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The Singapore economy is slowing down. Manufacturing output contracted for seven straight months since mid-2011. This prompted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to issue this warning: “We are now in a period where incomes will be under pressure at the low-end. I think even in the middle, white-collar workers will also be coming under pressure.”
At the same time, however, Mr Lee wants to increase the number of foreign workers in this country. He said that “the more you tighten the inflow, the slower growth is going to be and that’s something Singaporeans will have to understand.”
Does this sound right?
Already a majority of Singaporeans are concerned about their future job prospects. Recent job fairs at the Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore registered a 30 percent decline in the number of jobs available.
And the Government wants to bring in more foreign workers?
Wouldn’t it be better to use the slowdown as an opportunity to encourage employers to restructure their businesses and focus on increasing productivity rather than continuing to rely on cheap foreign labour? After all, Minister for Manpower Gan Kim Yong pointed out that enterprises “should rely on how to reduce reliance on foreign workers, (and) focus on productivity.”
So why is the PM bringing in more foreign workers at a time when the economy is unstable? Because, as he says, the more you reduce the number of foreigners, the slower the GDP growth is going to be.
He doesn’t explain how in a contracting economy more foreign workers are needed. All he says is that Singaporeans “will have to understand.” Just like how Mr Lee Kuan Yew tells us that “we need to accept immigrants” no matter how absurd the Government’s policy is.
This is the nub of the problem: The PAP, for all its talk about wanting to change its ways, is still very much in its old mode of we-say-you-do style of governance.
On the eonomic front, this growth-at-all-cost policy is emblematic of the PAP’s approach. It really doesn’t matter whether Singaporeans find themselves unemployed or if their incomes are slashed as long as the GDP keeps on increasing to benefit the rich at the expense of ordinary, working people.
Such an arrangement cannot last.