Use immigration to strengthen ties with Asian hinterland

In his commentary, Mr Parag Khanna said that our Asian hinterland is brimming with opportunities, and suggested that though Singapore stands to gain the most from Asean's emergence as a coherent sub-region, we should extend our commercial tentacles to other far corners of Asia ("A sunny island set in the Asian hinterland"; Monday).

Our economic external wings have to and will become more important in the next 50 years. With no resources and a shortage of manpower, we should be proactive and nimble to seize any external business opportunities available.

Besides using business competitive edges and competencies to set foot in the Asian hinterland, we should also use other leverages to build and strengthen ties with our Asian partners.

Traditionally, citizens from other Asean nations formed the majority of our immigrants and foreign workers over the last 50 years.

If our economic interests expand faster in non-Asean nations than in Asean nations in the next 50 years, we should modify our immigration policy to attract more citizens from non-Asean nations to come here, especially talent that could help widen and deepen our economic ties with their countries of birth.

We could also do likewise for skilled foreign workers in our foreign worker policy.

Student exchange, scholarship and other programmes that would promote people-to-people interaction and relationships between Singaporeans and other Asians should also be stepped up.

Competitive advantages and business conditions may change faster in the future. Having a stronger people-to-people relationship with our Asian hinterland would provide us with another compelling edge to strive ahead.

Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2015, with the headline 'Use immigration to strengthen ties with Asian hinterland'. Print Edition | Subscribe