Falsehoods fester far more when the facts are available but not made public, says WP chief Pritam Singh

In Parliament on Monday (6 Jan), Worker’s Party MP Pritam Singh asked Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing several times to clarify employment data between 2015 and 2018, specifically how many jobs went to Singaporeans and how many went to PRs, and whether the government would share that data.

Mr Singh said in Parliament, “If the government’s approach is going to be ‘No, we are not going to provide that data’, can the Minister please share that detail with us here? Because it’s pointless for us to keep asking the question if the government is not going to provide that data.”

In response, Mr Chan said that he can get the numbers but asked, “What is the point behind the questions?”

Mr Chan continued, “Has local unemployment increased? The answer is a resounding no… are our wages going up? Yes, and it’s faster than many other countries. Those are the proof points to show that we are doing right by Singaporeans. But I’m always very cautious about this constant divide: Singaporeans vs PR. The insinuation seems to be that somehow, Singaporeans are not benefiting.”

In a Facebook post yesterday (7 Jan), Mr Singh took to his Facebook to explain that one of the points he raised in Parliament was about the inconsistent information available on various Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) with respect to jobs for Singaporeans.

He started by highlighting the questions he had asked the Minister of Manpower:

  • whether the Ministry will detail the number of new jobs filled by Singaporeans, PRs and foreigners respectively for each industry covered by the Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) henceforth; and
  • whether it can provide these statistics for each ITM since the inception of the respective ITMs to date.

Mr Singh noted in his post, “The Construction ITM stands out positively though, making clear that good jobs for Singaporeans is a target. For the other ITMs, references range from the ‘workforce’ to ‘locals’ to ‘PMET jobs’ not Singaporeans per se.”

“Separately, in most employment statistics, the Government does not classify Singaporeans as a standalone category. PRs are also included, collectively categorised with Singaporeans as ‘locals’,” he added.

Mr Singh argues that this classification makes it difficult to consider issues that affect the Singaporean workforce across industries and over time.

He goes on, “It also makes it difficult to track and consider policy options or alternatives to boost the employment and career progression prospects of Singaporeans – something every civic-minded citizen and most of us political moderates with a stake in Singapore should be concerned about.”

The WP chief went on to repeat Mr Chan’s confirmation that the government has nothing to hide and could provide the information being sought. Mr Singh stressed that WP MPs will, going forward, file questions to obtain the data that is currently unavailable, not presented publicly, or “not provided in a manner that specifically identifies how Singaporeans, in particular, are doing”.

Mr Singh explains that this sort of data is necessary because without it, “there is much less scope for members of the public to rely on education and facts to counter fake news and falsehoods.”

He adds, “Falsehoods fester far more when the facts are available but not made public. In post-POFMA Singapore, the political leadership of the day cannot expect to have it both ways.”

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January 2020
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