The Singapore government recently announced that it intends to encourage a significant number of Permanent Residents to become Singapore citizens.
Recently, Singapore’s Senior Minister Mr. Goh Chok Tong is reported to have said that the Singapore authorities are planning to approach a selected group of Singapore Permanent residents to become citizens and should they refuse, they stand the risk of non-renewal of their PR status. To quote Mr. Goh,
“Moving forward, we are going to approach some of them to take up Singapore citizenship, if they don’t then their PR will not be renewed. That’s a better way. We now have quite a few PRs, 500,000 in Singapore, so hopefully maybe 50,000 can be selected to become Singapore citizens, the rest can be PRs, contributing to Singapore’s economy.”
Needless to say Mr. Goh’s comments has created quite a stir among the PRs, foreigners and local residents in Singapore and is proving to be the the most discussed and debated topic on popular online forums.
Further to Mr. Goh’s statement, his Press Secretary clarified saying,
“SM was making a general observation to illustrate the point that the government would be managing the inflow of PRs and would encourage some of those who are already here to become Singapore citizens. The figure of 10% which SM gave was only for illustrative purposes. It is not a target, nor is it the case that all PRs who turned down the offer of Singapore citizenship would not have their PR status renewed. The Government will continue to review and refine its policies to ensure that those who have PR status are an asset to our society, and that those who are given citizenship are, in addition, assessed to be committed in their allegiance to Singapore.”
Public opinion appears to be divided over the proposed move and what remains to be seen are the details of the policy and whom exactly the government plans to target. One must not forget that Singapore has over the years been an immigrant friendly nation. Singapore’s open door immigration policy is best reflected in the various work visa schemes such as the Singapore Employment, Pass, Singapore Entrepreneur Pass and Singapore Permanent Residence schemes. Until now, becoming a Singapore PR was relatively easy and successful applications were usually processed in as little as 3-6 months time. There was a time when the Singapore authorities sent out letters to prospective candidates inviting them to take up Singapore Permanent Residency. The government ensured that PRs were accorded many benefits. As a result Singapore’s Permanent Resident population swelled from 350,000 in 2007 to 540,000 in 2010. There has also been a significant increase in the number of work visa holders in Singapore.
While the surge of foreign residents in Singapore bode well for its economy it has resulted in “urban stress” and ignited public resentment. The government has acknowledged the concerns of its citizens but also recognizes the economic benefits that are to gained by keeping its doors open to foreigners. As a result we see measures such as a more qualitative approach towards the intake of foreign talent, increase in foreign worker levies, and more recently the move to encourage PRs to become citizens. Whether or not these measures will appease Singapore citizens, only time will tell. As far as the future of PRs in Singapore is concerned, we’ll have to wait and watch but it is highly unlikely that Singapore will jeopardize one of its biggest strengths.
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