Troubling questions about economy remain unanswered

March 5, 2004
Singapore Democrats

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Law Sin Ling

Over the backdrop of the feel-good speech of Acting Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen on further relaxing foreign worker employment policy (especially for the skilled workers) to meet local emerging demands on 24 Feb Tuesday 2004, I would like to raise a few inter-related pertinent questions.

How did Singapore arrive at a situation where despite the thousands of unemployed in the streets, and the thousands of new graduates entering and struggling to secure employment in the job market each year, there remains a shortage of workers to supply (targeted) growing industries?

How far has Singapore advanced since the day where MNCs were installed to steer our industrial progress and growth? Has Singapore, under the leadership of the same government since those days, been able to successfully pioneer any significant industrial initiatives on a global scale which would allow Singapore to reduce its dependency on the MNCs as
well as enhance its survivability?

Has the government, often quick to sing the praises of their prescient and competent labour policies, actually failed to stay abreast, or even ahead, of global industrial trend? Are the government’s labour policies too ad-hoc and reactive?

As a result, is the government responsible for failing to equip our workers and students with the necessary skills and knowledge to enable them to face the future challenges? Has the government failed to even provide informed choices for its citizens with regard to global trend?

With an already rather liberal foreign worker policy, coupled with a labour and wage policies highly favourable to the employers, how concretely can the government guarantee that their dogmatic labour policies will finally translate to a future where Singaporeans, currently with or without jobs, can benefit from the economy they had so tirelessly contributed? Would Singaporeans see the day when their take home pay can justify their lives in our “first-world economy”?

Will the economy finally serve Singaporeans, or are we doomed to be
perpetually enslaved by the economy?