A brewing online storm on ensuring more good jobs go to true-blue Singaporeans is quietly forcing Singaporeans and the government to declare their true feelings, if not their ultimate vision of what the country should be. It looks like both have quite different versions. In the end, what really matters may be what Singaporeans want – and not whatever policies that the government believe they have the right to ram down the throats of suffering true-blues.
At one level, take the huge ongoing ground surge of dislike or distrust for CECA (India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement). Quite a number of Singaporeans believe it has harmed the job security of PMETS. Never mind what the government has been saying about the tight controls on the hiring practices of companies covered by CECA or on the self-revealed “strict watch” to ensure fair practices.
The Ministry of Manpower said it has placed 47 employers on the Fair Consideration Framework watch list for potentially discriminatory hiring practices. Among the 47 firms, 30 were in the financial services and professional services sectors.
Firms on the watch list will have their Employment Pass applications closely scrutinised, and those who are recalcitrant or uncooperative will have their work pass privileges cut back, The Straits Times reported.
On Aug 12, the Monetary Authority of Singapore also urged financial institutions to groom local leaders and grow their Singaporean talent pool. Soothing words indeed.
MAS said that financial institutions should continue to identify Singaporeans with high potential for leadership roles and expand the supply of talented locals.
And yet at the same time, Temasek, perhaps stung by social media reports and comments on the “large number” of Indians hired by the investment company, has gone on the offensive against what it called a “divisive, racist campaign” aimed at stirring up hatred and intolerance. The firm said it “has its roots in Singapore, where there is no place for xenophobia, racism, or hate speech”.
Employees of Standard Chartered and DBS Bank were also targeted in some of the social media posts.
Well, obviously, human beings being human beings, there will be a certain degree of bigotry in the resentment expressed against the large number of same country foreigners in companies. But it is manageable, mainly because most Singaporeans see multi-racialism as part of their DNA. This will be even more embedded as the older monolingual non-English speaking more conservative older generation vanishes from the scene. Not a major or long-term problem at all.
No need for Temasek to be so overly sensitive. The more inappropriately high-horse and holier-than-thou attitude it adopts, the greater the anger it will get from true-blues who are already irritated at being told that they have no right to find out what the exact amount of their combined reserves is. And they may also be unhappy that this company charged with handling part of their national reserves has the audacity to lecture them on intolerance and the inability to see the big picture.
The more important issues are: who should the government be protecting the most? What precisely is the Singapore core?
This should be blindingly clear. It is the job of the people put into power to protect the lives and livelihoods of people who have put them in power. Singapore belongs to Singaporeans – not to the temporary occupants of Istana or Parliament nor to anyone else who are here who are NOT citizens, whether permanent residents or foreigners.
The only true Singapore core is true-blue born and bred Singaporeans. No others. They have every right to have their interests placed at the top of every national policy, especially those affecting their jobs and their future.
It is a massive insult to lump Singaporeans together with PRs as “locals” and have that insensitively packaged as the Singapore core. The government may wish to sell that as “taking care of the Singapore core”. Singaporeans will not buy that absurd koyo.
PRs do not have to serve National Service. They also have countries to go back to. True-blues do not, their roots are here.
And please do not have Singaporeans cynically believe the “NS” in the just named NS Square in Marina Bay stands for “New Singaporeans” and not National Service.
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.