners here?

While foreigners add diversity to our social fabric, we must contend with the fact that they will influence our social character, which is still in the making, as a young nation. It makes it harder for us to define ourselves in terms of norms and ethos. Social cohesion may, hence, be challenged.

For existential reasons, we should revisit the Population White Paper. But we should do so with great sensitivity and acumen.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2017, with the headline 'Foreigners help grow our pie too'. Print Edition | Subscribe