Just because the economists at the NTU have backed down from their claim that 3 out of 4 jobs have gone to foreigners in the last 5 years, it does not mean that the dispute has been resolved.
The Singapore Democrats do not have reason to doubt the claim of the researchers as they have no vested interest in the matter. If the Government disputes the findings then instead of intimidating the dons into retracting their statements, it should commission an independent inquiry.
This is not the first time that the Government has used such bullying tactics against academics. Dr Bilveer Singh, an academician at NUS, was once also chastised for stating that many Singaporeans were living from hand to mouth. He subsequently retracted his statement and apologized to the Government. This is no way to conduct public discussions and debate.
Such an inquiry would allow both sides to show the Singaporean public how they arrived at their conclusions. It is not sufficient for the Ministry of Manpower to simply state that 9 out of 10 jobs go to Singaporeans and residents of Singapore, and declare that the academics were wrong and itself correct. It has to substantiate its claim and show Singaporeans how they arrived at its statistics. This is not a complicated procedure and an inquiry can quickly get to the root of the dispute. More importantly it will give the NTU economists the opportunity to show to the public how they arrived at their figures.
Given the seriousness of the matter where jobs and livelihoods of Singaporeans are concerned, the truth must be ascertained through an open and transparent inquiry. The disparity between the two claims are too glaring to be ignored. Only one party can be right.
The important question is who is misleading Singaporeans.
Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party
2 August 2003