Singapore Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi exchanged New Year warm wishes at a meeting yesterday.
The Coordinating Minister for Social Policies addressing the press, conveyed Singapore’s optimism towards India’s long term economic prospects. Mr Tharman added that Singapore firms are growing their investments in India in technology parks and logistics.
India is an important trading partner of Singapore with a bilateral trade of $26.4 billion in 2019. Over the years Singapore investments in India have skyrocketed making Singapore the largest foreign investor.
The latest figures by the Department Of Industrial Policy And Promotion within the Ministry Of Commerce of India, show that the country’s main trading partners according to ranking are Singapore, Mauritius, Netherlands, the US, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, France, the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus.
In the midst of opposition protests in the country that the Indian economy was shrinking, Mr Tharman’s visit comes at the most opportune time. The Indian government headed by Prime Minister Modi has undertaken many consolidation measures meant to stabilize the country, which has caused daily protests and uproar among dissenting parties. The popular view is that India has become more polarized, political and nothing much is done to address unemployment and the sliding economy.
Matters discussed in the meeting encompassed aspects of the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) 2005, which entails infrastructure development, the upgrading of skills and human capital developments, along with the growth of the digital economy.
This agreement has been upgraded and in September 2018, CECA was reviewed with a focus on trade facilitation, e-Commerce, and customs.
A press statement from Mr Modi’s office emphasized that both he and Mr Tharman were pleased with the “rapid pace of bilateral relations” between Singapore and India. The Indian Prime Minister had further expressed his intention to boost cooperation with Singapore covering the grounds of infrastructure, tourism, digital payment systems, innovation and governance.
Speaking on behalf of Singapore, Mr Tharman explained that both “Prime Minister Modi and I had a good discussion on India’s economic and social strategies to ensure sustained growth and inclusivity in the years to come.”
The Senior Minister praised Mr Modi for making “huge strides” in social transformation, especially in sanitation, village electrification, making it compulsory for business transaction to be made through bank accounts and the extension health coverage for all.
Mr Tharman added that many new reforms relating to economic transformation are in the pipeline and much of it will translate into job growth for India’s young population.
Given the background of the India economic malaise Mr Tharman’s current working visit is a strategic one as it seeks to revitalize its relations with India thereby creating more investment opportunities that will rein in economic benefits and high returns. Apart from his meeting with the Prime Minister, the Senior Minister is scheduled to meet with Indian government officials and business leaders.
CECA, a generous trade agreement from Singapore with India
Under CECA, Indian business visitors with a 5-year multiple journey visa are granted temporary entry for a period of up to two months with further extension for another. Those with less than 5-year multiple journey visa are granted temporary entry for a period of up to one month.
For contractual services suppliers and intra-corporate transferees, the terms are similar to that of CSFTA. The only difference is that for CECA’s intra-corporate transferees, they must have been employed by the company for not less than 6 months before he or she can be qualified for the transfer to the host country.
However, in the case of CECA, there is an additional category stipulated in the agreement (Article 9.5) for the so-called “long-term temporary entry” professionals:
Each Party shall grant temporary entry and stay for up to one year or the duration of contract, whichever is less, to a natural person seeking to engage in a business activity as a professional, or to perform training functions related to a particular profession, including conducting seminars, if the professional otherwise complies with immigration measures applicable to temporary entry, on presentation by the natural person concerned of:
(a) Proof of nationality of the other Party;
(b) Documentation demonstrating that he or she will be so engaged and describing the purpose of entry, including the letter of contract from the (business) party engaging the services of the natural person in the host Party (country); and
(c) Documentation demonstrating the attainment of the relevant minimum educational requirements or alternative credentials.
In other words, the professional is essentially contracted to work in the host country for up to 1 year. Since nothing is said in the agreement denying the professional’s renewal of his or her contract, it is presumed that he or she can continue to work in the host country to “finish up” the contracted work as long as the contract is continually renewed by the the business party who is actively engaging the professional in the host country.
CECA also specified 127 different occupations that the professional can engage in the host country as long as they have equivalent degrees conferred by institutions in India and Singapore.
And under CECA, intra-corporate transferees as well as “long-term temporary entry” professionals are allowed to bring in their spouses or dependants into the host country. They are allowed to “work as managers, executives or specialists, subject to the relevant licensing, administrative and registration requirements”.