Foreign professionals will face tougher rules on working in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said as part of moves to allay public anger that saw his party suffer in May elections. Resentment over the government's accommodating policy on foreign workers was among the issues that led to the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) recording its worst showing since independence in 1965 at the vote.
Pledging to put Singaporeans "first", Lee said the government will tighten requirements for hiring foreign professionals and skilled workers who compete directly with local mid-level managers and executives.
Singapore has already imposed measures to curb the hiring of lower-skilled foreign labourers, but Lee said the city-state will remain fully open to the entry of top-level professionals and entrepreneurs.
"At the bottom we are tightening, at the top we have to be free," he said in his annual National Day rally speech. "In between, we have to make some adjustment (in) the middle, the lower middle level."
The PAP was returned to power with a huge majority in the May polls, but public anger over a range of issues saw its share of the vote fall to an all-time low of 60 percent, from 67 percent in 2006 and 75 percent in 2001.
The opposition won six seats out of 87, its best performance since Singapore's independence, with the PAP casualties including foreign minister George Yeo, whose six-member team lost to the Workers' Party in one district.
In his speech, Lee also sought to address Singaporeans' complaints about soaring residential property prices, saying the government was ramping up the building of more highrise apartment blocks to meet demand.
He announced expanded slots for Singaporeans at local universities, and pledged that medical care will be made more affordable to a bigger number of citizens with chronic ailments.