ST Editorial praises Govt’s Punggol initiative as legacy of Goh Keng Swee

by Vincent Low

In the ST Editorial (‘Making Punggol an enterprise district’, 26 Jan), it praises the recently launched masterplan for the 50ha Punggol Digital District by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. The new district is supposed to generate up to 28,000 digital economy jobs in Singapore, according to Teo.

ST said that “such investment signals commitment” by the government. It then went on to invoke the name of one of the founding fathers of Singapore, Dr Goh Keng Swee, even though he has already passed away for many years and wouldn’t have known anything about the matter.

“The plans for Punggol are a part of the infrastructural legacy of Dr Goh Keng Swee, whose dangerously bold vision created Jurong Industrial Estate as a launchpad for Singapore’s economic journey,” ST wrote.

“Jurong had been termed ‘Dr Goh’s folly’ because its reach had appeared to exceed its grasp. But it succeeded by constantly staying ahead of the pack and by plugging the city-state into the opportunities offered by the physical globalisation of the exchange of goods and services.”

It added that the Punggol Digital District will help Singapore to exploit opportunities in the “digital universe” and concluded that Singaporeans these days would “have it easier than their forebears”.

“Those Singaporeans (forebears) were forced to take a bet on a hostile world. Today, the educational progress and accumulated national confidence of Singaporeans should propel them, particularly the young, into embracing the possibilities of the digital future by learning new skills, upgrading them, and staying relevant to the world,” it said.

Upgrading one’s skills means nothing if he can’t get jobs

There is, of course, a big difference for Singaporeans between Dr Goh’s time and present day.

In Dr Goh’s time, due to high unemployment in Singapore, it was very difficult for foreigners to get a working visa to work in Singapore. Dr Goh was trying to solve the unemployment problems for Singaporeans in those days.

Today, the present People’s Action Party (PAP) Govt has adopted a very liberal open-door policy to bring in “foreign talents” by the planeloads, thus competing for the high-end jobs with Singaporean PMETs.

It doesn’t matter how much skills a Singaporean PMET has upgraded himself if companies continue to prefer hiring foreign ones. As a result, the highly-qualified Singaporean PMET would likely end up driving Uber or becoming a property agent just to make ends meet.

A good example is this very frustrated Singaporean PMET who was replaced by a cheaper “FT”. His letter was published on Govt’s feedback portal REACH:

“I am a fourth generation Millennial Singaporean. I am writing this article as a rant anonymously and this is the first time I am doing so to pen my thoughts down to vent my frustrations hoping I will feel better.

In this article I will call out certain regulations the Government have enacted to reduce foreigner inflow which doesn’t appear to be helpful but I will also add my thoughts on what can be done better to help unemployed PMETs like myself.

I recently lost my 5-digit-per-month salary job as the listed company I was working for was losing money on a consolidated level. Though Asia is making money, we are subsidising loss-making operations in Europe. I had felt the cut coming as recent departures were not replaced, new businesses were not approved for additional headcount and I am always tasked to cut cost but alas the cost to be cut was me.

Prior to the cut I was already actively job searching but the cut came unexpectedly, though not a shock it affected me nonetheless.

What irked me more was that a foreigner took my place – a subordinate reporting to me drawing 40% less. No doubt in the name of cost savings it was justifiable to release an expensive Singaporean. My ex boss was also a foreigner amongst the many foreigners in my work place.

The other hit was that I was also due for reservist in 2 weeks and had submitted my call-up letter to my finance so they are aware they are letting me go before my ICT. It was a double whammy for me since working for rank pay during reservist is painful.

It’s a cliche but it’s so true – NS for Singaporeans, jobs for foreigners. We are protecting the interests and assets of foreigners who have come to rob us of our rights.

The triple whammy is that income taxes this year is higher than the last year due to receiving the rebate for last year. Since I got a salary bump the year before my taxes this year was significantly higher.

Losing my job was brutal for me financially since I am paying for 2 properties and a car…”

Unemployment may be low in Singapore but that is because many of the replaced Singaporean PMETs are being forced to take on lower end jobs just to make ends meet. Many are actually UNDER-EMPLOYED, a fact that ST Editorial ignores.