Foreigners speak out!
I was listening to 93.8FM this morning. The topic for talk back was "how do you feel about the redevelopment plans for seletar airbase?"
Just some background for those of you who have never been to seletar airbase. It used to be the seletar airbase run by the SAF. There are also numerous single storey houses which are occupied by foreigners. A very nice tranquil estate to live in if you like nature and all. But I would say 90% of the residents in that area are foreigners. Driving around the estate, the homes have their own swimming pools, have big dogs which are of rare breeds etc....
Well anyway during this talk back session on the radio, for the first time since I started listening to the programme, the majority of callers were foreigners! Expats with thick non-Singaporean accents.
Well they were are pretty unhappy with how the government had decided to go ahead and redevelop the rustic natural surroundings where they live for the purpose of attracting aerospace companies, building retail outlets etc. Basically turning it into more or less of a "concrete garden" at best. At worst a "concrete jungle"!
One caller commented that there is a long waiting list to "get into seletar airbase". I take it she meant her fellow expats who are on the waiting list.
I must say the callers were very eloquent. They said their piece and also suggested ideas on how the government should consult the residents in the area before making such plans. One pilot also said that seletar airbase should be preserved as part of Singapore's heritage given that it is over 100 years old. All points were nicely put across by the very outspoken and well spoken expats.
The last caller in the programme, however was a local and he said that looking at more bread and butter issues, this re-development was for improving Singapore's economy, and creating more jobs for Singaporeans. He also ended his call by stating that the majority of the callers today were foreigners.
I do know seletar airbase. From my days in serving my NS as well as frequent trips around the area for leisure as well as work when I start my medical evacuation sorties from Seletar Airport.
To be frank I like the place and wished I could live there. Unfortunately the truth is that the place is mainly for foreign expats. There is a long waiting list if you want to rent a place there. For Singaporeans, it is virtually an impossibility to live there. I can understand why the expats like the place. In a concrete jungle like Singapore, Seletar Airbase is the closest you can get to living in suburbs in places like Australia for instance. And the best thing is that this "natural reserve" is but a 10 minutes drive away from the bustle and hustle of the city! So you get really the best of both worlds.
I wonder how many residents live there? What are the numbers? And what is the percentage of foreigners among these numbers?
Here are a few comments I have personally :
1) Seletar Airbase is more of a colonial vestige for foreigners living the "special" life in Singapore. It serves its purpose for Singapore as part of the package we sell to the foreign talent we so covet. Most Singaporeans don't live there. Most Singaporeans don't even go there.
2) Should the residents there have been consulted before the re-development projects had been decided? Yes of course they should have. But since when has the Singapore government consulted Singaporean residents on anything before deciding what they want to do? And for the matter even if they do "consult" it is merely at face value as the plans continue anyway, but they get to explain away the objections. So to the expats in Singapore, welcome to "Uniquely Singapore". Learn to live with it. You cannot have your cake and eat it.
3) Expats may say that their arguments are helpful to Singapore. Shouldn't Singaporeans support them in seeing this last vestige of rural peaceful living preserved? Well thank you very much. But somehow I don't buy that. I don't hear expats calling the talk back programme when we are talking about other Singapore issues. Where are they? Usually people who are unhappy tend to be the ones who call in to express their disappointment and lodge their complaints. And it was no different today. Interestingly you can look back and realise that expats probably have it real good in Singapore. They have little to be unhappy about and little to complain about. If they did, you can bet they would make their views known, just as we saw today. It's no open secret that Singapore is designed to please the foreigners more than the locals.
4) I am all for re-developing the seletar airbase area. Singapore is a land scarce small country. We cannot afford such "vestiges" for small residential purposes. It's just the realities that we Singaporeans have to face up to. Why should it be any different for foreigners? If you do not like living in a busy hectic concrete jungle like Singapore, then think twice before you come. It is the same for locals. Some Singaporeans do not like living in Singapore and prefer the lush greens and open spaces in other countries. For that, some would migrate to those countries. It would be ironic that they could actually have lived in similar surroundings in their very own country in Singapore only to have those homes taken up by foreigners from countries with large amounts of open spaces.
5) I wonder what happened to our racial quotas to maintain a nice spread of races living in harmony? There is clearly a strong concentration of expats in this nice place to live called Seletar Hills. Isn't that a time bomb waiting to explode also? Oh sorry I forgot, it's not a HDB estate. Expats don't deserve to live in HDB flats, only Singaporeans deserve that fate.
6) Lastly, I would not be surprised however if the Singapore government backs down and decides to leave Seletar Airbase as it is. I can almost picture some CEO of some big MNC calling our PM and say that if his Regional Manager is unhappy because his home is now next to a warehouse, he will pull his multi-billion dollar business out of Singapore and go to cheaper Malaysia! I wonder if Singapore would stand firm to such threats?