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Government should not point fingers at imaginary bogeyman after failing to put interests of S’porean PMETs first

In May this year, the chief of Singapore’s central bank said that as a global tech-enabled financial hub, Singapore will continue to depend on foreigners to fill technology roles in the finance sector over the next few years.

In laying bare the tech skill shortage in Singapore, he pointed out that since 2014, the technology workforce in the finance sector has risen 30 per cent to an estimated 25,000, but that Singapore citizens make just 35 per cent of this workforce.

He said that the overall rise in the tech headcount has created 2,200 more tech jobs for Singaporeans, but that the percentage of Singaporeans in that sector has remained stable.

Not enough Singaporeans to PME jobs? Why?
The central bank chief did not mince his words in pointing out how dire the situation was. He said that in the area of software engineering, less than 20 per cent of the vacancies from net jobs growth went to Singaporeans.

“There are not enough Singaporeans applying for these jobs in the first place, let alone qualifying for them,” said Ravi Menon, CEO of Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

This problem is not going away, Menon warned. MAS estimates that 2,500 to 3,500 tech jobs will be created in the financial sector each year, over the medium term, but he claimed Singapore’s pipeline of technology graduates is not enough to meet this demand.

Singapore a FinTech Hub, 20 years in the making
Let’s be clear: the rise of Singapore as a global tech-enabled financial centre did not happen by chance. The Government set out to develop Singapore in this area over 20 years ago.

In May 2001, in addressing the ACI World Congress, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (who was then the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore and Chairman of MAS) said that he will “develop Singapore into a leading electronic financial services hub” (or in today’s language, FinTech Hub).

In these 20 years, while responding to market changes promptly, and complementing prompt reactive regulations with a forward-looking perspective, seeding innovation and attracting players in the FinTech sector, there appears to be one big element the Lee Government seems to have neglected – the growth of a competent and capable workforce to adequately fill the job vacancies that will arise from this sector.

Why enough students are not interested in fields of Engineering Sciences and IT?
Let’s look at the Census of Population 2020. In the last 10 years, graduates from the fields of Engineering Sciences and Information Technology have been falling.

If the Government knew 20 years ago that the FinTech industry is going to be a growth sector 20 years ago, why did it not encourage more undergraduates to enroll in such fields?

I will argue that with his reactionary policies and in his rush to ride the globalisation wave in making Singapore a FinTech hub, our Prime Minister may have taken the shortcut of importing large numbers of foreign manpower in place of building the capability of its own. (Let’s not forget that the Lee Government has apologised in the past for issues involving its immigration and manpower policies.)

And this has a knock-on effect which will be very difficult to fix in the near-to-mid-term.

There are several reasons why an undergraduate may not want to take up studies in these fields:

  1. They may feel that the fields are already dominated by foreign nationals and that they may not get a fair shake in that sector. We have heard accounts of how human resource managers from IT firms prefer to hire their own countrymen to qualified Singaporeans;
  2. The foreign tech talents do not transfer knowledge and skills to the locals, resulting in the locals remaining as bottom feeders in the company; and
  3. Unfair competition for jobs in these sectors from foreign tech talents has depressed wages so much in these fields making it unattractive to the locals.

India’s enormous tech talent
A recent report by Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology evaluating India’s AI capabilities emphasised that the country produces almost seven times as many bachelor’s level engineering graduates as the United States, and almost twice as many master’s level engineering graduates.

This coupled with the facts that India’s huge population produces more graduates than its economy can absorb and that the Indian government sees greater benefits from skilled migration through remittances, investments, and knowledge-sharing, means India’s tech talent diaspora is found in many first world economies that would welcome them.

And with the Singapore Government positioning our city-state as an open economy with an ecosystem which is extremely favourable to foreign talent, these Indian tech-talents were welcomed with open arms.

This could be a shortcut the Lee Government took in achieving its FinTech hub status at the expense of building its own local talents.

Sentiment against immigrant Indians, who’s responsible?
It is against this backdrop that the undercurrent of sentiment against immigrant Indians has risen and how the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) came to be seen as giving Indian PMETs a free hand to come here to work.

In short, we are in this woeful state of distrust between Singaporeans and foreigners because the Lee Government, once again, seems to have put the economy ahead of its people.

After failing to put the interests of the Singaporean PMETs for so long, for over 20 years, it is grossly unfair of the PAP Government to now point the finger at other parties for fueling unhappiness against immigrant Indians.

How can we then correct this sad state of affairs and mistrust?
The management of our economic system as one that depends on the continual growth of production and consumption is no longer fit for the ever hotter, more crowded and more connected world that we already live in.

A wellbeing economy abandons the idea of eternal growth and embraces people, their wellbeing and the reliance of that wellbeing on the health of nature.

