Foreign Talent, Local Torment

July 10, 2001
Singapore Democrats

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There are many questions left unanswered about the PAP’s foreign talent policy. One is: Does it benefit the people or just the PAP?

In a regional survey conducted by Mastercard, almost 20 percent of Singaporeans, mainly young professionals, indicated that they would like to leave Singapore and live somewhere else. Of these, an overwhelming majority of 85 percent cited the high cost of living in the republic as the main reason for them wanting to emigrate, while almost 80 percent also said the stressful lifestyle here was a major factor. Another survey revealed that 43 percent of Singaporeans are willing to trade in their citizenship if they found a higher paying job in another country. A significant number of Singaporeans–talented Singaporeans–have actually uprooted and left this country. Many more are continuing to do the same.

Buying-in foreigners, selling-out locals

The Government’s answer to this problem of brain drain is to import foreign talent. It tells the people that there are not enough Singaporeans with the necessary skills and expertise to fill high-caliber positions. Of course, the PAP makes no mention of the fact that thousands of Singaporeans are leaving the country each year precisely because of its policies and authoritarian ways, which many people find intolerable. An oppressive political climate stifles critical and independent thinking. This in turn drives many creative and intelligent Singaporeans away, or if they have lived and studied overseas, refuse to return.

It is therefore manifestly untrue to say that Singapore does not have enough home-grown talent. But instead of mending its ways, the PAP simply imposes the foreign talent policy on locals at the expense of the people.

For example, the PAP decided a few years ago to curtail the number of Singapore law graduates by disallowing distance learning degrees, among other measures.

This move was not lost on political observers. Lawyers have traditionally formed the main bulk of the opposition. By reducing the number of law graduates, the number of Singaporeans who are able and willing to join the opposition parties is, of course, lessened.

To counter this reduction in the number of local legal professionals, the PAP announced that the legal profession would open its doors to foreign lawyers. This is what Singaporeans are outraged about-the PAP will readily sacrifice the people’s well-being for its own hold on power.

There are none so blind

Most Singaporeans have no problems welcoming professionals and workers from other countries to live and work here. But when the PAP, for its own political benefit, dictates that Singaporeans should make sacrifices so that the ruling party can continue its autocratic ways, it is understandableeven proper-that the locals should feel aggrieved.

The answer to the problem of talent shortage is for the PAP to first acknowledge the fact that it has to democratize and let the people genuinely participate the political process. This way, the people will not feel so alienated and disillusioned with the system, and the best and brightest will choose to stay in Singapore or return if they are overseas.

But the democratization of Singapore will also mean that the PAP will lose its arm-lock on politics in Singapore. The problem is that it doesn’t look like the PAP is going to reform itself anytime soon.

Singaporeans need to be aware of the dangerous situation they are in. As long as the people don’t exercise their political rights and let the PAP know who is the boss, the ruling party will continue to force Singaporeans to make greater and greater sacrifices in order that the party can lead continue to remain in power.