After the argument that broke out between Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and Workers’ Party’s (WP) Pritam Singh, on Monday (Jan 6), concerning a breakdown of recent employment numbers for Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs), comments made by Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew’s comments on the influx of foreign talents have resurfaced.
Mr Pritam pushed the topic, “My original parliamentary question really was a question seeking data….If the Government’s approach is, ‘No we are not going to provide that data’, can the Minister please share that detail with us here. Because it’s pointless for us to keep asking for that data if the Government is not going to provide it.”
What sparked it
Mr Chan answered by saying, “I don’t think we have anything to hide. We have just shared the data.”
Mr Pritam then went on to ask regarding the increase of 60,000 jobs between 2015 and 2018, “How many were for Singaporeans and how many went to PRs?”
To which the Trade and Industry Minister replied, “We can get you the numbers. But let me say this: What is the point behind the question? First, has local unemployment increased with all these efforts?
The answer is a resounding ‘no’. Our people are getting good jobs. Are our wages going up? Yes, and it’s faster than many other countries. Those are proof points to show that we are doing right by Singaporeans. But I’m always very cautious about this constant divide — Singaporean versus PR. The insinuation seems to be that somehow Singaporeans are not benefiting”, he added.
The late Mr Lee’s words
In light of this heated exchange in Parliament, netizens have taken to sharing comments made by Former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in 2011. Speaking at the then-South Asia Diaspora Convention, he said that foreign talents are vital to the growth of Singapore’s society and ensuring its economic progress.
Emphasising that more foreign talents would lead to better growth in the society, Mr Lee reasoned that it would be insufficient for the country to depend solely on the talent of three million Singaporeans.
“And I am a firm believer that the more talents you have in a society, the better the society will grow.
“If Singapore depends on the talent they can produce out of 3 million people, it’s not going to punch above its weight,” he said.
“It’s because we have been drawing talent from across the globe, South Asia, Northeast Asia, China, India and beyond that – you have a vibrant economy which is way beyond what three million Singaporeans with the talent they can produce can do.”
Mr Lee Kuan Yew once said that he'd rather have the best talents in the world right here in Singapore, working with…
Bringing up Mr Lee’s comments, many said that they had wished Mr Chan had put the message across differently and had been more eloquent in his delivery, much like Mr Lee had.