Saturday, September 09, 2006

Reflections on the influx of Foreign Talents

The controversy over foreign talents (FTs) in Singapore continues unabated even weeks after the National Day Rally.

PM Lee spoke at length on the merits of foreign talents in Singapore and how Singaporeans should help to assimilate the foreigners into our home land and make them feel welcome. Question is: should Singaporeans welcome FTs with open arms as what the government has called us to do?

Firstly, there is nothing wrong with the influx of FTs provided they add value to the local industries. Also, for jobs shunned by Singaporeans (cleaners, maids, construction workers), there is a dire need of these foreigners to supply the workforce. In this global economy, we cannot afford to adopt a closed-door or protectionist policy especially when we do not have natural resources nor a large domestic base to be self-sufficient.

Sad but true, we depend on foreign investments to sustain our economy and we have to bend over backwards at times to the needs of these investors who can shift their operations elsewhere.
So, painful as it may be, FTs are here to stay and we have to accept it.

However, the government should be conscious of the fact that not all FTs are good for the economic or social well-being of Singapore. Singaporeans should not be expected to follow the same salary scale as FTs who can do the same job as us (also put in longer hours) but for only half the pay.

We have a life-long commitment to our home-land given that our roots are here but for the foreign workers, they are under no obligation to serve or sacrifice for Singapore when the going gets tough. When times are bad, they will move on while Singaporeans weather the storm and "bite the bullets" to steer the economy out of the doldrums.

The government laments about the population decline and hope that we can reproduce more to replace ourselves. Hello, this is not a factory production line where you can place orders and expect deliveries in a period of time.

There is the ever rising cost of living to contend with but the rate of increase for our salaries are more or less stagnant these days with the influx of FTs. It is difficult to sustain oneself as it is, not to mention the duties of taking care of parents and our children.

The financial responsibilites that come with the setting up of a family and having sufficient retirement funds are major concerns for Singaporeans while most of the FTs are free of such worries as their families are not here. They can keep a very low cost of living and remit much of their money back home.

The current job insecurities is also worrrying as more and more industries prefer contract workers rather than perm staff and that is not conducive to starting a family.

Singaporeans are expected to lay their lives down for the nation but the government does not feel obliged to look after our interests when it comes to employment porspects or medical benefits. Ever since WWII, when Singapore fell to the Japanese and our colonial masters deserted us, the government has resolved that the task of defending Singapore be left to Singaporeans as only we can be the masters of our own destiny.

While we do not close the door on foreign talents, the government should not take us heartlanders for granted and then count on us to defend the country against external threats. If the people feels that there is nothing much to fight for here, Singapore will be in a very vulnerable situation.

The social effects of attracting FTs to top-up the shortfall of talents and compensate for our declining birth-rate will be seen in a few years time. As far as i am concerned, instead of home, Singapore will only be a transit point for many people and the future of the third or fourth generation of Singaporeans is going to be very uncertain (despite the rosy picture the govt has painted), as they are going to face much more competition than us now and while the cost of living continues to go up and UP...


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