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A former civil servant who served 37 years in the civil service spoke to state media Straits Times in an interview offering his views on immigration and integration in Singapore. Benny Lim, a former Permanent Secretary in various ministries, expressed his view that Singapore is still lacking in integration of foreigners in society.

Benny Lim said that foreigners who hold Singapore permanent residency should convert to citizenship, and if they refuse, their visa should be reverted to just an employment pass:

“Having said that, I believe we can do more in the integration of new citizens. We ought to give more thought to our engagement programmes, or even evaluate how integrated a person has become in our society, as a consideration for citizenship.

For instance, we may want to consider a term permanent residency (PR) system where those who choose not to be citizens when eligible can be reverted to employment pass. In this case, they can continue to live and work here but with no right of permanent stay, and can leave when they retire or stop working.

This is a tweak and formalises the current roundabout regime of the fixed-term Re-Entry Permit. It calls a spade a spade and makes PR a commitment towards citizenship.”

Singapore currently have 524,600 Permanent Residents, and 3,408,900 citizens. Each year, only about 4-5% (25,000) of the total PRs convert to citizens.

You may read the full interview here.