On Saturday (9 November), Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said that the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) does not grant Indian nationals unconditional access into Singapore or immigration privileges.
Mr Chan said that claims that the bilateral agreement has cost job opportunities for Singaporeans aim to stoke fears in times of economic uncertainties. Media reports over Chan’s statement noted that there have been falsehoods surfacing in relation to free trade agreements (FTAs).
Channel News Asia noted one of such falsehoods is that CECA has allowed Indian nationals to take PMET (professional, managerial, executive and technician) jobs away from Singaporeans.
Mr Chan in his statement to the press, clarified that all FTAs, including CECA, place no obligations on Singapore with regard to immigration.
“Indian professionals, like any other professionals from other countries, have to meet MOM’s (Ministry of Manpower’s) existing qualifying criteria to work in Singapore. This applies to Employment Pass, S Pass, and work permit.
“Second, CECA does not give Indian nationals privileged immigration access. Anyone applying for Singapore citizenship must qualify according to our existing criteria,” said Mr Chan.
The Minister also added that Singapore’s network of FTAs has in fact increased these jobs by 400,000 to 1.25 million since 2005. But he did not mention specifically how many of the 400,000 created jobs were due to CECA and how many went to Singaporeans.
“We understand, and we share Singaporeans’ concerns with competition and job prospects in the current uncertain economic environment. But the way to help Singaporeans is not to mislead them and create fear and anger,” said Chan.
“The way to help Singaporeans is to make sure that first, we expand our markets for our enterprises. Train our workers constantly to stay ahead of competition. Never allow others to stoke the fears and racial biases of our people. Never do this for selfish personal or political reasons,” he added.
Upon hearing what Mr Chan said about CECA and how Indian nationals apparently do not snatch away job opportunities from Singaporeans, particularly PMET jobs, many netizens disagree with his claim.
Commenting in the Facebook page of Channel News Asia, many said that Mr Chan’s claim is far from reality as there are plenty of Indian nationals in the country taking up jobs meant for Singaporeans. Poz Rahim said “in reality, what was said is not what we see”, and noted that “when it comes to employment you decide to go with the cheap and sideline the deserving”.
A Facebook user, Chua Choon Heong said that this practice of “unfair hiring” has been going on for years because “Singaporeans are too expensive to employ” forcing employers “to look for these so called professional P and S pass”.
On the other hand, some online users demand that the Government disclose the number of Singaporeans benefited from CECA and how many PMETs are Singaporeans. If that’s not all, they also asked “how many India nationals are in Spore now”. They also want to know “how many Indian nationals are on EP”, “numbers by salary range”, jobs they hold by skillsets and industry” and what are employers are “doing to train up local workforce to replace the Indian EP holders”.
Separately, a number of netizens also stated that the People’s Action Party (PAP) is the one “who has misled the people” as they fail to “explain what is this CECA and how it benefited SG”. They added that the party has created a divide and has been misleading the people for years.