SINGAPORE: Members of Parliament debated two motions on Singaporeans' job security and foreign manpower on Tuesday (Sep 14), including the role of free trade agreements such as the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).
The debate was carried live on CNA's YouTube channel.
At Monday's sitting, Leader of the House Indranee Rajah asked for the two motions to be taken together and debated concurrently as they cover common topics "albeit from different perspectives".
The motions are two separate motions and will be voted on separately, added Ms Indranee.
SECURING SINGAPOREANS' JOBS AND LIVELIHOODS
Finance Minister Lawrence Wong tabled a motion about securing Singaporeans' jobs and livelihoods.
The motion acknowledges Singaporeans' anxieties about jobs and competition in a "fast-changing economy" while affirming the country's need to stay open and connected to the world.
The motion also "deplores attempts to spread misinformation about free trade agreements like the CECA, stir up racism and xenophobia, and cause fear and anxiety amongst Singaporeans".
During the debate, Mr Wong appealed to Progress Singapore Party's (PSP) leaders to refrain from "anti-foreigner rhetoric" as it can deepen fault lines between locals and foreigners, and between Singaporeans of different races.
"The strong racist and xenophobic undertones in the PSP's campaign against CECA have not gone unnoticed," said the Finance Minister.
Mr Wong also set out the Government's economic and labour policies and repudiated PSP's claim that its foreign talent policy has caused anxiety among Singaporeans on jobs and livelihoods.
If Singapore imposed "many stringent conditions" on companies' ability to operate, the country would lose out on many good investments and "have fewer foreigners for sure", he said.
"But many Singaporeans will also be deprived of good jobs and career opportunities. It's like cutting off one's nose to spite one's face," said Mr Wong.
FOREIGN TALENT POLICY
NCMP Leong Mun Wai and NCMP Hazel Poa, both of PSP, tabled the other motion on Singapore's foreign talent policy.
It called on the Government to take action "to address the widespread anxiety among Singaporeans on jobs and livelihoods caused by the foreign talent policy and the provisions on Movement of Natural Persons in some free trade agreements like the CECA".
Mr Leong said PSP is against linking "public discourse" on the CECA and racism.
He argued that the Government "opened the floodgates" for foreigners who have taken up jobs Singaporeans want to do, and there has been a "large displacement of Singaporean PMETs" (professionals, managers, executives and technicians).
He also said the Government did not have a "full appreciation of the severity of the problem" and that upcoming anti-workplace discrimination laws may not be effective.
"The crux of the matter is that we should have been selective in taking in real foreign talent. The failure to do so was a policy failure and that’s why a rebalancing is required," said Mr Leong.
EARLIER MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS
The Government has previously addressed "false allegations" about the CECA – a bilateral agreement with India that came into force in 2005.
In July, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung – a former trade negotiator – and Manpower Minister Tan See Leng delivered ministerial statements in Parliament on the issue.
Mr Ong said then that there was "nothing" in the CECA to imply Singapore must let in professionals, managers and executives from India unconditionally, contrary to claims made by PSP.
Dr Tan said that none of Singapore's FTAs give "unfettered access" to the country's labour market, and that work pass criteria set by the Ministry of Manpower must be met.
In implementing Singapore's foreign worker policy, the Government's approach is based on whether it will help Singaporeans, Dr Tan said then.