What is Low Thia Kiang saying? 刘程强在说什么?

 by Li Yeming (Published on Zaobao)

Translation :

On the last day of the debate on the Population White Paper, I received two text messages. One friend forwarded Mr Low Thia Khiang’s Parliament speech from the day before, and asked: “What is this Low Thia Khiang saying?” Another friend was more direct in expressing his displeasure: “I can’t believe that’s what Low Thia Khiang said! How can all of Singapore’s problems be attributed to immigration policy?”

Strong rhetoric but ridiculous logic

The Workers’ Party (WP) is saying that the Population White Paper will dilute the Singaporean core. But how so?

According to Mr Low, that is because the proportion of non-citizens would go up and allowing immigrants to become citizens is also a form of dilution. But I do not understand. Hiring a domestic helper will not change the core of a family, so how would hiring a few more domestic helpers and foreign workers dilute the Singaporean core?

So it seems the issue is not really about non-citizens, but rather, immigrants gaining citizenship. Clearly, Mr Low does not think that new citizens are real citizens.

He asked the question: What proportion of the so-called “Singaporean core” is made up of born-and-bred Singaporeans?

He may say he is not deliberately drawing a line between born-and-bred citizens and new citizens, but everything he said was aimed at the differences between the two. He cited many differences between them, stressed that integration is difficult and felt Singapore does not have the right conditions to integrate immigrants.

And why is that so? Because the pace of life here is fast, residents in the new HDB estates keep to themselves, so people may not even know their neighbours. Well, this got me curious. I wonder how many among the new citizens Mr Low knows actually do not work, have no social life and only keep to their own neighbourhoods. And one cannot integrate just because one does not know all of one’s neighbours? Does that make sense?

And when other MPs pointed out that Singapore was an immigrant society to begin with, Mr Low mocked their “amnesia”. He said while most of our forefathers were immigrants, after decades of nation-building, this generation of Singaporeans can be considered “true blue” Singaporeans.

So Mr Low does know that immigrants eventually became “true” Singaporeans. So why not new citizens? Must Singapore go through another round of nation-building before they can become true Singaporeans?

Turning anti-immigrant is a road of no return

I believe Singaporeans would agree that as a traditionally immigrant society, and as a cosmopolitan city-state, turning anti-immigrant would be a road of no return for Singapore.

The WP has always projected itself as not being anti-immigrant, even putting forward Mr Chen Show Mao, who was not born here. I wonder how Mr Chen felt on hearing what Mr Low said. Would dividing citizens into “born and bred” and “otherwise” not also divide Singaporeans? Does Mr Low want to engage in disruptive group-based politics like some politicians in Taiwan?

WP supporters previously believed the WP was not xenophobic or anti-immigrant. They defended it by saying it was only against radical immigration policies, not immigrants. Yet in the latest debate, the WP continued to attack the already tightened foreign population policy and even proposed having zero foreign manpower growth. To achieve that “zero growth”, the WP advocates that economic growth be lowered. It seems that achieving zero foreign manpower growth is all that the WP cares about and they would rather do without economic growth and infrastructure in order to achieve that objective, otherwise, they would accuse their rival party of bringing in foreigners and growing the economy “at all costs”.

Who is the one with amnesia?

So the WP wants a freeze on foreign workers. How would the current manpower crunch be resolved then? The WP’s solution is to lower economic growth and curb demand for labour. At the same time, it proposes raising wages and getting economically-inactive Singaporeans to return to the workforce. They seem to be totally oblivious to the contradiction between lowering economic growth and raising wages.

The WP thinks as long as wages are increased, the local workforce will grow consistently, which shows that it is the WP that is suffering from amnesia! They have forgotten about the post-war baby boomers who are now in their old age. This demographic, numbering about a million, will be retiring over the next 10 years. That is an average of 66,000 people a year, or 2 per cent of the citizen population. If the WP realised this, would it still believe that the workforce will not shrink even with zero growth in the foreign population?

Obviously, the WP is not yet clued in. They are totally oblivious to the crisis that is looming in the face of a rapidly ageing population. And this crisis is not the fault of the immigration policy! On the contrary, a moderate immigration and foreign worker policy will get Singapore through the crisis and allow the baby boomers to enjoy their old age.

Stoking xenophobia is not patriotism. And drawing lines between citizens based on their place of birth will not strengthen Singaporeans’ sense of identity and cohesion. I hope Mr Low and the WP will not take the road of no return. At the same time, I also hope the PAP is not already contented with just the quick passing of the White Paper. An issue as major as this should continue to be discussed, and perhaps parliamentary debate on the White Paper should be re-opened after the WP is given more time to study it.

(The writer works in the education and technology sector.)

李叶明:刘程强在说什么?
狮城脉搏 (2013-02-15)

国会辩论人口白皮书的最后那天,我同时收到两则短信。其中一位朋友转发了工人党秘书长刘程强前一天在国会的发言,问我“这刘程强在说什么?”另一位则直接表达不满:“不能相信这是刘程强的话!新加坡社会的问题,怎么全推到是移民政策导致的了?”

