Despite two ministerial statements have been delivered to clarify that the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) does not allow Indian nationals free entry to Singapore, some netizens remain sceptical as they had personally experienced an influx of Indian nationals being hired in their previous workplaces.
Earlier on 6 July, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in Parliament that the Free Trade Agreements (FTA) and CECA have not curtailed the power of immigration authorities to regulate the entry of foreign professionals, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs) into Singapore under such agreements.
Mr Ong, who delivered his ministerial statement on the issues of FTAs and CECA in the context of his background as a former trade negotiator in the civil service, said that the Government “retains full rights” to determine who can enter, live, work, and obtain permanent resident status in Singapore.
He also dismissed Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) claim that the 127 categories of professionals listed in CECA allow Indian nationals to flock to Singapore to work freely, saying that all foreign PMETs have to meet all of the relevant criteria set by the Government to enter for employment purposes.
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng, on the other hand, revealed that there were 4,200 intra-corporate transferees (ICTs) working in Singapore last year, of which 500 were brought in from India.
“None of our FTAs, including the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca), gives intra-corporate transferees unfettered access to our labour market,” said the Minister.
The ministerial statements, however, have sparked anger among Singaporeans, as some netizens claimed that they have firsthand experience of how the CECA has caused an influx of Indian nationals in their previous workplaces.
One netizen wrote to Facebook page The Alternative View on 6 July, saying that he had worked in the financial industry for 15 years and witnessed himself how Indian ‘professionals’ began entering the industry from around 2007.
In just a few years, the numbers grew and became a “flood”, said the netizen.
“During my time, you could see certain departments filled with just Indian nationals. In 1 such department, there were 23 staff. Of the 23 staff, 22 were from India and the remaining 1 was a Chinese but based in HK.
“The investment and retail side were also dominated by Indian nationals. Not surprising because the heads of both divisions were also from India. And on top of them, there was an overall Chief Executive of Asia who was also from India.
“This certainly validates the anecdotal observation that these people hire their own and what better place than S’pore to do this, with the CECA allowing them to transfer their compatriots in under the Intra-Corporate Transfer route,” he explained.
As such, the netizen stressed that it is not a “joke” when people refer Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC) as Mumbai Financial Centre or Changi Business Park (CBF) as Chennai Business Park.
Over time, the Singaporean was so “dismayed” at this situation that he decided to leave the workplace.
“Nothing much has changed since I left. You just need to go LinkedIn to look through the employees of many foreign banks to see for yourself,” he said.
Meanwhile, one netizen commenting on his post also shared his past experience working in a bank 20 years ago.
He noted that the bank’s director, who was an Indian national, would “block” all communication and benefits purportedly for “non-Indian” employees, and instead give Indian employees promotions and benefits. This only ended when another head of a department intervened.
“How he knew? Because the regional side find suspicious on high resignation then send someone to interview us, then they realised the problem,” said the Facebook user.
Another commenter, who claimed that he had worked with Citibank, Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), and DBS Bank before, said that the bosses in these banks will only “look out for their own folks” and “skip” local candidates.
“I was shocked when I hear the minister view… that is utterly bullcrap,” said another netizen who worked in the maritime transport industries for more than 15 years.
He claimed that he went to a job interview and found that most of the employees there were Indian nationals, therefore he asked, “I just wonder is our educations not fit enough to be in there? And were India degree are much better?”
One netizen agreed to the Facebook post, citing his past work experience at one of the banks in Changi Business Park (CBP) where he noticed that most of the staff there were foreigners.
“From Changi city point (controlled by peenoys) to CBP (controlled by the headshakers)… most if not all of the remaining locals are pushed one side to work as either security or cleaners..” he wrote.
Several other netizens have also voiced out their personal experience in a thread on Reddit.
One Reddit user shared his past experience working in a startup that benefitted from the funds given by the Singapore Government. During his time there, the company had more than 20 employees, of which only two staff were Singaporeans.
“There was no way they could have sustain that number, but I am guessing it’s because they tapped into their sister’s company, and used their local numbers,” he wrote.
The user also alleged that the bosses were “rude” and called Singaporeans “lowly and peasants” and even “openly talking badly” about the Singapore Government, which led him to make a report to a Government agency about the company.
“Before I left they started hiring more locals.. eventually the company became successful and they ended up outsourcing to neighbouring countries, talk about wasting gov funding..” he added.
Another Reddit user shared that he worked in a multinational corporation (MNC) where the directors were “almost all foreigners”, even the “middle management” positions were filled by foreigners.
“While I think most are nice and competent people -I don’t really understand why – roles like fp&a manager, finance manager, supply chain mgr, sales mgr, are there really no Singaporeans who can do this job?” he asked.
One netizen claimed that most of the staff in the IT department are Indian nationals, while the “deskside team” is a “mixed bag”.
Meanwhile, People’s Voice Party chief Lim Tean posted on Facebook on Tuesday (13 July) a sharing from a netizen named Jlynn Jlynn, who commented on one of his previous posts, saying how it is “outrageous” that Singaporean worker is being “shortchanged” in his own country.
In his comment, the netizen proclaimed himself a “citizen of Singapore” for more than 25 years, married to a Singaporean woman and now has four children.
Being in the oil and gas industry, he noted that the employment agencies will prioritise candidates of their own natives over Singaporeans when submitting CVs to clients for the inspector, engineer, and administrative positions.
“These are well paying jobs (day rate $250~$550/10hrs) in the 70s,80s,90s,2000s. Today the rates are still similar as such majority ‘related’ or their ‘kampong Folks’ are being selected or recommended by the agencies.
“Check out the projects in Keppel, Sembawang, Tuas Mega yards, Jurong Shipyards & their subsidiaries and sub-contractors to name a few. In the petrochemical industries and aircraft industries are the same. NTUC Health employs Nursing aids from neighboring countries when our nursing students are being left out,” he added.