The Ethnic Integration Policy Remains Relevant Today
Commentary | Lian Jiade
In an article written by Kishore Mahbubani titled "Social Cohesion must be Engineered" published in the opinion section of The Washington Post, Kishore Mahbubani believed that the racial harmony we see today did not happen by chance.
Instead, it is due to practical policies implemented by the government which allowed Singapore to remain socially cohesive today.
Since independence, it is evident that multiracialism has shaped many of our national policies in areas like education, housing and national service. The pioneering leaders of Singapore believed that for us to succeed as a nation, multiracialism is critical.
One such policy in the area of public housing was the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) implemented in 1989.
The goal of the EIP was to prevent the formation of racial enclaves in our public housing estates by imposing racial quotas. The belief was that by allowing different races to live together, shared understanding and racial harmony could happen.
While the EIP has undoubtedly played an important role in promoting racial harmony in Singapore, there has been a growing number of calls to scrap the EIP or be more lenient in the implementation of quotas.
Such calls have gained more traction in light of recent cases where some Singaporeans shared their experience of not being able to sell their HDB flats for emergencies like medical financing due to the constraints imposed by the EIP.
As the Ministry of National Development has made it clear that there are no plans for HDB to buy back flats from homeowners who are unable to sell due to the EIP, some people begin to wonder if there is still a compelling case for the EIP to remain 30 years on.
Looking overseas in countries like Denmark, France and the United States of America where there was a lack of interventionist approach by the authorities in housing, we see examples of the formation of racial ghettos across neighbourhoods, where minority groups cling together and cut off interaction with the majority.
Consequently, social divide widens and mistrust worsens between the two groups, contributing to sporadic racial tensions.
It will be better to err on the side of caution and not be too hasty to rock the boat and abolish the very policies that laid down the foundations of harmony and unity that we experience today.
Though Singapore has not experienced major racial unrest in the past 30 years and is considered by others to have achieved racial harmony, it will be better to err on the side of caution and not be too hasty to rock the boat and abolish the very policies that laid down the foundations of harmony and unity that we experience today.
While special attention must be given to HDB sellers who are in real need of cash especially for medical reasons, and policy leaders can also look at implementing alternative policies such as providing grants to minority buyers to incentivise demand, complacent ideas like removing the EIP entirely needs greater thought and consideration.
About the author: Jiade is a year 1 accountancy student with a keen interest in the national affairs of Singapore. He is an avid reader of domestic political news and keeps up to speed with ongoing developments. Jiade believes that all Singaporeans should see themselves as stakeholders of the country and actively participate in shaping the political discourse of Singapore.