In Thursday’s Parliament sitting, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) expressed his disappointment that the 2021 Budget only included an adjustment on the S Pass quota for the manufacturing sector as a means of managing the local-foreign worker mix.
Mr Leong suggested imposing a S$1,200 monthly levy on all EP holders which he says will differentiate high-salaried foreign talents who would not be affected by the levy from the foreign talents who are merely cheap labour competing unfairly with Singaporeans.
However, People’s Action Party (PAP) MP and Minister of State for Manpower refuted Mr Leong’s suggestion. Ms Gan opined that a blanket levy on EP holders sends a signal to foreign investors that Singapore does not welcome them bringing in their own talent.
She went on to conclude that “Mr Leong and the PSP do not believe that Singapore should be an open city, connected to the world, having locals and foreigners complementing each other; and he wants Singapore to be closed up for the top jobs to be given to Singaporeans only.”
She stressed that Singapore has to strike a balance between welcoming foreign talent and building its own talent simultaneously, adding that the country’s “future depends on it”.
Noting that global companies in Singapore need a diverse team of both local and foreign talent, she expounded, “If we start telling companies that they can invest but can only employ Singaporeans for the top jobs, we would end up chasing some of them away and thousands of good jobs for Singaporeans would be lost as well.”
Mr Leong responded that the PSP agrees on Singapore’s status as a global city state and are in favour of welcoming foreign talents to complement the local talent pool.
However, he stressed the need for a “rebalancing” of the issue which is “going too slowly”.
The problem, he explained, is in the lack of policies to ensure that Singaporean workers receive fair treatment when it comes to jobs.
He went on to reiterate an example of a local bank employing a foreigner to be a CEO. He question what the Monetary Authority of Singapore is doing in this regard and whether there is a KPI in MAS with regards to hiring locals.
At this point, MP Ong Ye Kung—who is also a board member at MAS—argued that Singapore’s position as a financial hub has created many jobs. This on top of efforts by the MAS over the decades to push for better education which has allowed many Singaporeans to take up jobs in the sector both locally and internationally.
On the question of why 30 percent of retail bank managers are still foreigners, Mr Ong said, “Because we are a global financial centre,” adding that “this is the essence of being an open and international financial sector.”
He added, “So I think I also come to the same conclusion as MOS Gan Siow Huang that actually the PSP’s position is that I think you want Singapore to close up and protect the jobs, which is fine.
”It’s entitled to that view, but I think the government and MAS has a different view.”