Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai took to Facebook on Tuesday (20 July) to highlight that the ministerial statements delivered by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Manpower Minister Tan See Leng earlier this month in Parliament failed to provide all the data that PSP filed in its parliamentary questions.
Mr Leong said that PSP had filed seven questions which required the Government to disclose hundreds of data points from different nationalities and work pass categories over the last 20 years. However, he noted that only two ministerial statements regarding this was delivered by the Government, with only “a few scattered point of data”.
“Besides the lack of data, we also found the presentation of data to be problematic. E.g. data points were presented in convoluted and confusing ways, we requested for data on PMETs but the data given only covered PMEs, and so on,” he added.
Earlier on 6 July, Mr Ong and Dr Tan delivered two ministerial statements regarding the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) that PSP had filed for.
Mr Ong wrote in a Facebook post prior to that saying that the ministerial statements will address the “false allegations” that FTAs permit foreign professionals a free hand to live and work in Singapore.
Coming back to Mr Leong’s Facebook post yesterday, the NCMP expressed that he is “greatly encouraged” by the enormous interest shown by Singaporeans on the issues raised by the ministerial statements.
He noted that Dr Tan had pointed out that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and tripartite partners are looking into the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices so as to “to strengthen measures to tackle workplace discrimination”, adding that “it will not be long” before the relevant parties come back with a recommendation.
Besides that, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) managing director Ravi Menon had also suggested to tighten the qualifying salaries for Employment Pass and S Pass foreign PMETs, in addition to “targeting individuals in firms found to be guilty of discriminatory hiring in favour of foreigners”.
Mr Ravi spoke about this during a lecture at the Institute of Policy Studies, said Mr Leong.
“It is motivating to feel the winds of change and heartening to see the effect of PSP raising the right questions in parliament,” he expressed.
PSP to file eight more parliamentary questions
However, Mr Leong asserted that just tweaking and adjusting current policies is insufficient as they “do not address fundamental problems that stemmed from the lack of foresight in striking a balance in the job market from the very beginning”.
He added that PSP wants to see a “thorough review of the impact of the Foreign Talent policy” as well as the large number of foreign PMETs entering into Singapore’s labour market over the last 20 years.
“We wish to see a clear plan of action from the government that can bring about tangible improvements to address the sufferings of affected Singaporeans,” Mr Leong stressed.
In order to do so, he noted that PSP needs more data from the Government, adding that the data provided in the ministerial statements were inadequate.
Hence, PSP will be filing another eight parliament questions at the next parliamentary sitting next week (26 July). The questions will be requesting for fuller data sets and clarifications on the few data points that the Ministers had disclosed, said Mr Leong.
“For example, we will be requesting for time series data from 2005-2020 involving professionals, managers and executives (PMEs). Health Minister Ong Ye Kung only provided two single data points from that time period, which is that the total number of PME jobs created for residents (Singaporeans and PRs) and foreigners were 380,000 and 112,000 respectively,” he elaborated.
Mr Leong continued, “We will also be asking for more details about the 97,000 jobs that the Minister said had been created for residents by the 660 Singapore companies that have invested in India since 2005.”
Additionally, he also mentioned that Dr Tan’s reasoning on why the Government doesn’t publish detailed statistics of Singapore’s foreign workforce, especially based on nationality, is “vague”.
Dr Tan had earlier said that this information is not published due to “foreign policy reasons”.
“If there are no specific concerns, I would urge the Minister to provide whatever data he can in the spirit of, in his own words, allowing for ‘meaning engagement’ on the issue. We need to examine the data and ascertain the facts before we reach meaningful conclusion,” Mr Leong asserted.
“In attempting to present a narrative without comprehensive data to support it, the Ministerial Statements simply do not carry the credibility that such statements normally do. Accordingly, there is also little credibility in any mainstream media reports trying to support the same narrative,” he added.
Mr Leong went on to say that the Government must know that it is not good enough to deliver “sweeping statements and give reassurances when it provides scant evidence to back up its assertions”.
As an example, he stated that Mr Ong tried to frame certain questions in a binary form which forced him to give a simple “yes or no” answer.
To this, Mr Leong said: “I believe that Singaporeans are sophisticated enough to understand that we can have nuanced positions on complex issues. For instance, I have repeatedly said in parliament that PSP fully supports FTAs in general. But how beneficial FTAs are depend on their specific terms in relation to our domestic conditions.”
“While FTAs do not take away our sovereign right to regulate immigration, some may still constrain our latitude to formulate and implement our immigration policies,” he added.
Mr Leong also urged Singaporeans to not be distracted by allegations made against the alternative party, noting that PSP never said that CECA gives “unfettered access” to Singapore’s labour markets and that such constant accusations are “regrettable”.
“They [PAP] shift the focus away from the real and pressing issues that genuinely concern Singaporeans,” he wrote.
Mr Leong concluded his post saying that PSP will keep asking the “right questions in the run-up and during the #PSPJobsDebate to enable us to get a fuller picture of the situation of displaced Singaporeans”.