Wednesday 20 November 2019
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Govt takes ‘very serious view’ of falsehoods on Ceca that try to divide Singapore: Chan Chun Sing

SINGAPORE — The Government takes a “very serious view” of online falsehoods being circulated on Singapore’s free trade agreements (FTAs), in particular its FTA with India, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Saturday (Nov 9). “These postings and messages are circulated to stoke the fears of Singaporeans in times of economic uncertainties. And some go even further to play the racial card to divide our society,” he told reporters at a doorstop interview at The Treasury. “The government takes a very serious view of these attempts to rattle Singaporeans and divide our society.” He did not elaborate on the source of these postings and messages nor say what action, if any, the Government would take against them. He did note however that Singapore’s network of FTAs has created better jobs for Singaporeans. Since 2005, the year Singapore signed the Comprehensive Economic Cooporation Agreement (Ceca) with India, the number of PMET (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians) jobs for Singaporeans has grown by 400,000, he said. Ceca had come under the spotlight in recent weeks following an incident where JP Morgan employee Ramesh Erramilli was filmed abusing a security guard at his condominium. Married to a Singapore-born citizen, he had become a Singapore citizen under the Family Ties scheme. Following the incident, some netizens and websites claimed that Ceca provides Indian nationals with special immigration privileges, opening the floodgates for them to migrate to Singapore and compete with Singaporeans for jobs. Mr Chan said that CECA does not give Indian nationals privileged or unconditional access to Singapore, and that “none of our FTAs do”. “Indian professionals, like any other professionals from other countries, have to meet MOM’s (Ministry of Manpower’s) existing qualifying criteria to work in Singapore,” he said, adding that anyone applying for Singapore citizenship must likewise satisfy existing criteria. “All our FTAs, including Ceca, place no obligations on Singapore with regard to immigration matters.” On Wednesday, the Government’s fact-checking site Factually had put up a Facebook post on Ceca, stating that Indian nationals, like all foreign nationals, must meet “work-pass criteria” to work here. “Their employers are subject to the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) that punishes employers discriminating against Singaporeans,” it added. Launched in August 2014, the FCF is part of the Government’s overall effort to strengthen the Singaporean core in the workforce and sets out expectations for companies to consider Singaporeans fairly for job openings. Mr Chan noted that there will always be some employers and employees that try to “circumvent our system” but added that “they are the minority”. Less than 1 per cent of those who employ foreigners who are Employment Pass holders are on MOM’s FCF watchlist, he added. Being placed on the watch list means that the MOM will scrutinise these firms’ Employment Pass applications more closely. Mr Chan said the government will “weed them out systematically” to protect Singaporean companies and workers. “Companies know the deal, those who violate our rules will be taken to task.” INCREASE IN SINGAPOREAN PMET JOBS Mr Chan said Singapore’s network of FTAs, including Ceca, has attracted more global multinational corporations to Singapore and created more opportunities for businesses and better jobs for Singaporeans. “Since 2005, PMET jobs for Singaporeans has grown from 825,000 to 1.25 million now,” he added. This is more than half of all Singaporean jobs, Mr Chan noted. There are 2.2 million Singaporeans in the workforce, according to MOM. Mr Chan added that the unemployment rate of Singaporeans has been one of the lowest globally, both before and after the signing of Ceca. The FTA has also allowed homegrown companies such as BreadTalk and Teh Yih Jia to expand into the Indian market. Bilateral trade between the two countries has grown from S$16.7 billion to over S$26.4 billion, with Singapore now one of India’s largest foreign investors, he said. WEATHERING ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTIES Amidst the current uncertain economic climate, Mr Chan said that the Government “understands and shares Singaporeans’ concerns with competition and job prospects.” “But the way to help Singaporeans is not to mislead them and create fear and anger.” Instead, Singapore must expand its markets and build up capabilities to compete on innovation, quality and connectivity rather than price and size. He added that the Government is committed to equip Singapore’s students and workers with the right skills. “Times are uncertain, it is important for us to stay cohesive. Help one another, but never allow others to stoke the fears and racial biases of our people,” he added. “Never to do this for selfish, personal or political reasons. And we, Singaporeans, are definitely better than this.”

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