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Govt pro-Singaporean but it's disastrous to discriminate against non-citizens

28 Aug 2008

MS LYDIA Rahman in Monday's letter, 'Expats score at expense of others', called for non-citizens to be made to pay twice as much for fuel at petrol stations and at least 50 per cent more to own a car, compared to what Singaporeans pay. She also begrudged the fact that the Government is providing more land for international schools for expatriate children.

The Government does discriminate in favour of Singaporeans in subsidising key social services like education, health and the purchase of flats from HDB, and in enhancing their retirement savings. In addition, only citizens are eligible for special transfers and government surplus-sharing schemes, including the distribution of more than $3 billion of benefits this year.

These are not 'by-the-way' Government policies. They help Singaporeans develop their abilities to the fullest, achieve a higher quality of life and benefit fully from economic growth. However, Ms Rahman's proposal would have a quite different and disastrous outcome. It is a fact that the cost of owning and using a car has come down sharply.

Singaporeans form the vast majority of new car owners, many of whom could otherwise have never afforded one. Foreigners own only a small fraction of the cars in Singapore. Discriminating against foreigners in arbitrary ways and making Singapore an unattractive place for them and their families would only damage our economy and ultimately be at the expense of Singaporeans.

Making foreigners pay more to own and use cars would also be an unmistakable sign of hostility, unprecedented anywhere else in the world. It would do great harm to our society, which only has a future as an open, cosmopolitan global city.