Therefore, we have to start first by relooking and reviewing all Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) because FTAs often dismantle protective clauses which safeguard small and medium enterprises, as well as local workers and unfairly benefit large multi-national corporations, government linked companies and transmigrant elite workforce.

How can we remedy the state of unhappiness and distrust?
We have to start from the place of fairness, and ensure that finance is in service of our city-state and not the other way around.

While ensuring that we remain a global city, privilege of citizenship must be accentuated in Singapore. When we invite highly skilled and talented individuals to come here both to work, live and build their families here, we must enact legislation to ensure that there is transfer of knowledge to the local workforce.

As Singapore is gearing up to be a Smart City, the need for tech talent will be indispensable for us. As such, the Government has a role to play to encourage more undergraduates to take up studies in fields like Engineering Sciences and Information Technology.

They also have to ensure that the ecosystem for their employment is attractive after they graduate.

A plea to the Lee Government to be proactive and not reactive
It is my hope that the Lee Government will take such proactive steps to ameliorate the undercurrent of sentiment against immigrant Indians, instead of pointing fingers at imaginary bogeyman to hide their shortcomings and shortsightedness.

 

Ravi Philemon

* Article first appeared on author’s Facebook page.

 

 

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READER COMMENTS BELOW

12 Responses to “Government should not point fingers at imaginary bogeyman after failing to put interests of S’porean PMETs first”

  • MarBowling:

    Great comments by RP.

    Unless the PeeM Indirectly and the Most Powderful Person of SinKapore DIRECTLY, ONE FINE DAY have decided to WITHDRAW shim Rude Extended Middle Finger which has been POINTING at all Sinkaporean, especially our LOCAL PMETs, for all their SHORTCOMINGS, ALL CAN WAIT LOONG LOONG, TAN CUCKOO for ANY CHANGE OR IMPROVEMENT in our CURRENT LOCAL DIRE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION, PERIOD!

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  • 123:

    Better to collect levy!understand.

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  • xoxo:

    Read his lips!
    Lawrence One echoes what his colleague$ have been saying.
    Sg needs more FTs as we are a SMALL ECONOMY and must not *close up* or FOREIGN INVESTORS N *FOREIGN TALENTS*(?) would be frighten away and SG CANNOT COMPETE with other countries anymore?

    Firstly,sgs always welcome REAL FOREIGN TALENTS BUT sgs do not anyhow embrace FAKE FTs like the numerous FTs armed with fake credentials ,not a few employed by GOVT AGENCIES SUCH AS A*STAR?

    EVEN OUR LAWS PUNISH FAKING OF CREDENTIALS,ya?

    Secondly,DOES FOREIGN TALENTS COME MOSTLY FROM INDIA as we see most PME JOBS HERE FILLED BY SAME?
    OR,IS IT DURESS FROM CECA?

    I have had my fair share of working with ANG MOHS,INDIANS FROM IIT,PINOYS who graduated from Top American unis,etc.

    And,to tell you honestly,they were not the FOREIGN TALENTS the PAPple keep painting about?!
    I made these FTs understudy my t
    Sg-trainees who were fresh local graduates.

    It is the govt’s responsibility that the FTs they import here are indeed REAL TALENTS AND NOT OTHERWISE.

    So far,THERE IS NO SIGN OF THIS.
    I strongly believe REAL FTs will CONTRIBUTE to our NATIONAL PRODUCTIVITY AND OUR WELL-BEING.
    THAT WAS THE CASE IN THE 60s,70s till early 80s.
    We learnt from those talented ang mohs,japanese and europeans.
    They transferred KNOW-HOW to SG N to sgs who worked FOR THEM.

    THESE DAYS,the GOVT KEEPS DUMPING LOW-LEVEL FTs here to TAKE OUR JOBS AWAY FROM us????

    And,if you plot NATIONAL PRODUCTIVITY ON THE Y-AXIS AGAINST NUMBER OF FTs on the X-AXIS,you will easily grasp what i am saying.

    In the PAST,OUR 1G leaders only import REAL FTs for the TOPMOST POSITIONS.

    THESE DAYS,LEE AH LONG CALLS ANY TOM,DICK N HARRY ALIEN A TALENT as long as they are Indian,er,FOREIGN?

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  • Temusik Patriot:

    There will ALWAYS be a bogeyman in the sick mind of Lie Con You and his sick Leegacy

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  • xoxo:

    CECA with India critical for SG’s survival,so boasted Ong You Kunt.

    OyKunt was conjuring all sorts of daft FTAs back at MTI where he was Director of Trade or something?
    So,you know who screws you up,young PMEs!

    OyKunt is Health Minister talking about FTAs?
    Why not Gan???

    Strange to see OyKunt dipping his pri*k everywhere.

    Of all Bird-talking 4G,he claims the title of KONG LAN CHIAO man.

