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ANTI-IMMIGRANT SENTIMENT: The prolonged global economic uncertainty is causing a backlash in many countries
IT is no coincidence that immigration is becoming an increasingly thorny issue in Europe, Australia and of late, even in Singapore.
In a weak global economic climate such as now, where uncertainty has prevailed for quite a while, citizens of nations have become more concerned about protecting what they deem as rightfully theirs.
Singaporeans, for instance, are openly showing their displeasure at the increased number of foreigners now residing in the republic, saying outsiders are denying locals not only job opportunities but also the chance to move up the employment ladder.
Immigration was a big issue at the last Singapore general election and Singaporeans have voiced out against issues, which in the past would have been termed as petty, such as saying that foreigners from a certain nation were loud, uncouth and had the bad habit of spitting in public.
Australia, too, is taking a hard second look at its immigration policy, with a majority of Australians saying their current population figure is just about right and that the country should not accept more immigrants.
The United States is slightly different but that has a lot to do with America's history. Everyone in America, save for the Native Americans, has roots elsewhere.
Central to all these calls to limit immigration is the declining job opportunities in many countries following the prolonged global economic uncertainty.
Ever since collapse of the US sub-prime mortgage market in 2007, the global economy has not recovered. Europe is now entangled in a web of problems, resulting from weaknesses in some members of the eurozone.
Making employment readily available for the people is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges facing any government. Which is why new investments, be they from domestic or foreign sources, are vital for any nation as apart from the prospective financial commitments, investments also provide jobs.
For Malaysia, efforts to attract new investments into the country is a non-stop affair. The government decided some years ago that it would get out of the way and only play a role in providing a conducive atmosphere for free enterprise to prosper, which in turn would create the jobs needed.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak recently announced 21 new projects under Malaysia's Economic Transformation Programme (ETP). In total, the projects will be worth a massive RM20.46 billion. But its not the total project worth that the Najib administration is primarily interested in, but more in the 39,918 new jobs they would collectively create.
Najib himself said the ETP was by no means the end-all solution facing a nation like Malaysia as efforts to create more economic activities which will ultimately create more jobs will never stop. That's reassuring, given the present uncertain global economic climate.
The government's somewhat pre-emptive measures will ensure multiracial Malaysia avoids facing a situation where everyone becomes overly concerned about protecting what they deem as rightfully theirs, a situation history has shown could have a devastating impact.