Singapore: An opposition party urged
Singapore`s government to slow the influx of foreign workers
at a rare public rally today in the tightly controlled
About 200 supporters of the Singapore Democratic Party
also called for a minimum wage and a lower sales tax to
improve living standards for workers.
"All we`re doing is bringing in cheap foreign labour,"
SDP Secretary General Chee Soon Juan said in the rally at
Speaker`s Corner park, the only place outdoor rallies are
allowed. "Citizens can`t make a decent living when they have
to compete with foreigners."
A sharp increase in the number of foreign workers in
the last few years is likely to be a key issue in the next
general elections, which the government must call by February
About 150,000 foreign workers have entered Singapore
each year since 2007, and now make up about one-third of the
island`s 3 million work force.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last month the
government would allow just 80,000 foreigners in this year and
acknowledged that Singaporeans are concerned that foreigners
are crowding public transportation and boosting competition
for jobs and housing.
"When you bring such numbers in a short period of
time, you`re asking for trouble," Chee said.
The government, which expects the economy to grow by
as much as 15 percent this year, has argued that foreign
workers are necessary to boost growth.
The People`s Action Party, which has ruled since
independence in 1965, won 82 of parliament`s 84 elected seats
at the last elections in 2006. The SDP contested seven seats,
winning none, and received 4 percent of the popular vote.
The government has not said when the elections will
be, but Chee said he believes they may be called for December.
Prime Minister Lee declined to comment when asked earlier this
month at a news conference if he could rule out elections this
Rallies at the Speaker`s Corner require police
Singapore is known for its restrictions on public
speech, which the government says are necessary to maintain
political stability in the multiethnic, multi-religious
city-state. Critics say the laws restrict dissent.
Chee was forced into bankruptcy in 2006 by a USD
300,000 ruling against him on charges of defaming former prime
ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.
Lock Yu Ming, an unemployed economist, said he came to
the rally today to hear what ideas the SDP has for dealing
with the impact of foreign workers.