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'Singapore taking middle path to balance foreign labour needs'

Press Trust of India  |  Singapore 

Singapore is taking the "middle path" in balancing foreign labour needs of companies and citizens' concerns while xenophobia is only confined to a minority, the city-state's foreign minister has said.

"You have to mediate between the two," Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said in an interview published today.

"If we remove the foreigners, there'll be a different impact on the economy and the jobless numbers will be higher," said the minister.

Still, the government has to acknowledge that there are "legitimate stresses", Shanmugam said.

"A significant portion of the population either feel stressed because of job security or feel stressed because of competition from foreigners, without being xenophobic. To address the effects and stresses of globalisation, the government has to focus on social policies such as housing and education," he said.

"Xenophobia has not had an impact on foreign investment in Singapore," he said.

Savvy multinational companies "know that these sentiments are there in every part of the world", he pointed out.

In February, nine foreign chambers of commerce issued an open letter to Singapore's Ministry of Manpower, voicing their concerns over the impact of manpower constraints due to the stringent policies controlling the inflow of foreign labour.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday that the government would defer SGD 2 billion (USD 1.595 billion) worth of construction projects to ease demand for foreign labour.

"Companies that require large amounts of labour force will, of course, redo their calculations," Shanmugam said.

Foreign investors recognise Singapore's advantages including intellectual property protection, rule of law and high-quality labour and logistics, he said.

First Published: Fri, May 30 2014. 14:39 IST