Dear Editor,

Mr Lawrence Wong made 2 pronouncements today. He said, “Singapore places too much of a premium on intellectual head work and does not sufficiently value hands-on technical jobs or heart work such as services and community care roles”. He also said that “the government will redouble efforts to develop and support workers while remaining open” (presumably to foreign talents).

Now, if I were an alien who had just landed on earth and in Singapore, I might be impressed with what he said. Unfortunately, I am not an alien, and I have been living in Singapore since 1963 — PAP has been in government since 1965, and these problems have been there since the 1980s and 1990s, respectively. Every year the PAP would say similar things in various guises, and these issues remain protracted with nobody willing to solve them.

During the height of the Covid infection, when medical workers were overwhelmed to the point of breakdown, some genius suggested we clap for them in our corridors. I asked some medical workers what they thought about that gesture, and the polite ones said they would show the middle finger.

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Everywhere I go, I see foreigners taking senior jobs in human resources, sales, administration, operations, accounting, logistics, food & beverage, and hospitality; in almost every non-technical sector, our unemployed PMET workers are encouraged to go and upskill.

I thought, why do they need to upskill when they are already well skilled in those jobs that I mentioned if only the foreigners are disallowed to take them up? Of those foreigners that I worked with, many of them have qualifications from institutes that rank lower than our NUS or NTU. Try sourcing for universities that are better than ours from India, Malaysia, Philippines, Myanmar, and Indonesia? Perhaps it’s the foreigners that need upskilling.

We already feel like being stabbed by our own government when we are passed over for jobs that we are qualified for but unable to get due to the foreign talent policy. Please do not stab us repeatedly by saying these words year after year, and I have concluded long ago as long as the PAP is in government, they shall remain words.

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As an aside, is the use of “foreign talent” a deliberate choice so that over time, due to the effect of “associative consonance”, everybody will assume they come together? So if you were foreign, you must be a talent, and if you were a talent, you must be foreign. I suspect that is the objective.

pieter phrampton

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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