Sunday, December 03, 2006

Singaporean come first (or so they say)

Taken from the CNA article Health and education ministries reviewing fees for PRs and foreigners.

SINGAPORE: Singapore citizens will always come first, before Permanent Residents and non-citizens, says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

That is why the health and education ministries are now working on changes to reduce fee subsidies for non-citizens, so that foreigners do not enjoy the same benefits as Singaporeans.

The next offset package for the GST increase will be for Singaporeans only, just like the Progress Package earlier this year, said Prime Minister Lee.

This is because the Government's responsibility is to Singaporeans first, although Permanent Residents and foreign workers will remain priorities.

"While we have non-citizens here, citizens always come first. We have to treat them as the best, we have to treat visitors well too but citizens have to be treated better," Mr Lee said.

"Right now, PRs enjoy the same subsidies as Singaporeans for education and healthcare, and in fact in healthcare, foreign workers also receive subsidised treatment. I think we should make a clear difference – PRs should pay more than Singaporeans but less than other foreigners, there is a distinction.

"If you are not a PR and not a citizen, you should be given good treatment but we will not give you special privileges."

For education, Mr Lee said there are plans to charge non-citizens more, but not to set fees so high that foreign students will not come.

While for healthcare, foreign workers will have to bear the full costs of their medical bills.

Halimah Yacob, Chairman of the GPC for Health, said that employers of foreign workers should do a proper costing to cover their full healthcare need so that Singaporeans would not end up paying for them. She also hopes that employers will not ignore the needs of these foreign workers.

"We got feedback from many Singaporeans and even from my own constituents that since everything's equal for Singaporeans, foreigners and PRs, what's so special about being Singaporean? To some extent, short of being nationalistic, PM's message of 'citizens first' is well overdue. It'll be much appreciated among Singaporeans who are wondering what's in it for me holding that red passport," said Zaqy Mohamad, MP of Hong Kah GRC.

More details about the review will be announced by the respective ministries over the next few months.

Fox says it's about bloody time.

If Singapore's hospitals and schools are as world-class as the government claims, then foreigners should still flock to them even when the rates are lowered for them. If local universities cannot attract enough foreign students, so what? It probably means that they are providing an overpriced service that only the locals can buy (with financial support from the state of course). In any case, why should Singapore subsidise a foreigner to get his or her undergraduate degree in Singapore? In the US, in any state, if a state-funded public university offers subsidised tuition rates to nonlocals, the governor and the state representatives will get lynched publicly.

On the other hand, the cost of medical care should not be made prohibitively expensive. If affordable healthcare is not made accessible to foreign workers, some of them may be skimp on that. Think SARS, TB, dengue, malaria, etc. Do people living in Singapore really want foreigners with these diseases to go untreated and mingle with them? One possible solution is to make it mandatory for employers to buy medical insurance and provide full healthcare coverage for their foreign workers.

Let's wait and see...


L'oiseau rebelle said...

Please, The Powers That Be On The Sunny Island-State I Used to Live In, foreigners don't need to stay healthy? What about maids or construction workers? Not all foreigners are well paid. Wait... I forgot... they don't exist!

I haven't had much experience with the U.S. health system, so I can't definitively say whether foreigners get the same treatment as citizens. But then, my employer is paying the full cost of my health insurance.

On the other hand, I wouldn't totally agree about state governors getting lynched. In Colorado, PRs and citizens from other states above the age of 22 can apply for in-state tuition status after living in Colorado for a year. (It might apply to *legal* foreigners too, but I'm not sure on this. Colorado has a law forbidding offering state subsidy of any kind to *illegal* immigrants.)

Actually, in the U.S., PRs have almost the same privileges as citizens. PRs can vote in *some* (but not all) elections, apply for government fellowships like NSF, enjoy college subsidies in the state that they reside in (in most states, as far as I know)... and join the Selective Service.

On the other hand, the majority of U.S. PR holders aren't fair-weather citizens. Unless you strike the lottery or possess very desirable skills, getting the PR is a bitch. (One of my relatives received his PR within 3 months of application... the traditional way.)

One last comment:
>> One possible solution is to make it mandatory for employers to buy medical insurance and provide full healthcare coverage for their foreign workers.

What about providing healthcare coverage for everyone? Or are we going to discriminate foreigners and locals again?

L'oiseau rebelle said...

One more thing re: rights and responsibilities of PRs in the U.S.: PRs also have to serve jury duty.

Fox said...

No. You've misread my argument. I do think there ought to be some kind of universal healthcare coverage for everyone in Singapore. Like many Singaporeans, I just don't think the state ought to be paying for the foreign workers'.

Also, getting a PR in the US is considerably more difficult than the case in Singapore. For example, most nonlocal university students who graduate in Singapore are offered PR status within 6 months of graduation by the government. That's simply not the case in the US at all.

The process of getting and the status of a PR are just very different in Singapore and the US. Hence, why should PRs in Singapore be accorded similar privileges?

Most PRs in the US do want to secure a US passport eventually; not so for the PRs in Singapore. The commitment is fleeting at best in Singapore's case. And yet, a PR is treated almost the same as a citizen in Singapore, leaving many locals to muse how much their citizenship is really worth. No wonder most PRs in Singapore don't feel the need to burn their bridges.