The controversial India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) has once again received negative publicity among Singaporeans, and this time the Government has come forward to debunk the misconceptions. This is the second time the Government has done so in nine months.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said in a statement on Thursday (27 August) that there is no provision in the free trade agreement between both nations that allows Indian nationals to be given citizenship in Singapore.
“It is not true that under CECA, Indian nationals can come to Singapore and become permanent residents and citizens. There is no such provision in CECA,” MTI said in a statement.
The statement was released following media queries on whether the free trade agreement will open up the possibility of allowing Indian nationals automatic access to citizenship, permanent resident status and employment in the Republic.
This was the second time in nine months that the Government has come forward to clear up misconception that the public has in regards to CECA, which came into effect in 2005.
Earlier in November 2019, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Singapore had explained that the free trade agreement did not give Indian nationals unconditional access into the country.
He said this in response to a viral video of a man from India shouting profanities to a security guard at a condominium. The video caused much uproar from Singaporeans.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had later pointed out that the man had obtained his citizenship under the Family Ties scheme after he married a Singaporean woman.
Mr Chan had also said that time that claims of CECA costing Singaporeans job opportunities were aimed at arousing fear among the people during economic uncertainty.
MTI noted in its Thursday’s statement that Singaporeans are “understandably concerned” with competition from foreign professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) due to the current bleak economy and employment situation.
However, it added that it is “misleading” to assert that the number of Indian PMEs, especially intra-corporate transferees, solely or largely to CECA.
If that’s not all, MTI has also stated that it is not true that CECA requires Singapore to automatically give Employment Passes to PMEs originating from India.
“None of our free trade agreements, including Ceca, obliges us to automatically grant Employment Passes to any foreign national,” the Ministry said.
It added, “All foreign nationals applying for Employment Passes must meet our prevailing criteria, and all companies must comply with rules on fair hiring”.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) revealed that there were 193,700 Employment Pass holders in the country as of December 2019. These passes were given to foreign PMEs, and their salary needs to be a minimum of S$3,900 a month and have the proper qualifications.
MTI noted that for those who wants to enter Singapore as an intra-corporate transferee under CECA, they must meet the current work pass rules.
It went on to add that intra-corporate transferees in the country have always been under 5 per cent of all Employment Pass holders in Singapore, and they come from different countries around the global, with Indian nationals making up only a small segment of it.
Despite Government’s clarification on the matter, netizens remain sceptical about the free trade agreement between Singapore and India. Penning their thoughts in the Facebook page of TODAY, many of them urged the Government to be honest with the people and not use different terms to “create different perception”. Some even asked the Government to clarify the benefits of CECA for Singapore, noting that they don’t see the benefits of the free trade agreement for the country.
They added that the Government is failing to see what is happening on the ground as some companies have a full department of foreign talents. As such, they pointed out that this leaves many Singaporeans “unemployed or sidelined”.
Others said that the Government official should take a walk at Changi Business Park, which the netizens now address as “Chennai Business Park”.
A large number of them also call for the Government to be transparent of CECA’s details. They explained that all terms of the agreement should be made public so the people can have a look at it.