Saturday, 30 September 2023

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What exactly are Singaporeans angry about CECA?

by Joseph Nathan

As the saying goes, “A good government consistently listen and address the concerns of its citizens and not blame or prosecute them for stating the obvious”. I hope that our government will address what is contentiously wrong about the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).

Singaporeans are generally not against the standardized Free Trade Agreement (FTA) as we know well it can help us economically when trading with our FTA’s partners, provided they are fairly negotiated.

We are also not against any specific nationality as many of our parents and grandparents were migrants themselves, and know well that foreign workers and foreign direct investments (FDI) remain critical to our economic prosperity, as long as they do not upset our socio-economic balance, infrastructure, and public healthcare.

Yes, we also acknowledged that Singapore needs domestic and blue collared foreign workers for strenuous jobs in general construction & manufacturing, cleaning & waste disposal, and other general works, provided there are sufficient safeguards to manage our social balance as we can ill-afford another Little India Riot.

But when it comes to CECA, signed between India and Singapore in 2005, Singaporeans remained enraged by the stupidity and gullibility of those involved in drafting and negotiating this agreement that is so detrimental to our Singapore Workforce.

With a provision for “Intra Corporate Transfer”, what this means it that the Indians can utilize their FDIs to create lucrative job and business opportunities for themselves right in our own backyard, almost effortlessly.

Over time, they too learnt from their Chinese and other South East Asian counterparts on how to legally circumvent our ill-conceived manpower quota and qualification guidelines.

We have witnessed the exodus of villages of Indians into Singapore and watch helplessly as they conveniently plant their roots into our economic success and inevitably drove up our public housing cost and overloaded our infrastructure, public healthcare & socio-economic balance.

If those involved in the CECA agreement can so stupid and naïve to give the Indians numerous loopholes to game our economic success, Singaporeans like myself do not blame the Indians and their politicians for taking advantage of us but are angry at them for trading away a substantial part of our economic success and employment opportunities so foolishly.

This is the core issue that many Singaporeans are angry about and it has got nothing to do with race or nationality.

Xenophobic and racism – who is playing with fire?

When some government officials start labelling Singaporeans as racist or xenophobic for raising their displeasure over CECA, they inadvertently created an unwarranted tension between Singaporeans and Indian professionals working in Singapore when CECA was never an issue of race or nationality.

In doing so, those 4G politicians of the PAP are in fact recklessly sowing discourse between Singaporeans and nationalities from South Asia.

As such, aren’t the actions of the 4G politicians xenophobic, racist, and reckless?

After playing the race card, they now plan to introduce more laws at workplace but for what exactly – to curtail discussion or to target another of their imagined discrimination?

Importance of defending our Singaporean Workforce

It is heartening to note that the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) has been tenacious in holding the 4G politicians of the PAP to accountability by tabling motion on jobs for debate in parliament for the sake of our Singaporean Workforce.

After years of empty promises, we seriously need to address the many policy gaps, failures, and outright stupidity of these politicians as tolerating them is no longer an option.

Instead of trying to defect the issues at hand by calling the action of the PSP a campaign against CECA when it is not, it is vital for our parliamentarians to find the courage in setting aside their political difference and start addressing these discrepancies that are destroying our Singaporean Core.

Think about it.

As India has a population of 1.366 billion or 234 times more than Singapore, this means that the provision for Intra Corporate Transfer already has a systemic bias that favours the Indian, to the delight of their politicians who are hard-pressed in creating employment of for their growing middle class.

With such a high pent up demand of Indians keen to seek employment outside of India, our trade negotiators, manpower planners and ministers involved ought to have exercised greater care when making provision for manpower transfer in the CECA or have the decency to right their wrongs.

The devil is in the details

It does not take any ingenuity from any Indian entrepreneur to incorporate a start-up in Singapore just to facilitate the transfer of eight to nine executives or professionals from India under agreement.

