24 Sep 2010, 10.12AM
Following the Prime Minister’s National Day Rally (NDR) on 29 August 2010, REACH embarked on our annual feedback exercise on the Rally.
Besides setting up a dedicated webpage to provide access to information on the Rally and a direct link to the multitude of channels through which feedback on it could be submitted, REACH also introduced a new feature in this year’s exercise. Called “Conversations with MPs”, this new initiative allowed Members of Parliament (MPs) on the REACH Supervisory Panel to pen their thoughts on the NDR, and actively engage in discussions with netters online.
Of the issues raised at the Rally, Immigration, Housing and Education most struck a chord with our contributors, and this was evident in the active discussion on these issues on our various feedback platforms.
Many contributors agree that Singapore should remain open to foreigners. They note that many foreigners take on manual jobs typically shunned by Singaporeans, and are hence needed to plug manpower gaps. Many are also heartened with the assurance that citizens will always come first.
However, some remain concerned over the perceived ease with which foreigners are able to convert their Permanent Residents (PR) status to citizenship. Perceiving that some foreigners use Singapore as a stepping stone to a better education and even rosier destinations, several contributors call on the Government to be more discerning in bringing in foreigners, and to only target ‘real’ foreign talent who will contribute to Singapore’s well-being.
Many also feel that the presence of a large number of foreigners has contributed to a rise in the cost of living, competition for jobs, escalating property prices, as well as competition for places in popular schools. Some also express dissatisfaction with the ability of newcomers to integrate with and communicate with locals, and urge the Government to look into the matter.
Many of those who spoke on integrating foreigners noted that newcomers and locals should both make an effort to help newcomers better integrate into Singapore. Some suggest that PRs and new citizens contribute to society by serving in voluntary welfare or grassroots organisations.
Many express disappointment with the new measures to cool the property market, noting that the new rulings fail to address the issue of affordability and the high Cash-Over-Valuation (COV). They hence doubt whether the measures will be effective in deterring rich foreign investors from speculating or driving up property prices.
There are also concerns that the measures benefit the low-and higher-income more than the middle-income. In this regard, some suggest that the income ceiling for the purchase of new Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flats be increased further to enable more middle-income couples to be eligible.
Noting that the new measures will kick in almost immediately, some contributors argue that Singaporeans should be given more time to adjust to the announced changes.
Nonetheless, there are contributors who welcome the measures, particularly the increase in the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP). They feel confident that this is a move in the right direction, as it will discourage investors and help first-time home buyers. They also believe that as the property market is largely sentiment-driven, the measures will curtail speculative activity and help to correct the overheated property market.
Contributors generally welcome the changes to the education system, particularly the concept of providing ‘many pathways to success for students’. They believe it will benefit those who are less academically inclined and recognize their individual strengths. However, a few pointed out that accepting these changes will require a mindset shift.
They also note that besides academic programmes, schools should focus on nurturing and developing future entrepreneurs, and put in place more resources to help under-privileged and less academically-inclined students to reach their full potential. There should also be a stronger emphasis on continuous learning and skills upgrading, to enable Singaporeans to respond quickly to challenges and remain relevant to new opportunities.
However, some contributors express concern about the possibility of the Integrated Programme breeding elitism, as well as the growing number of foreign students studying in Singapore, and the possibility that they may deprive local students of a place in local tertiary institutions.
Contributors applaud the move to allow Normal (Academic) students who do well in their N-levels to move on to polytechnic, although some note that this will result in stiffer competition for places in polytechnics.
We would like to thank our contributors for your active participation in this exercise, and for taking the time and effort to share your thoughts on the issues raised at NDR 2010. Your feedback has been sent to the respective agencies for their information and attention. Some agencies have also responded to contributors’ feedback on the REACH Discussion Forum.
“Yes, very happy to hear PM say that citizens will always come first.” – Melvin Pang, via Facebook
“The key message was that we should make a distinction between transient foreign workers and migrant foreign talent. The former are necessary to take up jobs that Singaporeans are unwillingly to do and for building our infrastructure. The (numbers of the) latter should be controlled to ensure that we attract the best people who can contribute and eventually integrate into our society.” – Robin Ng, via Facebook
“We should expand our citizenship journeys to include attachments to social welfare organisations. This way, they can also make friends and forge ties with locals…” – Soh Yi Da, via Public Forum
“The recent changes to the (housing) policies only reduce the risk of a property bubble forming, but they fail to address the fundamental need of Singaporeans, which is affordable housing.” – via Discussion Forum
“I support increasing the MOP to 5 years. This is a good measure as public housing is meant for staying in and not renting out.” – via Discussion Forum
“The recent measures are moves in the right direction, to discourage investors. The focus is to help first timers purchase their first home.” – via Discussion Forum
“People who are most affected by the changes are those in the so called "sandwiched group" – those with a household income of between 8 -10K.” – via Discussion Forum
“As the market currently is largely driven by sentiment, reducing speculators' access to the market will hopefully see the market correcting to a more reasonable level in the mid-term.” – Jude Tan, via Facebook
“As a teacher in a secondary school, I applaud the move to allow Normal (Academic) students who do well in their N-levels to move on to polytechnic. I hope more support, in terms of manpower, training and finance, can be devoted to making sure our less academically inclined (or perhaps those who happen to blossom later in life) reach their full potential.” - via Discussion Forum
“As a poly student who came from the express stream in Secondary School and who has gone on to a local university, I am worried about the stiffer competition express stream students will face in finding a place in a polytechnic, as a result of this change.” – via Discussion Forum
“Beside the academic programmes, our schools should also teach students how to be entrepreneurial and be financially independent, as well as how to "fish". With more entrepreneurs, our economy will become more vibrant.” – via Discussion Forum
“Education is a lifelong process and should never stop when we leave school. Continuous training and upgrading will ensure that Singaporeans respond to external stimuli fast and stay relevant for any new opportunities that may arise.” – EngineerTiat, via Discussion Forum