Review of India-S’pore economic pact not on hold
I refer to the article “Review of India-S’pore economic pact not on hold: Delhi” (Straits Times, Apr 6).
It states that “India’s Commerce Ministry says it is in discussion with Singapore on providing visas for its IT professionals but denies that the issue has led to the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca) being put on hold."
The India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) entered into force on 1 August 2005.
It is said that CECA increased trade and investment flows between India and Singapore. Bilateral trade grew from S$16.6 billion in 2005 to S$25.5 billion in 2013. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from India into Singapore grew from S$1.3 billion in 2005 to S$20 billion in 2012.
“Disagreements over the movement of professionals”?
In the article, it states that the commerce ministry denied a report in The Times of India that the review of Ceca had been put on hold due to disagreements over the movement of professionals.
"The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) has complained that the movement of Indian software professionals to Singapore had been reduced to a “trickle” since January last year and that it was hurting software firms, some of which were even looking to relocate.
India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry also expressed concern that restrictions on the movement of Indian professionals to Singapore violate the terms of Ceca but said the matter was under discussion.
This is not the first time that India has raised an issue about the declining numbers of professionals to Singapore.
In an article by Business Standard in India, it wrote, "The CECA's second review was launched in May, 2010, but since then the review had been held up mainly on two important issues. One is allowing Indian banks to Singapore and second the free movement of Indian professionals.
India had been consistently raising this issue with Singapore at all high-level meetings. The matter was even discussed during the recent meeting between external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and her counterpart K Shanmugam in Singapore last month. "
Following that news, Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Gerald Giam from Workers' Party raised questions on CECA to former Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Lim Hng Kiang.
In response, Mr Lim said in Parliament on 8 Oct 2014 that CECA has helped to create good jobs for Singaporeans. He added that CECA serves to bring conveniences to businesses by allowing temporary entry on both sides for certain categories of persons, including business visitors, professionals, and Intra-Corporate Transferees.
But how many have come since 2005?
How many professionals from India have come to Singapore since the CECA became operational in 2005?
Back in August 2016, NCMP Mr Leon Perera asked the Minister for Manpower what is the number of intra-company transferees from India that have been approved under the CECA with India from the year when the agreement came into effect to the latest year for which data is available.
In response, Mr Lim Swee Say said, "Intra-company transferees (ICTs) from any country, including India, would need to meet the Ministry’s work pass qualifying criteria to work in Singapore. The only difference is that ICTs from all countries are exempted from the advertisement requirement in our Jobs Bank. The Ministry does not disclose data on foreign manpower with breakdown by nationality, including data on ICTs."
127 occupations can come up to 1 year?
In this connection, I understand that professionals in the 127 occupations listed, can come to Singapore for up to one year?
If its not more than a year, are they counted in any of the normal foreign employment pass categories like the employment passes?
Counted in foreign worker statistics?
Are all of them counted in the annual statistics on the increase in foreign workers, employment passes, etc?
Impact on Singaporeans?
And what are the implications for Singaporeans?
Given the implications of the India‐Singapore CECA on jobs and salaries of Singaporeans, how much was debated in Parliament on the impact of this and other Free-Trade Agreements (FTAs) that Singapore has signed with other countries?
Short term Service Suppliers can come for 90 to 180 days?
I also understand that in addition to the professionals in the 127 occupations who can come to Singapore for up to one year, there may also have been “Short term Service Suppliers (who) can get entry for up to 90 days to provide a specific service, with provision for a further 90 day extension”.
Editor's note - How little is little and how many professionals from India coming over to Singapore that had satisfied India all these years since 2006 before it started to raising issues in 2014?
Can the Singapore government give figures as to what is the flow of Singaporeans to India and the other way around? Is the Singapore population getting the short end of the stick in this Free Trade agreement?