02/18/2013, 00.00
SINGAPORE

Singapore, thousands protest against government immigration policies

The government wants to open its doors to foreigners, to overcome the city-state’s demographic crisis. At least 3 thousand people defy authorities, ready to suppress the demonstrations, and hold public protest. For local political experts - after 50 years - the leadership of the ruling party is at risk.

Singapore (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Thousands of Singapore citizens took to the streets to express their opposition to government policies, which intend to open the doors to immigrants to boost population levels. It was a rare example of public protest in a city-state with tight police controls and where such events are almost non-existent. According to those present at least 3 thousand people - a large number taken in a national context - gathered on the afternoon of February 16, urging fellow citizens "not be afraid to invoke real change."

Kwan Yew Keng, a member of the organizing committee, said that it was the "largest demonstration" in Singapore since independence in 1965, excluding election rallies. The activists prepared the ground for the protests via the Internet and social networks. During the protest they attacked the People's Action Party (PAP), in power for over 50 years and still be able to control - despite a "partial victory" in 2011 elections - to 80 of 87 seats in Parliament.

The protesters brandished placards and slogans attacking Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his policies. Among the most controversial points, the goal of reaching  6.9 million inhabitants by 2030 (today there are just over 5 million, many of whom are immigrants, and there is a clear birth-rate crisis), focusing on the immigration of investors and a work force from other nations.

The bill has met with the resistance of a good portion of the population, who rebut that what's important is the "quality, not quantity" of inhabitants. A participant at the protest claimed foreigners "create a lot of problems," especially wealthy immigrants, who "seize all properties" and leave few alternatives to native residents. For local political experts, the government risks a sharp drop in its popularity ratings and consensus which could put an end to decades of hegemony in the next elections scheduled for 2016.

Smaller than New York and devoid of any natural resources, in 2010 the city-state recorded a gross domestic product (GDP) of 285 billion Singapore dollars (about 231 billion U.S. dollars), an increase of 14.5% , the most significant throughout Asia. However, the wealth is not distributed equally and the economic boom has accentuated the disparity between citizens, with an increase in the Gini coefficient -a measure of inequality of a distribution, ed - which amounted to 0.48 (in 2000 was 0.444) out of a measure of between 0 and 1 (complete inequality).

 

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