Last Friday (18 Mar), the Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Sengkang GRC Jamus Lim spoke about the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) on his Facebook page. Among other things, Assoc Prof Lim said that the CECA offered more gains for India than for Singapore.
While doing a block visit at 326C Anchorvale Road last week, he said that as “an international economist”, he recognised “that the support for trade liberalisation is seldom an unequivocal one”.
In saying this, Assoc Prof Lim acknowledged that “there would generally be losers in any trade deal, but also that the extent of gains would depend on the specific conditions faced by both parties to any agreement”.
Where CECA was concerned, he asserted that the gains were “less unambiguously positive” due in part to India’s massive population size which would lead to a flood of Indian nationals in the country, resulting in displaced locals as these foreigners are more enticing for employers given their lower costs.
Other reasons for it being less beneficial for Singapore include India being so much earlier in its stage of development which could lead to a significant lowering of wages of workers exposed to such competition, even if they were to keep their jobs.
In the wake of that post, Assoc Prof Lim took to his Facebook once again to clarify his earlier remarks.
Among other things, he stated on Tuesday (22 Mar) that his original comments about the CECA agreement were “focused on the economics of the pact”. He clarified that to the extent that he had any reservations, it was based on what he felt to be “inequities in the outcomes that result when a large, developing nation signs a free trade deal with a smaller, albeit richer, one.”
“We should understand the benefits as well as costs of any policy, to better mitigate the consequences of the latter. In my view, the arguments I made would apply with equal force to counterpart nations from any part of the world (Western or Eastern), so long as they satisfy the above conditions,” Assoc Prof Lim explained.
He went on to say that he believes “in the enormous contribution that immigrants offer to any country”, Singapore included, adding that “we have always been a nation of immigrants”. He then reiterated that he was “the descendant of immigrants” and that he had “married an immigrant”.
Assoc Prof Lim also shared that for much of his professional life, he had lived in various foreign countries where he was a minority; and as such, he was “keenly aware that minorities, whether by ethnicity or nationality, can often face discrimination”.
He also took great pains to unequivocally state that he did not “assess the economics of the CECA agreement, by any stretch of the imagination, through the lens of ethnic or national differences”, making it crystal clear that he does not “condone negative or blanket statements about any group—citizens of India included”.
Assoc Prof Lim proceeded to caution against his comments being used to justify any form of intolerance to any groups.
“I do not endorse, and will never endorse, any hijacking of this conversation that traffics in bigotry, intolerance, parochialism, or xenophobia,” he stressed.
Assoc Prof Lim concluded his post saying, “The #workersparty believes that our engagement with globalization must be balanced by inclusivity and social harmony. While we must do much better for Singaporean workers, I do not see this coming at the expense of the cohesiveness of our society as a whole. And that includes, without doubt, the immigrants who live, work, and play among us.”