The government information dissemination website gov.sg reported that PM Lee is set to meet top India leaders during his five-day work visit to that country. The report said:
“He will also witness the signing of an MOU on cooperation in tourism and urban solutions, and a grant agreement on capacity-building in tourism and connectivity.
Mr Lee’s visit coincides with that of a business mission comprising representatives from 43 companies, government organisations and business associations here.
Led by the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), International Enterprise Singapore, Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries, and the Building & Construction Authority, the business delegation will attend the India-Singapore Business forum co-organised with Confederation of Indian Industries, and meet businesses in India.”
The Indian Express reported that “exchange experts in the field of intellectual property; dissemination of best practices, experiences and knowledge on IP with the industry and universities,” would be a key feature of this MoU.
“The MoU will enable India to exchange experiences in the innovation and IP ecosystems that will substantially benefit entrepreneurs, investors and businesses on both sides,” the report added.
Many Singaporeans have faulted the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) signed between India and Singapore on 29 June 2005 by the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his former Indian counterpart Mr Manmohan Singh, as being the cause of the influx of Indian workers to the Republic.
Responding to such unhappiness, the Government of Singapore said that CECA does not allow Indian professionals to work in Singapore without a valid work pass. It explained:
“(CECA allows for the movement of four types of business people between Singapore and India:
- Professionals who are employed in 127 specific occupations are allowed entry and can stay for up to a year;
- Intra-corporate transferees will be permitted entry and can work for up to 2 years. This can be extended to a total term of not more than 8 years;
- Business visitors who hold five-year multiple journey visas will be permitted entry for business purposes for up to 2 months, with an option to extend by an additional month; and
- Short-term service suppliers will be allowed entry to service their contracts for an initial period of 90 days.
Existing regulations on citizenship, residence and employment will still apply. This means that Indian nationals planning to work in Singapore will have to meet work pass qualifying criteria before they are permitted to work in Singapore.”
According to the Business Standard, in 2014 the Singapore Government stalled the second part of negotiations for CECA which would have allowed Indian banks and the free movement of Indian professionals into Singapore.
The Business Standard reported:
Singapore is in no hurry to conclude the second review of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), even as India is pushing for entry of its banks and professionals into the Singapore market for more than four years.
“Yes, it (the second review of CECA) has taken a bit longer. We are in no hurry. These sort of negotiations take time. The Indian government is yet to come to terms with our laws. If CECA review takes over 10 years then also it is no big deal. Life goes on,” a senior Singaporean government official told Business Standard.
India had signed its first ever CECA with Singapore in August, 2005, under which both sides have a preferential tariff arrangement for over 80 product lines. Besides, India and Singapore enjoy greater access in services and investment under CECA.
The Singapore government, in its effort to reduce reliance on foreign workers, passed the ‘Employment Pass Framework’ in 2010 under which the foreign share of the total workforce has to be brought down to around one-third by the companies located there, while encouraging employers to invest in productivity in return for incentives in the form of tax breaks.
However, India has argued that while Singapore has done this to address its own domestic concerns, it had committed a separate provision under CECA, exempting India from such a rule. The matter has taken a political colour now.
“The issue of achieving greater market access in services has become politically difficult,” commerce secretary Rajeev Kher had said recently.