SINGAPORE — Manpower Minister Tan See Leng on Tuesday (14 September) slammed the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) member Leong Mun Wai’s job proposals, saying that they would hurt the local workforce and Singapore’s attractiveness to investors.
Speaking in Parliament, Dr Tan was referring to the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament’s (NCMP) proposals highlighted during the session, including increasing the qualifying salaries for Employment Pass (EP) and S-Pass to $10,000 and $4,500, respectively, in stages over the next three years, imposing a monthly levy of $1,200 on all EPs, and setting a 10 per cent single nationality cap in the workforce.
“It becomes clear that Mr Leong's policy can only make the environment so hostile that very few foreign investors will consider Singapore to build any business, maybe no foreign investor will consider,” said Dr Tan about Leong’s nationality cap proposal.
Dr Tan and Leong were speaking during the debate on the motion tabled by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on securing Singaporeans’ jobs and livelihood, and a separate motion by Leong and fellow PSP NCMP Hazel Poa on foreign talent policy.
Wong warned against restrictive economic policies that would harm Singapore’s standing. He said, "If we are not careful, decades of hard work to build up our business hub will be wasted, our economy will contract and go down in a tailspin.”
Dr Tan, who is also Second Minister for Trade and Industry, criticised the PSP for continuing to equivocate about free trade agreements and workforce data, and claim that it does not have the relevant information.
He said that the Ministry of Manpower has been publishing workforce data regularly with a great degree of details. Among the official figures highlighted in the House, he added that over the past decade, while there was an increase of 110,000 EP and S-Pass holders, local professional, managerial, executive, and technical workers (PMETs) increased by 300,000.
The number of PMET job vacancies across sectors has also been on an upward trend since 2010 and hovering around 30,000 over the past five years, Dr Tan said.
Many businesses and trade chambers have said that they are experiencing difficulties in finding enough local workers with the right skills, and this has hampered their expansion plans. Consequently, some business are giving up on Singapore and turning to hiring workers in their home country instead, according to Dr Tan.
But Dr Tan acknowledged that there is a minority of local PMETs who have lost jobs and the government has been focused on helping them to re-enter the workforce.
The PSP’s attacks on free trade agreements and foreigners have an adverse effect on business sentiment here and overseas, Dr Tan said.
“I worry that the PSP is calling for policies that are not only short-sighted but protectionist and this will do grave harm to Singaporeans.”
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