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SINGAPORE: Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said on Friday (Mar 4) that Singapore should not be “drawing lines” that split citizens, new citizens and permanent residents.

He was responding to Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai (Progress Singapore Party) as they debated the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) plans and policies for Budget 2022 in Parliament.

Mr Leong, who has spoken repeatedly on foreign worker policy, asserted foreign professionals threaten the jobs of Singaporeans, but that this is “not obvious” from MOM’s statistics.

“The basic problems lies in MOM’s reluctance to present the employment data in individual categories of original citizen at the start of the statistical period, new citizen and permanent resident,” he said.

Mr Leong insisted that PME jobs created for locals between 2005 and 2020 would have gone to new citizens.

Rebutting Mr Leong, Dr Tan said: “As Minister for Finance said in his roundup speech, we get the sense that the persistent requests coming from him for more information are red herrings, they are distractions from the key problem at hand.”

He said he has already shared that the majority of local PME growth over the last decade went to Singaporeans born in Singapore, in a July Parliament sitting.

“I repeated this in Parliament in September and stated that this is the same for PMETs,” said Dr Tan.

“But Mr Leong persists in drawing these divisions, asking for statistics to split between original citizens, new citizens and permanent residents.

“I’ve also alluded at that particular point in time that as a society, we should not constantly be drawing such lines.”

Dr Tan said that many new citizens and permanent residents share family ties with Singaporeans or they’ve studied, worked or lived in Singapore for some time. They contribute to our strengths as a society and as an economy, he said.

“Singapore is an immigrant nation and openness is one of our society’s core strengths, that has defined who we are. I urge Mr Leong, have a care. Please don’t undermine the cohesiveness we have painstakingly built over the years,” he said.

“Let me emphasise once again, Singapore is and Singapore will always be committed to remaining open to foreigners who complement our local workforce. And to add, who are able to add vibrancy to Singapore’s economy.”