Home News Featured News One Pass: Are Singaporeans becoming bit players in a foreigner-packed future?

One Pass: Are Singaporeans becoming bit players in a foreigner-packed future?

Sense And Nonsense by Tan Bah Bah

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There is a disconnect between what the government is trying to project and what some Singaporeans believe – that they are becoming bit players in a foreigner-packed future.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng announced the special Overseas Network and Expertise (One) Pass scheme in August. And he made an impassioned speech in Parliament the following month to Singaporeans, asking them to understand how important it was for the country to catch the foreign talent whales (worth at least $30,000 a month) as it emerged from the post-pandemic world. These talents can be those with outstanding achievements in arts and culture, sports, science and technology, as well as academia and research. The One Pass allows spouses of pass holders to work in Singapore on a Letter of Consent without requiring a work pass.

From the government’s viewpoint, it should be a no-brainer. Which part of the Let Us Be A Global Hub dream did Singaporeans not understand?

Quite a bit.

As Sengkang GRC MP Jamus Lim found out in a recent walkabout in Sengkang GRC, he met two residents with two different sets of anxiety that helped explain what the rest of us can actually witness right in front of us in our daily lives. So I have to ask Tan See Leng: What part of the world is he living in and which part of Singaporeans’ legitimate fear about being swamped by non-citizens does he not understand?

Lim wrote in his Facebook (worth quoting in full):

“One resident shared his thoughts about the new One Pass scheme. He just returned after a long stint in China, and had a difficult time securing a job here, despite his extensive experience and solid skill set. He expressed his concern that One Pass—despite its high qualification bar—would ultimately end up exacerbating the difficulties locals faced in advancing to the upper tiers of the corporate hierarchy, thereby relegating them to being trapped in middle management. This fear was further corroborated by his impression that many foreign nationals working here tended to favour their own countrymen, further alienating Singaporeans when they seek at job at home.

“Another resident spoke (column writer’s insertion: not about One Pass but) about how Singaporeans enjoyed few privileges in the local job market. He said that it was especially tough for those who were competing against foreigners willing to work for less, since the opportunity to earn Singapore dollars—which would translate into much more in terms of purchasing power in their home currencies—more than made up for a comparatively lower salary. Without any special dispensation, many would turn to alternatives like private hire driving. For him, this is an unbelievable state of affairs; in other countries, it is the migrants that drove the Ubers and Grabs, but it seems to be the other way round here.”

The Manpower Minister replied in Facebook to Jamus Lim. To his credit, he was concerned. He said he asked Workforce Singapore to offer job matching support to the first resident. But the resident had already found a job.

I sense the main complaint of the two Sengkangites is that Singaporeans are being pushed aside in their own country by their own government.

And few in government are taking this fear seriously. There is a tendency – I hope it is not pervasive – to dismiss it as the reaction of losers.

Remember these “losers” are the Singaporeans or the progeny of those who have built up this country.

Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.Sg, is a former senior leader writer. He was also managing editor of a magazine publishing company.

Send in your scoops to news@theindependent.sg 

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