Earlier this month (4 Jan), Workers’ Party MP Gerald Giam asked the government what specific conditions are imposed on foreign companies to develop a Singaporean core in their companies, since they have received tax incentives for their investment here.
The Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC further asked if the government tracks the growth of the Singaporean core of such companies over time.
In his reply, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing did not address Mr Giam’s questions directly.
“Our economic schemes, including tax incentives, are means to encourage companies to upgrade their capabilities and expand their operations in Singapore to promote economic growth and create good job opportunities for Singaporeans,” Chan said.
“Companies, local or foreign, that are keen to qualify for the incentives must be prepared to make significant investments in Singapore. They are also required to meet a stringent set of quantitative and qualitative criteria which include job creation, total business expenditure, fixed asset investment and a deep commitment to grow capabilities in Singapore.”
“Over the years, we have attracted many local and multinational companies to grow their businesses in Singapore and create job opportunities for Singaporeans. In addition, the government partners these companies on several initiatives on knowledge transfer and skills training, such as the Singapore Industry Scholarship, Industry Postgraduate Programme and SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative.”
“not meaningful” to track growth of Singaporean core
Then, came his main reply. Chan basically doesn’t want to commit to any numbers with regard to tracking the growth of Singaporean core in companies. He said it’s “not meaningful” to do so.
He said, “Our range of economic and manpower development schemes reinforce each other to support companies and workers. It is therefore not meaningful to attribute specific employment outcomes to any one specific scheme.”
He even said that it’s “healthy” for companies to see Singaporeans moving in and out of companies.
“A well-functioning dynamic labour market also means there will be a healthy churn of Singaporeans moving in and out of specific firms to others with better paying jobs. In turn, it is also not meaningful to just look at the number of Singaporeans in any particular set of companies – be it local or foreign companies; or those who received more incentives and those who receive less incentives,” he replied.
“The overall effect of our economic and manpower schemes is that we are able to constantly create new and better paying jobs for the current and future generations of Singaporeans. This is manifested in the overall employment and wage outcomes for all Singaporeans. To this end, the healthy employment and wage outcomes of Singaporeans over the years give us confidence that we are heading in the right direction.”
Success stories from Chan
It’s not known if Chan counted those Singaporeans driving Grab or delivering food as part of having a healthy employment in Singapore.
But he did share a couple of “success stories” of Singaporeans having benefited through government’s incentives and schemes. He mentioned Mr Samson Tan, who joined the inaugural batch of Salesforce-NUS EDB Industrial Postgraduate Programme in 2019 to work on some AI applications.
“Today, he continues to research on the ethical use of AI at Salesforce while concurrently pursuing his PhD at NUS. Over time, we hope to build a pool of postgraduate manpower like Samson with relevant experience in commercial-driven research.”
He also mentioned Mr James Lim who started out as an Engineering and Facility Manager in medical technology firm Becton Dickinson. Chan said that the government programmes have helped develop local leaders to hold critical functions and leadership roles. In the case of James, he is now Becton Dickinson’s President for Greater Asia, Chan said.
Chan continued, “There are many other stories like that of Samson and James. We are constantly engaged and working with companies to develop our local workforce and leadership, and to draw long-term benefits for our people from our investment promotion efforts.”
But he continues to stay silence about the proportion and growth of Singaporean core in companies.