Updated: 01/29/2014 21:10

Foreign talent hot topic at dialogue

Foreign talent hot topic at dialogue

The Prime Minister discussed a range of issues, from foreign talent to what it means to be Singaporean, at a dialogue with Nanyang Technological University students last night. 

The news desk brings you highlights of the discussions.

The issue of foreign talent was brought up twice during the dialogue session with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

He says its a sensitive issue but Singapore will continue to need them for economic reasons. 

"Because I may bring in the CEO of a bank, and he may not be born in Singapore, and the bank does well, you create thousands of jobs for people in the bank. You put the wrong CEO there, bank turns bust. Thousands of people lost their jobs. Would you prefer to work for a company with a good CEO or a company with a cheap CEO? I think I'll hire the better CEO - he'll take good care of me."

Mr Lee says Singapore will treat foreign workers fairly and well but they must abide by the law and contribute.

On the whole, he says that Singaporeans have not done badly in their treatment of these workers, seeing as the workers themselves choose to work here. 

The issue of keeping Singaporeans united was also discussed.

Mr Lee says that Singaporeans share a common space, where everybody is comfortable.

Alluding to the debate on the hijab, he says uniforms too project a common identity. 

They allow professions like the police to appear fully impartial in disputes involving race and religion.

He cites the example of a Chinese family quarrelling with a Muslim family over the burning of joss paper. 

"Policewoman comes. Let's say it's a Malay policewoman. She sides with the Chinese - it's their rights. I think that's right. Suppose it's the Malays that's right and the Chinese are wrong. In such a situation - would you prefer that police woman to be wearing a uniform, same like every other policewoman? Or would you prefer that policewoman to be wearing a Muslim dress and identify as a Muslim?"

A final-year chemical engineering undergraduate asked the PM for his definition of a Singaporean. 

"Someone whose roots are here, who's prepared to fight. Your skin can be any colour but you feel a loyalty to this place. When you land at Changi Airport, you say, 'Thank God I'm home.' "

Reuben Tan, the undergraduate who posed the question, says he's satisfied with the PM's response. 

"For me, it made me think that at the end of the day, when push comes to shove - why defend my nation? It's a good check for all Singaporeans, be it whether you're a recent PR or recent citizen or born and bred Singaporean."

On a parting note, the Mr Lee stresses the importance of unity and the youth of today musn't forget that. 

"If we go that way, we're not going to have a very good 50 years to come. But if we stay together and work together, by the time we celebrate 100 years of Singapore, we can say we're not just happy but satisfied, with a sense of pride."

-By Valerie Koh

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