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On one of Singapore's vested intere
- Subject: On one of Singapore's vested intere
- From: brelief@xxxxxxx
- Date: Sun, 03 Dec 1995 04:13:00
Subject: On one of Singapore's vested interests in Burma
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One possible reason why Singapore keeps expressing support
for the SLORC -- it's in their national interest?
CONTROL IN SINGAPORE
by Christopher Tremenwan
St. Martin's Press
Temporary Workers Become Permanent Sector
Foreign workers are divided by race by the euphemistic
categories of traditional source (working - class Malaysian
Chinese) and non - traditional source (Thai, Filipino, Indian,
etc.). Malaysian Chinese are permitted to work in the service
sector although they may not exceed ten per cent of the workers
in that sector (STW, 10, 24 March 1990) Other races
(nationalities) are restricted by government regulation to
manufacturing, construction, shipyards and domestic help. To
induce employers to restrict their reliance on foreign labour and
to upgrade their technological level, employers must pay a levy
to the state of $300 per month (to increase to $350 per month
from April 1991) (STW. 10 March 1990); FEER, 21 February
1991). This levy is part of the surplus created by the foreign
workers and , thus can also be seen as their reimbursement of
the daily costs of their reproduction. Furthermore, in order to
ensure that foreign workers do not acquire roots in Singapore
and that the government is not liable for any welfare benefits for
them, they are still not permitted to join the CPF.
Draconian immigration legislation was introduced to tighten
control of foreign workers (STW, 28 January, 4 February
1989). The legislation was first used in 1989 when the
government expelled as illegal overstayers 9800 Thai workers
and 1900 Indian workers (STW, 20 May 1989) on pain of
caning and imprisonment. This initial use of the legislation was
to clear Singapore of foreigners who had evaded the new level
of regulation and to ensure that the more stringent immigration
procedures would henceforth exert full control over all migrant
workers. Many of those expelled were later permitted to re -
enter properly documented.
The regulations covering migrant workers prevent them from
bringing their families or from breeding in Singapore. All
female workers, especially foreign maids, have compulsory
AIDS tests and six - monthly pregnancy tests (STW, 14 April
1990). Men may not marry without government permission on
pain of immediate repatriation. They have no children to be
sorted by the education system and there are consequently no
welfare costs to the Singapore state of processing a succeeding
generation. Those costs accrue to their home countries.
The acceptance by the PAP - state that a significant and rising
proportion of the population will consist of temporarily resident
foreigners is a major development of the late 1980s. The move
to allow foreign workers into the services sector was a result of
the failure of the attempt to upgrade the economy and the
subsequent emphasis on services. The racial disadvantage, as
perceived by the PAP, of having such a large number of non
Chinese workers has been offset by their political function in
fragmenting the working class. They have no political rights to
exercise and are only interested in saving their wages to take
back home. They also keep down wages in the industrial sector
and the government pays nothing at all for their generational
This new policy also means that the education system and other
welfare institutions no longer extend their regulatory
mechanism across the whole of Singapore society. The primary
regulatory mechanisms for foreign workers are the immigration
laws and their contracts with employers. This is a revision to
the practices of the colonial state.
Lee Kuan Yew has acknowledged this parasitical role of
feeding off the cheap labour and misery of surrounding
countries as a permanent feature of Singapore's polity.
"In another ten years, we will not get workers from Malaysia or
Thailand. In another fifteen years, no more from Indonesia.
We may have to go to Burma, Sri Lanka, because I don't think
their problems are going to go away that easily." (STW, 1
The PAP - state's sale of arms to Burma's military junta
appears as some insurance of Lee's veracity (FEER, 3
November 1988) The government has also initiated discussions
with Burma for the purpose of finalizing an agreement for labor
supply (FEER, 16 August 1990).
Therefore, the acceptance of 200,000 temporary foreign
workers as a permanent low - paid sector of Singapore's
working class meant that the PAP - state no longer has to
concern itself with the generational reproduction of this sector
of the population or with using welfare regulatory mechanisms
to shore up its legitimacy. But these problems remained with
regard to the rest of the population.
pp 134 - 135