Heng tells Singaporeans: Stay open to talent and ideas

Speaking at a book launch at the Grand Hyatt hotel yesterday (23 Mar), Minister Heng Swee Keat told Singaporeans to be open to talent and ideas (‘Singapore must stay open to talent and ideas: Heng Swee Keat‘).

Mr Heng noted Singapore and many other countries have benefited from globalisation, but increasingly, people in many countries are questioning the value of it.

“People feel that they are left behind. They are frustrated that wages are stagnating and lives are not improving. They lost faith in their political systems and governments. These have led to a weakening of social cohesion,” he said.

“These winds of change remind us about the importance of remaining open to the world and being resourceful.”

He also added, “No one group or country has all the ideas or expertise to tackle the many challenges that the world is facing. In a world that is rapidly changing and increasingly interconnected, we need to remain open and collaborate to achieve better outcomes together.”

Non-stop importation of “foreign talents” by Singapore

Indeed, Singapore has been overwhelmingly open to “foreign talent” in the many years.

According to the latest statistics, as of last year, Singapore has a total population of 5.64 million, out of which 3.47 million (61.5%) are Singaporean citizens with 2.17 million (38.5%) foreigners residing here.

That is to say, for every 10 people in Singapore, 4 are already foreigners living, working and studying here.

Not only that, further MOM data shows that the number of foreign PMETs continues to increase in Singapore. The number of foreign PMETs on EP and S Pass hit a total of 381,300 by the end of last year, with no sign of abating.

Comparing figures from 2017 to 2018, even though number of foreign PMETs on EP decreased by 1,900, the number of S Pass holders actually shot up by 11,100, hitting a new high at 195,500:

Fake Talents?

Some of these so-called “foreign talents” who came to Singapore were later found to have come with “dubious talent”. The most famous case involved American Mikhy Brochez, the foreigner at the centre of the Singapore’s HIV Registry leak. He had in fact used forged university degrees to get jobs at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) when he was working in Singapore.

When TP was asked by the media how Brochez was able to be recruited by the school with forged degrees, a TP spokesman said, “Based on the documents that Brochez submitted in his job application in 2008, he met the job requirements.”

It was the police while investigating Brochez on drug possession, found that he has been using forged degrees to work here. The police then informed the 2 schools accordingly.

Meanwhile, many of the retrenched but highly qualified Singaporean PMETs are resorting to driving Grab or taxi to survive, like this Singaporean who was interviewed by Transitioning.org last year.

He used to earn $15,000 a month working for a pharma company as its regional Training, Sales and Marketing Manager before scaling down to $5,000 working for an Indian start-up. Finally, he ended up driving a cab, taking home $2,000 to $3,000 a month.

“After the retrenchment, was hired as Business Development Manager for a new Indian start-up company and after 6 months of showing all my contacts and connections, I was told to either resign or they would find a reason to fire me. Pay was around $5,000 a month,” he told his story to Transitioning.org.

“Searching for a job has been difficult from using connections to head hunters to papers and online portals. Sent so many applications but no response. Went for a few interviews and in the end never get an offer. I have already given up on job hunting.”