Singaporeans will always come first: Law Minister
By Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 17 January 2010 2048 hrs
SINGAPORE: While Singapore's economic recovery is picking up speed, many Singaporeans remain concerned about issues like jobs and competition from foreigners.
These bread-and-butter issues dominated a two-hour dialogue session in Yew Tee with Law and Second Home Affairs Minister, K Shanmugam, on Sunday.
One after another, residents rose to query the minister on what some perceived to be difficult competition from foreigners.
But the minister explained that Singaporeans will always come first.
Mr Shanmugam said: "We have to start off with the perspective that we have to help Singaporeans first. Singaporeans must have jobs and be able to afford the basic things.
"You've heard the Prime Minister and various members of the Cabinet say that yes, there has been a tightening up in terms of who will be allowed to come into Singapore.
"Foreign workers will come in as needed by the economy and when not needed by the economy, they will go back."
Mr Shanmugam pointed out that at the lower levels, foreigners are taking up the jobs that Singaporeans shun.
Meanwhile at the upper levels, those foreigners coming in ended up improving job prospects for Singaporeans.
Another issue that came up during the dialogue session was the question of enough housing for young couples, especially with the recent Build-To-Order Project in Chua Chu Kang area being over-subscribed.
But Mr Shanmugam didn't think that HDB was building behind the curve.
He said the housing board had to be careful not to flood the market, even as it promises to build up to 12,000 BTO flats this year.
With the integrated resort in Sentosa opening soon, residents wondered if they could have a date with Lady Luck - for free.
"(How about) giving some free entry to these casinos (at Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands), especially on National Day? I think most will like it, right?" asked a resident.
But he didn't strike the jackpot with the answer he got.
Mr Shanmugam said: "I hope Singaporeans don't get overly excited about the casinos. I don't think the government can pay for it and say 'free entry'.
"We have put in various safeguards. So, let's see how those safeguards work."
As a social safeguard, Singaporeans and PRs have to pay $100 daily to enter the casinos.
Before the dialogue, Mr Shanmugam also toured the Yew Tee constituency and mingled with the residents.