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  • referring to locals:

    //FOREIGN INVESTORS N *FOREIGN TALENTS*(?) would be frighten away and SG CANNOT COMPETE with other countries anymore?//

    aiyoh. chat-ba-lang people can either go to the developed countries (see whether they will welcome chat-ba-lang people in such big scale with messing up their social compact lar ??) OR go back to their own chat-ba-lang countries and help their home countries compete lar ????

    foreign investors will still go to a stable country with enough hardworking & educated people (here referring to locals lar ???) – businessmen are smart & will always weight their cost / benefits proposition shrewdly lar even after knowing that sinkie land is one of the high cost countries in the surrounding region ????

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  • come from our immediate north:

    //Secondly,DOES FOREIGN TALENTS COME MOSTLY FROM INDIA as we see most PME JOBS HERE FILLED BY SAME?
    OR,IS IT DURESS FROM CECA?//

    aiyoh. all most FTs (in terms of number ???) come from our immediate north lar ? however they blend nicely (shared history ??) and keep a low profile lar ?? sinkie land daft sinkies kena left, right, top, down from all sides lar ???

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  • Policy:

    Policy Policy Policy.
    Need to ensure we train our people for good jobs.
    Need to ensure our PMETs are not disadvantage …earned a decent salary.

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  • Attract and Keep the Talents:

    If these foreigners are truly talents (be they from India, China or elsewhere), we should have policies to keep them and make them feel at home. Not just making use of their talents. Could we attract talents like the USA and Australia is doing? These foreign talents using Singapore as stepping stone to migrate to these western countries. If Singapore is being used as a stepping stone, then we are not making use of these talents. Instead, these foreign talents are making use of Singapore, at the expense of Singaporeans.

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  • Tremendous:

    Nowadays even the local person one hour part time in the village also officially considered as employed.
    Village good enough to support one hour working villagers. Only idiots want this.

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  • oxygen:

    @ Attract and Keep the Talents

    RIGHT ON, mate. CECA, IMHO I believe is the consolation “sugar” feeding on our diabetes mellitus of a sick economic model. PAPpynomics claims in Parly that CECA is good for LEE-jiapore. My a*se!

    Attract and Keep the Talents: If these foreigners are truly talents (be they from India, China or elsewhere), we should have policies to keep them and make them feel at home. Not just making use of their talents. Could we attract talents like the USA and Australia is doing? These foreign talents using Singapore as stepping stone to migrate to these western countries. If Singapore is being used as a stepping stone, then we are not making use of these talents. Instead, these foreign talents are making use of Singapore, at the expense of Singaporeans.

    Netizens will agree with me that this PAPpynomics claims DOES NOT STACK UP TO REALITY. And what is the reality? Pay cut for PMET and retrenchments and increasing avalanche fled to Gig economy of taxi driving and food delivery.

    On the non-PMET sector, WTF is any good of building bubble-fueled condos & BTOs, Changi Jewel, more underground expressways, MRTs, Changi Airport T5 (and so on) when the return on capital is so meagre return of 2%-3% of annual GDP growth in calm good times. In pandemic, this kind of urbanisation and infrastructural dependent economy depending on hundreds of thousands of cheap foreign labor in support nearly collapsed completely.

    The sick economic model is being sugared from sudden death collapse until it (pandemic-strewn) collapse with no real export-led domestic productive capacity.

    AND PAPpypolitics/PAPpynomics still won’t admit its stupid mistake and they can’t admit their stupidity to this extent to of its hocus pocus economics modeling – to change its economic driver from asset bubbling prices eating up our CPF savings in dying property “investment” (read enslavement) to producing goods and services for export markets from our strategic positions.

    If CECA India is such wonderful investment sweet spot, How the fiack, Numbai stock exchange is not a bustling listing board and magnet for foreigner investors? WTF, India is not such hotbed for investment destination for global businesses that our CECA deals opens the door “exclusive” to outgoing Sinkie investments?

    CECA India is worst than China. Many foreign mining investments in India were raped before maturity to profit outcome – and when India opens its offshore space for bidding of exploration rights,why no foreign oil companies submitted a bid?

    In China, corruption opens door to real fruition of outcome sought. In India, it is one corruption door opens to the next corruption door….and endless of doors waiting for permitting.

    My investment experience there got burnt till zero.

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  • Dear sheeple Oxygen.....:

    India is 9th most corrupted crony-capitalist economy while Emperor’s Sinchiapor is ranked 4th in the world on that crony index. The top $$$ dogs are salivating and wagging tails together in CECA realm it would seem ….. btw, sheeples’ fates over here or over there also sama-sama serving the machinery for peanuts while the Political Lords feast on cashew nuts and much more… hahahaha, lucky thing at least true-blue Singkies got no perverted caste system oi.

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