SINGAPORE – The purpose of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) bringing up the issue of the Singapore-India trade pact and foreign professionals is to reflect the huge amount of feedback that the party has received, and to get a response from the Government, said the opposition party’s Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai on Tuesday (July 6).
Defending his party’s constant criticism of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca), he added: “By raising the issue, we had hoped it would get some response from the Government to explain more about what are FTAs, in particular, Ceca.”
PSP chief Tan Cheng Bock had brought up Ceca when launching the party in August 2019, promising that the PSP would hold the Government to account for giving Indian professionals easy access to jobs here under the trade pact.
Referring to this, Mr Leong said that the PSP’s misgivings on Ceca had to do with protecting “Singapore’s jobs and livelihoods”.
He said that though Health Minister Ong Ye Kung and Manpower Minister Tan See Leng had given a “detailed explanation of the situation on foreign PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians)… and the free trade agreements and Ceca”, he needed to “clarify the situation further”.
Responding to their ministerial statements with a flurry of questions, Mr Leong asked how many foreign nationals had come into Singapore under FTAs and had taken up PMET roles. He said knowing the proportion of these workers, vis a vis the total foreign PMET population as well as the PMET population, would help to clarify “how those conditions under the FTAs interplay with our domestic employment policies”.
Next, he asked for the number of Singaporeans displaced from their jobs over the past decade.
“Your narrative is… (it is) because they don’t have the skills. Let’s not push the blame to the universities and the polytechnics so easily… It has been 20 years since we started the foreign talent policy. Within 20 years, we still haven’t got our act together in training our people?”
This begged the question of why the education system was not able to churn out enough talent for the workforce, he added.
He also asked for the number of foreign PMETs in infocomm technology and finance, saying there was concern about these sectors.
Commenting on the tightening of policies over the years to regulate the flow of foreign PMETs, Mr Leong said this was “too little and too late”. He said that while the Government had let in foreign talent in the late 1990s, the Fair Consideration Framework, under which employers must try to hire a Singaporean first before they can recruit foreign professionals, was introduced only in 2014.
He also expressed incredulity that the Manpower Ministry had not noticed a concentration of workers from certain countries in some sectors, and asked how it administers its foreign PMET policy.
He added that much more and finer data would be needed for his party to form an opinion on Ceca.