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Should an MP be furthering business interests?

It would be fair to say that at a grassroots level, most people would look to their elected Member of Parliament (MP) as their representative in Parliament on their bread and butter issues. In this regard, it is therefore important for the MP in question to be deeply engaged with the sentiments, concerns and needs of his or her constituents and seek to defend their interests in Parliament. There is after all the perception that the MP should defend vulnerable individuals with a genuine problem. What happens then if the “appeal to your MP for help” becomes seemingly hijacked by company owners” whose concerns are far more about cost cutting for their companies and less about genuine needs?

In the recent Parliamentary debate, Minister of Manpower Josephine Teo said that there were still 350 companies on the government watch list of entities that unfairly hired foreigners over Singaporeans. In highlighting what her team has done to alleviate this problem, she cited an example of how the Ministry of Manpower had rejected a particular company’s EP applications despite the HR manager of the company submitting various appeals to her MO to take the firm off the watch list, saying that the EPs were crucial as workers were needed for a public sector project.

My perspective of an MP is that of a peoples’ representative in Parliament. Not a representative of a particular business. Why was the MP getting involved in trying to get a company off a watch list? Surely there are better things for him or her to prioritise?

It is important for me to admit that I do not know the full details of the case. However, just based on reports, this does not seem to be a bread and butter issue of an individual. Rather, it just sounds like a company hoping to save money by hiring cheaper foreigners over Singaporeans. Is this really within an MP’s purview? At the end of the day, an MP is supposed to represent the interests of Singaporeans. How does wading in on trying to get this company off a watch list help Singaporeans? Is this best use of an MP’s time?

What really is the role of an MP? Should he or she be taking on company interests? My opinion is that this is outside his or her purview. It can even be construed as going against the interests of Singaporeans just so that one company can save money. At this juncture, it might be time for all MPs to be given clear guidelines and training as to what their roles constitute. There should also be penalties for falling foul of such guidelines.

Editor’s note – If the MP was from Workers’ Party, you can bet your last dollar that the person would be named and shamed in Parliament.