By incorporating more entities, either directly or indirectly, the same entrepreneur could marshal hundredths or even thousandths of Indian from India into Singapore under CECA and our weak regulatory framework on foreign workers.

Multiply this by a thousand and scale it across the other nationalities, you will now understand why our young graduates, PMETs, and entrepreneurs are losing out on employment and business opportunities to foreigners right in our own backyard.

The Indians, like their Chinese or Filipino counterparts before them, are simply having the time of their lives when our policy makers gifted them with our economic prosperity on a silver platter.

With the Chinese already in almost every facets of our economy, the Filipinos firmly entrenched in our retail, hospitality, and nursing sectors while the Indians have entrenched themselves in our IT, accounting, and financial sectors, what hope is there left for Singaporeans in the executive and professional positions in these sectors?

They have infiltrated our GLCs, and even our public sector, when jobs were outsourced to the lowest bidders without discretion.

For those wondering why our government and unions are suddenly encouraging our children to become hawkers or take up delivery jobs after we had invested monies, sweats, and sacrifices in their education, the answers are already inked on our walls.

It is not that our children or younger Singaporeans are weak or unable to fight for their employment opportunities.

Neither should we blame our teachers for giving our children an education that cannot land them well paying jobs when our politicians keep tilting our economic prosperity in favour of foreigners instead of our Singaporean Workforce.

But why?

Could it be that it is more lucrative for our government to be promoting employment for foreigners as there are obscene amount of levies to be collected, more dormitories to be rented and even lucrative micro-markets to cater to their daily needs?

Or could it be that our government may want to please their counterparts in India or China given our massive investments in these countries.

But if our foreign investments are not backed up by executives who are “street-smart”, able to respond to challenges and are prepared to get their hands dirty, our government is simply naïve and will end up losing on both ends.

Root cause of our unhappiness over CECA

CECA and our weak regulatory framework on foreign manpower are manifestations of a more troubling issue – we have become too tolerant of the incompetency of the 4G PAP politicians for far too long.

This is the root cause to many of the problems and hardships faced by our Singaporean Workforce.

As a result, it is looking like Singaporeans are doomed to be fit only to be drivers, couriers, cleaners, handymen, security guards, safe-distance ambassadors, temperature-takers, or hawkers to serve the needs of foreigners right on our shore which we called home.

Still trying to wonder why there is an increase in Malays in rental public housing or which ethnic group will be next?

To make matter worse, these politicians are not only naïve and gullible but have also become very arrogant and haughty when called to account for their actions.

Even if Lee Kuan Yew is alive today, he would have died many times over just by watching them make a mockery out of our economic success and prosperity.

Is there really a future for Singapore with the 4G politicians?

These are the hard truths as to why many Singaporeans are angry with our government.

By the same token, a segment of Singaporeans also have to blame themselves for these colossal failures when they keep giving those incompetent politicians blank cheques and free tickets into our parliament, again and again, instead of holding them responsible and accountable.

Think about it, even our Prime Minister has to rely on a 3G PAP politician to hold the ministerial portfolio for both the Home Affairs and the Law Ministry, and is having trouble picking a successor among them.

If the politicians from the 4G PAP are really that good as they want Singaporeans to believe, then why aren’t they helming these ministries or able to assure PM Lee to hand over his office to them by now?

Time to address the problems about CECA with sincerity

What we urgently need is for our government to acknowledge where they had gone wrong on CECA and our employment policy for foreign workforce, plugged the loopholes and introduce new legislations with greater urgency to safeguard our Singaporean Workforce against unfair discrimination, exploitation, and abuse.

Our government must also make a clear distinction between employment policies for Singaporeans and their overseas investments so that one will not be compromised for the sake of the other.

These should be debated vigorously in parliament if we are truly concerned about safeguarding and fortifying our Singaporean Core.

Singaporeans must start thinking seriously about our future as a nation and those of our children if we still believe that Singapore deserves better.

This was first published on Joseph Nathan’s Facebook page, and reproduced with permission.

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