The Singapore Business Federation is so worried about “the recent rise in anti-foreigner sentiments” that it hosted a dialogue on October 1 with Chan Chun Sing. Representatives from 16 foreign chambers, including the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, voiced their concern to the Trade and Industry Minister. Quite a gathering of corporate lions.
This “dialogue” looked very much like a public relations event which served nicely the interests of both parties. The manner it was reported in the media showed that neither was yet ready to substantially address the real issues.
The SBF released a statement on its website which was as PR as it could get:
“Singapore’s success has been built on openness and connectivity. The presence of foreign companies and global talent in Singapore contributes to the creation of good jobs for Singaporeans and high-value activities which will have a positive spillover effect in the domestic ecosystem. Remaining open and connected is critical in ensuring Singapore remains relevant and resilient to enhance Singapore’s competitiveness and attractiveness in an increasingly competitive world.”
It then dutifully paraphrased the remarks of Chan (who in turn reiterated exactly the same thing in his Facebook account):
“Responding to the concerns, Minister Chan assured participants that Singapore remains committed to being open and connected to the world, and continues to welcome foreign investments and global talent to build the best team to play for Singapore in the global arena.”
Chan also dutifully flew a small flag for Singaporeans: “At the same time, Minister Chan stressed that the concerns of Singaporeans also deserved to be addressed…Chan welcomed the commitment from participants and their members to adhering to responsible employment practices and strengthening the Singapore core. He also encouraged participants to showcase these efforts, so that more people could better understand the role that foreign companies and global talent play in the development and growth of our economy and our workforce.”
That was it, as far as the public could tell. We understand you, you understand us – and let’s eat and drink to one another’s health and prosperity.
The SBF cannot be so out of touch with what’s happening in Singapore. It must know full well the real situation and not be drawn into or take part in a narrative which seems at odds with the genuine concerns of true-blue Singaporeans.
How can we be anti-foreigner?
Modern Singapore was founded by an English colonialist and later developed by all sorts of races from all over the world. Even if it wants to do, it can never look inward (or be nativist) – that’s just nonsense official Pofma-able disinformation.
What exactly is this anti-foreigner sentiment that is constantly being hurled at poor Singaporeans by its own government?
Is it anti-foreigner to question whether CECA or any other trade agreement has put the job security and expectations of Singaporeans at risk? Is it anti-foreigner to question whether double standards are being practised in ensuring laws are being followed? Is anti-foreigner to highlight the misbehaviour of some expatriates? Is it anti-foreigner for Singaporeans, especially non-Chinese ones, to want our bus captains to able to communicate with non-Chinese Singaporeans?
Is it anti-foreigner for NS-serving male Singaporeans (and their affected family members) to ask what exactly it is that they are serving to protect – the interests of PRs and others? Would they be wasting two years of their lives (and more, doing reservist training) so that they may end up being at a massive disadvantage in their careers and everything else in life? Is it anti-foreigner if they totally resent being told at the same time that they are too cautious and unwilling to “take risks” (such as seek careers outside Singapore), implying they are not competitive enough, compared to risk-taking and hungrier foreigners?
How has it come to past that the victims of an unfair system are being cast as the villains by an establishment – government and business elite – too used to taking its citizens for granted?
Surely, foreign investors cannot be so ill-informed and so out of sync with ground sentiment here that they actually believe Singaporeans are anti-foreigner.
I think the SBF should try and find out what the real situation is – and not rely on the skewed reporting and “opinion” pieces in the beholden and controlled mainstream media.
Unless, of course, employers and businesses are themselves also not interested in what true-blue Singaporeans are unhappy about anyway – and have their own priorities which have the interests of Singaporeans right at the bottom of the totem pole.
I hope not.
Let me recall what the late DPM S Rajaratnam once said when he delivered a speech to mark a birthday dinner for Lee Kuan Yew. He said, from his association with the latter, that he had been given the impression that the late PM would never want to be a lion leading a nation of lambs. He would rather be a lamb leading a nation of lions.
I think, judging by the results of GE2020 and the latest findings of an Institute of Policy Studies survey, true-blue Singaporeans are tired of being lambs.
Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.Sg, is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a local magazine publishing company