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Parliament to discuss new work pass, cannabis and spate of fires in HDB flats

Parliament to discuss new work pass, cannabis and spate of fires in HDB flats

A general view shows Parliament House in front of commercial buildings in the financial district in Singapore on Mar 1, 2022. (Photo: AFP/Roslan RAHMAN)

SINGAPORE: A newly announced work pass that targets top talent and high-earners is among some of the issues to be discussed at the next Parliament sitting on Monday (Sep 12). 

More than 10 parliamentary questions on the new Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass were filed and Manpower Minister Tan See Leng is expected to address the issue in a ministerial statement titled Strengthening Singapore's Position as a Global Hub for Talent. 

The pass will be open to talent from any sector who earns a monthly salary of at least S$30,000, or have “outstanding achievements” in the areas of science and technology, arts and culture, research and academia, or sports.

Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh asked how many such work passes the Government intends to issue and how this may affect job opportunities for Singaporeans. He also wants to know about the objective criteria set for applicants who do not meet the S$30,000 salary threshold. 

MP Yip Hon Weng (PAP-Yio Chu Kang) asked whether measures are in place to ensure Singaporeans are not disadvantaged, as holders of this work pass are allowed to work for multiple companies in Singapore at any one time. He also asked about preventing fraudulent applications.

Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Hazel Poa asked how many Singapore citizens and permanent residents would be in direct competition with pass holders for jobs. 

Questions were also filed on the use of cannabis, especially in Thailand where consumption of the drug is now legal. The issue was thrust into the spotlight recently following Joseph Schooling's confession that he had taken cannabis overseas.

MP Joan Pereira (PAP-Tanjong Pagar) raised the question of Singapore residents who travel to Thailand and accidentally buy items containing cannabis as they are not able to read ingredient lists written in Thai.  

In a related question, MP Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (PAP-Chua Chu Kang) asked what steps the Government has taken to raise awareness about the dangers and prevalence of common food products containing cannabis which are freely available overseas. 

Several MPs raised questions about doing more to support teachers, following a move to raise the salaries of Ministry of Education (MOE) teachers, allied educators and MOE kindergarten educators in October. 

MP Dennis Tan Lip Fong (WP-Hougang) asked whether the Government is considering improving working conditions for teachers in other ways, such as adding more staff, to address concerns over a high workload and long hours. 

Besides easing their workloads, MP Hany Soh (PAP-Marsiling-Yew Tee) asked about mental health support for teachers in order to attract and retain talents, and whether the Government will work to extend the salary increment and benefits to MOE teachers seconded to special education schools. 

Following a recent spate of home fires in Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats, MP Liang Eng Hwa (PAP-Bukit Panjang) asked whether HDB, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) or other agencies plan to step up inspections and issue decluttering notices to residents whose belongings could pose serious fire hazard risks. 

MP Rachel Ong (PAP-West Coast) asked whether the Government would consider placing fire extinguishers along the common corridor of specified floors for each HDB block and teaching residents how to use these. 

MP Foo Mee Har (PAP-West Coast) asked whether the fire safety hazards of HDB blocks and flats would be reviewed, and how to better mitigate the spread of a fire. She also wants to know whether the policy on the installation of fire-rated doors can be reviewed to allow such doors to be used more. 

Four Bills will be introduced: The Business Trusts (Amendment) Bill, the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, the Statutes (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill and the Accountants (Amendment) Bill. 

Among the four Bills up for second reading are the Registration of Criminals (Amendment) Bill and the Debt Collection Bill. 

Source: CNA/vc


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