Dear Editor,

Doctor Tan See Leng said that the objective of Onepass is to bring in global talent who can create more opportunities for Singaporeans, and more Singaporeans will have opportunities to work in leading firms alongside experts from around the world and advance their careers.

He said this in response to WP’s Jamus Lim’s post about local citizens facing discrimination in the workplace; not overseas, but right here in Singapore.

What Doctor Tan said is nothing new. Various ministers have at one time or another said the same thing in various guises when countering legitimate concerns about the outward-leaning playing field local citizens face. I use “ local citizens” to exclude new citizens, of which there are many occupying executive posts.

Compare what Doctor Tan said with my experience. I worked for an American MNC from 2007 to 2011 when it went bankrupt. In the last 2 years I was there, all the local department heads were replaced with British and Australian expatriates who were totally unfamiliar with the company’s local customer base and work practices.

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Even the local CEO was replaced with someone from Mumbai, who was technically incompetent and bereft of a local network. I could see the foreign in them, but definitely not the talent.

I worked for another MNC from 2013 to 2021, this time in Malaysia. The company was allowed to hire a sales manager, a treasury departmental head and a bond salesperson, all from Kuala Lumpur. Both of its HR managers were also from Kuala Lumpur. Again, I see the foreign, but where is the talent in HR and sales that can supersede that which can be found in locals?

This is just my story. I am very sure there are tons out there if anybody can be bothered to conduct a survey.

Doctor Tan’s and his predecessors’ lofty ideals and vision about talented foreigners have always in the main result when it comes to implementation, in ordinary and run-of-the-mill foreigners coming into the country and displacing citizens in well-paid executive jobs without having to fulfil a quid pro quo obligation like national service.

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Singaporeans have been having this debate for at least 25 years. All along, the PAP government have continuously assured us that locals will not be side-lined in place of foreigners, but yet the clamouring voices about locals being discriminated against getting louder and louder. The mystery is, it has been going on for 25 years in a “democracy”.

In light of my experience and the anecdotal stories out there, I don’t think we can take Doctor Tan’s words seriously. My advice is to go sign up for private hire drivers or the security guard courses, assuming you continue to put them in the office.

Chi Lang

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of The Independent Singapore.

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