by Augustine Low
Before GE2020, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat promised that the government’s focus was not just to create jobs but to create “better jobs for Singaporeans”.
He has repeated that mantra a number of times, the most recent being on Sunday when he declared that bilateral agreements that Singapore signed with other countries does not deprive Singaporeans of employment opportunities but instead “creates better jobs for Singaporeans”.
DPM Heng has never once backed up his claim with data and evidence. He has also not explained what he means by better jobs. Higher paying jobs? Recession-proof jobs? Retrenchment-proof jobs? What sectors are these jobs in?
On the contrary, in recent weeks we have been learning about discriminatory hiring practices against Singaporeans, about management jobs in sectors like banking that are dominated by foreigners, about organisations like our own sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings being top heavy with foreigners.
All of which makes it crucial for DPM Heng to back up his oft-repeated claim that Singapore’s open door policy and trade pacts like CECA only serves to create “better jobs for Singaporeans.” Without presenting any data and evidence, how does he expect Singaporeans to swallow this assertion of his?
We also keep getting contradictory messages. Yesterday, President Halimah Yacob stressed that Singapore’s workforce “can compete against the best in the world” due to the country’s strong education system and training pathways.
If this is so, why are foreigners taking away so many of the plum jobs? Organisations like Temasek Holdings say it is a necessity for them to maintain an open door policy and scour the world for top talents. CEO Ho Ching even said it is “natural” for the organisation to hire from the world.
Try reconciling this with President Halimah’s statement that Singaporeans “can compete against the best in the world”. Apparently not in our own backyard! Are Singaporeans supposed to venture overseas to compete against the best in the world?
The most outlandish take on competition for jobs has to be credited to Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who said earlier this year in Parliament: “The real competition is Team Singapore, comprising Singaporeans, PRs and foreign workers here, competing with the rest of the world to give our fellow Singaporeans the best chance possible to win, not just in Singapore but across the entire globe.”
Imagine that! Team Singapore is not just about Singaporeans – it comprises PRs and foreign workers too!
Is somebody trying to pull wool over our eyes?