In a bid to develop Singapore’s tech ecosystem, the Economic Development Board (EDB) on Thursday (12 November) announced that it will launch a new work pass called Tech.Pass, which aims to “attract founders, leaders and technical experts with experience in established or fast-growing tech companies”.

“The Tech.Pass will be open for application in January 2021, with 500 places available upon launch,” EDB said in a statement, adding that the scheme is an extension of the Tech@SG programme launched in 2019.

According to EDB, Tech.Pass holders will have the flexibility to participate in activities such as starting and operating a business, being an investor, employee, consultant or director in one or more Singapore-based companies, mentoring start-ups and lecturing at local universities.

“This is part of Singapore’s multi-pronged approach to develop a strong base of technology companies and talent to ensure Singapore remains globally competitive. This will also create more opportunities for local tech talent to work in globally competitive teams alongside top tech talent from all over the world,” EDB’s statement read.

Tech.Pass different from Employment Pass, will not replace locals’ jobs: Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing

In a closed-door dialogue with the European Chamber of Commerce (EUROCHAM), the Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing explained that the Tech.Pass “is different from existing employment passes (EP)” because it does not require the person to be employed by or tied to a particular company to qualify.

TODAY reported Mr Chan as saying so in response to a question on whether the launching of the new pass will result in stiffer competition of top jobs for local talents.

“This is not about replacing the locals… These are the entrepreneurs that we want. It is not about working for one particular company to take the locals’ jobs – this is a totally different kettle of fish altogether,” he remarked.

The Minister went on to say: “The Tech.Pass holders will bring with them not just the knowledge and networks, but also the kind of contacts that they have across the entire global system.”

“So that this will strengthen ourselves as a tech hub for the region, if not for the world,” he noted.

He also mentioned that authorities “will not just look at look at someone’s credentials in terms of their academic qualifications” for Tech.Pass eligibility — they will also access the applicants based on their track record in founding or leading sizeable tech companies as well as in the development of tech products with mass adoption.

“I am confident that Tech.Pass will add to the critical mass of established tech talent in Singapore and create a flywheel effect to further strengthen our position as a leading tech hub for the region.

“This will generate many more exciting career and collaboration opportunities for our local talent and companies,” the Minister noted.

Eligibility criteria for Tech.Pass

As stated in the EDB website, in order to be eligible for Tech.Pass, the applicants must meet two of the three criteria:

  • Have a last drawn fixed monthly salary of at least S$20,000 in the last one-year;
  • Have at least five cumulative years of experience in a leading role in a tech company with a valuation or market cap of at least US$500 million or at least US$30 million funding raised;
  • Have at least five cumulative years of experience in a leading role in the development of a tech product that has at least 100,000 monthly active users or at least US$100 million annual revenue.

It also stated that the Tech.Pass will be valid for two years, with a one-time renewal for a subsequent two years. The consideration for renewal at the end of two years will depend on meeting the renewal criteria.

Netizens’ reaction

The announcement about the launching of Tech.Pass, however, seems unappealing to the netizens.

Penning their comments on the Facebook page of TODAY, some netizens doubted whether Singapore’s education system, often touted as “one of the best in the world”, can produce talents, seeing how Singapore still “need to depend so much on foreign talents”.

“Our education system seems to be a failure. Everything needs to import…such to the extent of importing talents from developing nations,” a netizen wrote.

Several netizens also expressed their hope that the Government will address issues first such as unemployment and retrenchment among locals before focusing on attracting top tech entrepreneurs from other countries.

Expressing skepticism towards the Government’s intention, a handful of netizens pointed out that the Government is “trying to smoke the citizens” and “finding excuses” to bring more foreign talents.

One of the netizens also opined that the Government “on one hand restrict EP to prove they are doing something to appease the people, on the other hand create new passes for FTs.”

On the part of netizens who see “no issues” with Tech.Pass, however, they also implored the Government to “vet properly” and “do a background check” before approving their applications.

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