当天刘程强还说了很多,比如指责政府一味带进移民是把问题留给后代,将问题的导因变成解决问题的方法。他说,用外来人口补充劳动力不足是将新加坡带上一条“不归路”。他誓言工人党会反对到底。后来国会对人口白皮书进行投票,所有工人党议员都投下反对票。之后工人党发表文告,再次指人口白皮书将进一步稀释新加坡人核心。

义正词严的荒唐逻辑

为什么会稀释“新加坡人核心”?刘程强说得很全面:第一,非公民比例上升了;第二,批准外来移民成为公民也是一种稀释。可我一直不明白,如果一个家庭请女佣,会稀释家庭核心吗?如果本地企业多请几名外劳,会稀释企业核心吗?为什么新加坡允许多一些外劳和女佣,就会稀释新加坡人核心呢?

看来重点不在非公民,关键是第二条。显然刘程强认为,新公民不是真正的公民。他高声质问:所谓“新加坡人核心”,土生土长的新加坡人到底占多少?尽管他说,他不是要刻意区分土生公民和新公民,但话里话外还是强调两者不同。他列举诸多差异,强调双方难以融合——因为需要时间,也需要适当的磨合环境。而他认为新加坡“没有磨合新移民的条件”。

为什么?因为新加坡步伐紧张、新组屋区各家自理,邻居都可能认识不完。听到这里我不禁好奇,不知在刘程强接触的新公民中,有几个是不出门工作,没有社会参与,只在邻里范围活动的?因为认识不完邻居,就没有和本地人磨合的条件?这逻辑成立吗?

不止于此。当其他议员指出,新加坡本来就是移民社会,新加坡人的祖先也是外来移民时,他嘲讽对方“犯了失忆症”。他说,虽然我们的祖先大都是外来移民,但我们经历几十年的建国历程后,这一代的新加坡人已经可以算是道地的新加坡人了。

原来刘程强也知道,在建国时,多数新加坡人也是移民,是后来才变成“道地的新加坡人”。那为什么新公民不可以呢?是新公民在本地生活的年数不会逐年递增?还是新加坡必须得再建国一次,才有机会成为“道地的新加坡人”?为什么刘程强认为,作为一个传统的移民社会,新加坡连每年增加不到1%的新公民都难以接纳、无法磨合?

反移民是条“不归路”

我相信新加坡人是有共识的。作为一个传统的移民社会,一个城市国家,一个国际化都市,在新加坡反移民,是把这个国家带上一条“不归路”。

工人党一直标榜自己不是反移民的党,甚至延揽了非本土出生的陈硕茂。不知陈硕茂听到刘程强以上发言,作何感想?把公民刻意分成土生和非土生,是不是在分化新加坡人?刘程强是不是要像某些台湾政客那样,搞永无宁日的族群政治?

工人党的支持者曾经相信,工人党不是一个排外、反移民的党。他们一直在替工人党辩解,说工人党只是反对激进的移民政策,不是反对移民本身。但是在这次的辩论中,工人党对已经大幅收紧的外来人口方案依然强烈抨击,同时提出“零增长”方案。

为实现这一“零增长”目标,他们主张把经济增长进一步下调。可见,外来人口“零增长”才是工人党眼中的“一切”。如果不能保证这一点,他们宁可不要经济增长,不要基础建设,否则他们会指责对手“一味引进外来人口”“不顾一切发展经济”。

我们都知道,所谓“一味引进”“不顾一切”,是在批判一项极端政策。可是比较白皮书的“收紧方案”,与工人党的“冻结方案”,哪个才是真正的极端呢?

究竟谁犯了失忆症?

工人党要冻结外劳,那目前人手短缺的问题怎么解决?工人党主张调低经济增长,抑制人力需求;另一方面又主张提高工资,吸引更多经济不活跃者重返劳动队伍。他们似乎完全没意识到,下调经济增长与上调工资之间的矛盾。

工人党以为,只要多加工资,本地劳动人口便可每年增长。这显示真正患失忆症的,恰恰是工人党。他们忘了战后婴儿潮,1947年至建国初,本地诞生了超过100万个婴儿。上世纪70年代,政府实施限制生育政策,就是因为婴儿潮人口开始进入婚育期。如果不限制,按照当时的生育情况,人口的乘数效应必将压垮新加坡脆弱的经济。

而40年后的今天,婴儿潮人口又开始步入乐龄。整百万新加坡人将在未来10多年到达退休年龄。粗算一下,平均每年有6万6000人,相当于公民总人口的2%。如果知道这一前提,工人党认为还有可能在外来人口零增长的情况下,保证劳动队伍不萎缩,甚至争取每年多1%的新加坡人出来工作吗?显然,工人党还没弄清状况。他们完全没意识到,新加坡即将面对人口迅速老化的危机。这一危机,不是移民政策造成的!恰恰相反,适度的移民和外劳政策,有助于新加坡平稳渡过这一危机,让曾经为经济发展作出重要贡献的战后婴儿潮一代安享晚年。

好在新加坡不是日本。引进外来人口,不是新加坡不能采用的选项。如果刘程强记忆没有问题,就应该知道,无论建国前还是建国后,除了最黑暗的日治时期,新加坡从没停止吸纳外来人口。如果不是基于反移民逻辑,刘程强有什么理由认为,新加坡今时必须得停止吸纳外来人口?

煽动排外不是爱国。按出生地区分公民,不会加强国民认同和凝聚力。希望刘程强和工人党不要走上一条“不归路”。同时我也希望,行动党不要只求草草通过白皮书。对如此重大课题的讨论应该继续,甚至应该给工人党更多时间读过白皮书之后,重开国会辩论。辩论的目的应该是凝聚共识,不在于寻求“通过”。

作者从事教育与科技工作


image : Fabrications About The PAP

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