yes, we are progressing
An article posted by an overseas Singaporean in Sammyboy Five years ago, if someone were to suggest to me that Singaporeans should always come first, whether with regard to housing, healthcare or education, I would have agreed readily. But as you can tell from my recent posts, I have become more skeptical about these "Put Singaporeans First" instincts. Back in the 1980s, faced with competitive pressures from Japan, there was also a 'Buy America' campaign. Today, 'Buy America' is probably targeted at cheap Chinese imports. But to those of us who are beginning to understand how inter-connected the world is, such efforts are looking increasingly futile, and are in fact detrimental to the people they are supposed to benefit. It became somewhat of a joke when it latter transpired that many made in America products in fact had foreign components. Looking beyond goods and services, globalisation has also resulted in greater movement of people from their countries of birth. Immigration and emigration are on the rise everywhere. I mentioned before that 1 in 10 British nationals actually live overseas even as Britain experiences large scale immigration. Singapore, being a global city-state, is not immune to these forces. I dare say that on the whole, we have benefitted greatly from it. We have many non-citizens (permanent residents, permit holders) working here for large parts of their lives. Many are becoming as Singaporean as you or I. Similarly, there are many Singaporeans working, studying, living overseas for an extended period of time. I am a Singaporean, but I do receive some British welfare benefits because I am studying here. With the influx of non-locally born students or working professionals to Singapore, competitive pressure inevitably arises - as is reflected in rising rents, house prices, transport congestion or university places. Faced with competitive pressure, the natural instinct is to adopt a 'Put Singaporeans First' mentality. There are also those in Britain demanding that welfare for foreigners be cut, and that British citizens should come first. Why should we worry about putting citizens before every one else? Firstly, it has become increasingly difficult to meaningfully categorise people into citizens and non-citizens based on the passports they hold, and conduct redistribution policies that way. For example, many permanent residents have lived in and contributed to Singapore for decades. Many have Singaporean spouses and Singaporean children. Secondly, even if we give the Singaporean priority to everything, healthcare, university education and what not, he or she could easily emigrate to another country after consuming all the benefits (ah big beautiful house and nice lifestyle in Australia). Being open and free means that citizens can easily pack up and leave. The fact that one has to be a Singaporean citizen at the point of consuming taxpayer-funded benefits does not guarantee that it will be taxpayers' money well-spent. Who is a taxpayer? Foreigners who work here pay taxes too, GST if not income taxes. Though it has become a cliche to say that the world has become more open and borders more porous, we still have not really accepted this at the emotional level. Many of you will no doubt disagree with me on this and believe that we citizens should always come first. But I hope to convince you at least that old comfortable assumptions we have will not always hold today. I fully agree with what he said. He is not only a Singaporean with talent, but also have breathed in fresh foreign air. So he can be a bit airy but the talent he showed in his arguments is a gem. We should do away with citizenship and embrace globalisation. This will be a first that we can claim and welcome everyone here as equals to all Singaporeans without distinction. We are progressing, very well towards the day when we can discard the name Singapore and call ourselves international citizens.