SINGAPORE – Manpower Minister Tan See Leng on Tuesday (September 14th) slammed job offers from Singapore Progress Party (PSP) member Leong Mun Wai, saying they would hurt the workforce -local work and the attractiveness of Singapore for investors.
Speaking in Parliament, Dr Tan referred to the proposals from the Non-Constituent Members of Parliament (NCMP) highlighted during the session, including increasing eligible salaries for the Employment Pass (EP) and S- Passed to $ 10,000 and $ 4,500, respectively, in stages over the next three years, imposing a monthly levy of $ 1,200 on all PEs and setting a 10 percent single nationality cap in the workforce .
“It is becoming clear that Mr. Leong’s policies can only make the environment so hostile that very few foreign investors will consider Singapore setting up a business, perhaps no foreign investor will consider it,” said the Dr Tan on 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 jobs and livelihoods for Singaporeans, and on a separate motion by Leong and his fellow PSP NCMP Hazel Poa on the foreign talent policy.
Wong warned of restrictive economic policies that would damage Singapore’s reputation. He said: “If we are not careful, decades of hard work to build our business center will be wasted, our economy will contract and collapse in free fall.”
Dr Tan, who is also the second Minister of Trade and Industry, criticized the PSP for continuing to equivocate free trade agreements and workforce data, and said he did not did not have the relevant information.
He said the Ministry of Manpower regularly publishes workforce data with a high degree of detail. Among the official figures highlighted in the House, he added that over the past decade, when there had been an increase of 110,000 EP and S-Pass holders, professional local workers, management, direction and techniques (PMET) increased by 300,000.
The number of PMET vacancies in all sectors has also trended upward since 2010 and has hovered around 30,000 over the past five years, Dr Tan said.
Many companies and chambers of commerce said they were struggling to find enough local workers with the right skills, hampering their expansion plans. As a result, some companies are abandoning Singapore and instead turning to hiring workers in their home countries, according to Dr Tan.
But Dr Tan acknowledged that there is a minority of local PMETs who have lost their jobs and that the government has focused on helping them re-enter the workforce.
The PSP’s attacks on free trade agreements and foreigners are having a negative effect on the business climate at home and abroad, Dr Tan said.
“I am concerned that the PSP is calling for policies that are not only short-sighted but protectionist and that this will seriously harm Singaporeans.”
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