SINGAPORE: Globalisation is important for Singapore to prosper, but it is also an abstract notion that needs to be explained in terms individual Singaporeans can relate to, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (Jan 23).
It is not hard to make the argument for the benefits of globalisation, but it is also important for Singaporeans to feel that they are taken care of, said Mr Lee in a wrap up interview of his participation at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
"We have to bring this down in terms which individual Singaporeans can relate to, in terms of their lived experience – at work, in the community spaces, in the crowd which they meet, in that they feel that they are taken care of and in Singapore, this is a Singapore for Singaporeans," said Mr Lee.
"We are open, but this is our home."
This is not an easy balance to make, considering that the globalised companies Singapore wants to attract are staffed by talent from many parts of the world, said Mr Lee.
"Many companies which are breaking new ground, which are at the leading edge, are like that, and we want them," said Mr Lee.
"But when they come to Singapore, and they employ 40 per cent of Singaporeans, or even 60 per cent of Singaporeans, and you will see that many of your colleagues are not Singaporean. Your boss may not be Singaporean, certainly, your owner may have been a Chinese or Vietnamese or Thai or Indonesian start-up, then you will say, 'why is it here?'," said the prime minister.
"Yet, it is here because that is the way our economy can prosper and that is where we can generate jobs for the 40 per cent of Singaporeans who are working there," he added.
This is not a simple explanation to make, but it is also a reality that has to be explained in a way that people can understand and feel assured that if they work in such a company, they will be fairly treated, said Mr Lee.
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During the interview, he also noted that some opposition parties had sought to widen and "exploit" the divide between citizen and Permanent Resident (PR) workers in Singapore, and that this should not be allowed to happen.
"We can see from what some of the opposition parties are doing – SDP (Singapore Democratic Party), for example, claiming that our PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) are getting unemployed, or Workers’ Party pressing on about how many local employees are citizens versus PRs," he said.
"They think they see a divide there, and they want to make it wider and exploit it," said the prime minister. "It is our job to make sure that we do not allow such a divide. Even if that is a weak point, it does not get exploited."