Even as Singapore adjusts its work pass policies, it must be careful not to give the wrong impression that the country is closing up and is no longer welcoming foreigners, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.
"Such a reputation would do us great harm and we have to watch this, because we are being watched," he told Parliament, noting that publications like the Financial Times and South China Morning Post had recently run articles about how the mood in Singapore on foreigners was changing.
"There are articles circulating on the Internet - the grapevine buzzes," PM Lee added. "We have to do the right thing for ourselves, but we must also avoid sending the wrong signals to others."
Days after the Government announced the minimum salary to qualify for an Employment Pass would be raised from $3,900 to $4,500, making it more expensive for firms to hire foreign professionals, the FT ran a report headlined "Singapore seeks to cut number of expatriates as recession bites".
The report noted this had come at a time when fund managers and traders in Hong Kong were looking for a new base for their headquarters in Asia, following the introduction of a national security law in the special administrative region of China.
It also quoted a partner at a top international law firm as saying the move was about giving the perception that Singapore is doing more to help locals' employment prospects. FT reported the partner as saying: "The flip side to that is it will probably damage international perception of Singapore even if it doesn't have a big impact."