Migrants who can contribute to Singapore's economic development 'still welcome'

SINGAPORE has had to slow the flow of foreign talent because of the social issues that arose from their influx.

But as an open economy with a long tradition of immigration, it will continue to welcome migrants who can contribute in the long term to the country's economic development, former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng said yesterday.

Mr Wong, now special adviser for economic cooperation to the Prime Minister, made the point in his keynote speech at a forum on global talent at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

The Third International Roundtable Forum on Global Talent, held outside China for the first time, was organised by the university and China's State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA).

The one-day session yesterday was attended by more than 100 government officials, policymakers, practitioners, researchers and students, the majority from China.

NTU was chosen as the first overseas venue for the forum because of its long history of conducting research and education in China, offering executive training to Chinese officials as well as expertise on migration and human talent development issues, said Professor Alan Chan, dean of NTU's College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.

NTU is also the first institute of higher learning in Singapore to be certified by SAFEA, which oversees the certification of foreign experts providing expertise in China and the overseas training of Chinese officials.

The forum discussed a range of topics: from how to keep countries attractive to global talent, to how to balance a country's need to attract the best global talent and citizens' anxieties about increased competition for jobs.

The large presence of foreign talent is a hot-button issue in Singapore.

But Mr Wong said the country has, on the whole, been successful in tailoring manpower management towards its social and economic needs.

But with the increased complexities, uncertainties and risks associated with the new trends of talent mobility, the Singapore Government needs to stay nimble, he added.

"If not managed well, it will be socially and economically costly," warned Mr Wong, who had overseen population matters before he retired from the Cabinet in 2011.


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