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Xenophobia in Singapore confined to minority: Shanmugam

But Government has to acknowledge there are “legitimate stresses” felt by a significant portion of population, he says

SINGAPORE: Xenophobia is confined to a minority here, and Singapore is taking the “middle path” in balancing the foreign labour needs of companies and citizens’ concerns, Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said in an interview with Bloomberg that was published on Friday (May 30).

“You have to mediate between the two,” he told Bloomberg in an interview conducted on Monday. “If we remove the foreigners, there’ll be a different impact on the economy and the jobless numbers will be higher.”

Still, the Government has to acknowledge that there are “legitimate stresses”, Mr 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 told Bloomberg. Savvy multinational companies “know that these sentiments are there in every part of the world”.

In February, nine foreign chambers of commerce issued an open letter to the 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 will defer S$2 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,” Mr Shanmugam said in the interview. Foreign investors recognise Singapore’s advantages including intellectual property protection, rule of law and high-quality labour and logistics, he said.

Click here to read the original Bloomberg report.

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