t Double Yellow's Musings: PRs in Singapore: Getting the best of both worlds?
The warped mind of Double Yellow craves for humor everyday. His daily dose comes from The Straits Times, The Sunday Times, Today, Channelnewsasia, etc. He also thinks that because of this preamble, this blog will never get featured in the local media. And of course, please read the Disclaimer before embarking on the journey.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

PRs in Singapore: Getting the best of both worlds?

In my book, Today scored a brownie point by publishing an article on PRs in Singapore (See Today, “Time to raise the bar for PRs here?”, 10 May 2005, p.3). Before I go on to address the concerns raised, there were a couple of things that struck me while reading the piece.

Every time we want to address any problem here, the comparison with other countries happens without fail. For instance, the author mentions Qatar and Dubai in the article. Somehow the fact that other countries have put in place policies similar to the one we want to suggest, makes us want to give them prominence.

Another noticeable feature of the article is the emphasis on the economic aspect of permanent residency. Sadly, this is a clear reflection of how our brain is trained to function. Is there economic benefit for me by having PRs in my neighborhood? If yes, let them be. If not, what’s the point of them being here?

After that preamble, onto the main body…

First, there is a common misconception that PRs have all the benefits of a citizen without the responsibilities. I have come across many Singaporeans who do NOT know that PRs cannot buy subsidized flats from HDB. Even if they do buy property (as opposed to renting one), they have do so from the resale market. In addition, PRs cannot vote – a privilege (or responsibility as the gahmen might say) that only Singaporeans have.

Second, the author makes a reference to our ambitions of being a global city with a lot of buzz (whatever that means!). He admits that we are not at the stage where Singapore can be called a “truly global city”. But hey… his suggestion of getting PRs to but private property here does nothing towards this goal.

Third, there is another fallacy that PRs in Singapore are very rich. They can afford to buy private property but they still go for cheaper housing with subsidies. The author’s disdain for a hawker’s assistant being a PR is distressing. If the official line was that only rich people can become PRs, trust me, many of our ancestors would not have qualified.

Having said that all this, the author does raise an important point about the immigration system in countries like Australia. It is indeed true that the immigration system here although efficient, leaves much to be desired when it comes to issues of transparency. Publicly releasing the criteria to become a PR is a first step in this direction although I am skeptical about whether this might actually be put in place – who knows, it may a national security issue!

Most importantly, this article demonstrates how little we know about PRs in Singapore. Are they really here to milk Singapore of all its wealth? Do they indeed have the best of both words as the author would have us believe? Maybe we should hear from the PRs themselves…

Some people have asked me whether I am Singaporean or a PR. Does it matter? As Foucault said, it’s not the author that matters but the author function.


Blogger Chainer said...

It's how you look at this matter, not whether one is a PR or not.

6:07 AM  
Blogger andrian martin dominic said...

ya i agree with you, im an indonesian who have lived in singapore since young, currently in aus, and planning on going back Sg.

many people have this misconception that all prs are rich, and that they all the benefits without the burden of being a typical singaporean.

I would like, actually i would love to vote for something i believe in, in this country where i decide to actually settle, though many singapore citizens are dying to leave the country and settle in countries where sheeps cows outnumber the humans.

when i go back to singapore, i wld be looking for job from scratch, i dont have the backings or networking of a singaporean family, my parents do not have any contacts at all, most of my uni friends are made in aus, so its kinda weird why people have this very narrow minded notion of being a pr heh oh well

7:38 AM  
Blogger GVJC said...

hi, got some strong comments here but if u find it offensive, u can delete it away.

1) wat's the big deal about buying a subsidized flat from HDB??? Try checking out the price of one in Queenstown or Toa Payoh, it is not really affordable to the mass as HDB pegged their prices to MARKET RATES.

2) wat's the big deal about voting rights in Singapore? Go and ask people around you, who has NEVER got a chance to vote since they are 21 cos their GRC always WALKOVER one.

3) Not all PRs are rich, in fact, most are quite poor. BUT they became richer than they are back in their country, after being a PR for many years here.

4) Do you know that out of the 4 million Singaporean (i.e. Singapore Citizens & Permanent Residents), how many of them are citizens and how many are PRs? 1 in 4 are non-citizens, i.e. there are about 1 million PRs & non-residents in Singapore.

5) if we do not access the value of PR by their economic contributions, how do we justify their existence here? So all they do are eat, drink, sleep, pee, poo and be happy here? by their sheer presences here to make Singapore look like a GLOBAL city? If there is no need to access their contributions, it will be like a refugee camp.

6) if they are doing so well in their own country or they really love their own country alot, why do they bother to come here and be PRs? Nothing better to do at home issit?

7) 1st generation PRs do not need to serve NS, even if they do, they still can hold on to their foreign passports after serving. And at any point of time when they feel like it, they can just pack their bags, book a ticket and go back to their home country.

Correct me if I am wrong, please.

9:00 PM  
Blogger doubleyellow said...

gvjc, glad u left ur comments. No, i dont find them offensive... in true Singapore style, i will try 2 respond to them point for point :-)

1. HDB subsidies may vary from place to place in Singapore. And this is not the fault of PRs here. The fact remains that they do not get the subsidy (however small that may be) that we do. My main intention was to highlight that many Singaporeans do not know (and you are obviously not one of them) that PRs have to only buy flats on the resale market

2. Agree wif you about the voting - but then again, its not the fault of the PR that singapore citizens dont get to vote right...?

3. To give these PRs some credit, they will get rich no matter which foreign country they go to. Might as well bring them to Singapore.. where they will get rich and also contribute to society...trust me, many of them do.

4. yes, i am aware of the fact that 1 in 4 people in singapore are not citizens. But what really is the problem with that? Whether my neighbor or colleague is a PR or citizen makes no difference. Both of us want to make a living in Singapore. Both of us pay taxes.

5. This is a good point. Agree that Singapore does not become a global city by their sheer presence, but in my opinion, it is a misconception to think all PRs think of Singapore only as a place to make money, get rich and leave. See earlier response by Andrian Martin Dominic for instance.

6. PRs in Singapore are here for a varied number of reasons...making money is one of them. Some of them are here from very young and some others come here because of family ties. Let us not attempt to value all of them in economic terms. Like I said in my article, we know very little about PRs in Singapore to make any sweeping statement.

7. I think it is incorrect to think that PRs can just pack their bags and leave anytime. Things are much more complicated than that.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

singles do not get to buy direct from hdb too. (until age 35, the time when you ARE really left on the shelf).

the fact is, who stays with their mum at age 28+? (and isn't a loser?)

renting causes you to lose potential equity.

hdb policies are fucked up.

10:41 PM  

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