Urgent Need to Re-Balance Foreign Talent Policy and Promote Home-Grown Talents

In my maiden speech in parliament, I stated that PSP supported an open economy and society. Truth be told, given our limited size, it is the default choice. Any difference in opinion should be about how we can achieve that. One difference is that PSP believes that Compassion should be added to the policy equation.

Today, we see an urgent need to rebalance the current foreign talent policy championed by the Government. This is because the Government’s approach did not give sufficient consideration to our citizens. We are a small city state. Any form of discrimination will be felt when the composition of foreigners increases beyond a certain threshold, often at the expense of our citizenry. At the same time there must be a process in place to ensure localization and skills transfer to our workforce.

To clarify my views in relation to my exchanges with Minister Iswaran in Parliament on Friday, I would like to reaffirm that all citizens are and should be treated equally in Singapore, as espoused in our National Pledge. Whether they are locally born or naturalised, once they become Singaporean citizens, they should be treated as one of us, no more no less.

My point was not to draw a distinction between local born citizens and naturalised citizens. By highlighting the fact that we have not had a ‘home-grown’ CEO in DBS, I am querying whether we have done enough to develop our local talent so that they can compete with their global peers. Is that not a compelling question since DBS is constantly relying on new foreign talent to lead it? Has there been a ‘process’ in place to groom our local talent to fulfil that role? If there isn’t, then why not, especially over a period of 22 years?

It appears there are lapses in the current process of sourcing for such leaders of the industry. We seem to have the mindset of relying on foreigners to fill key positions of leadership, instead of grooming our own home grown talent. Such ‘foreign talents’ are then conferred citizenship and we the citizens, lose the right to even question the fait accompli?

I strongly urge the Government to consider the views of Singaporeans and the implications every time they offer citizenship to a new cohort of foreigners, instead of hurling accusations of xenophobia and discrimination at concerned Singaporeans.

The purpose of my raising this in Parliament is to have a more thorough debate on such decisions and their repercussions on our citizens and determine how we can address the imbalance if that were the case.

As a nation, we have prided ourselves with a high degree of openness to foreign talent and necessarily so. Calling for more emphasis to develop Singaporean talent to lead our businesses is not a statement against foreigners amongst us but rather a grim reminder that we do not undermine or shortchange our local workforce.

The foreign talents in our midst who are considering citizenship would also take comfort from the fact that we have policies that safeguard existing citizens because they too might be at the receiving end of such policies in the future.

I sincerely hope the debate on creating better opportunities for our citizens will continue, without insinuations and casting aspersions on the intent. While I advocate that current processes adopted by the Government need rehashing, I am against Singaporeans perpetuating personal attacks on Mr Piyush Gupta or any others because they are just following the policies.

Singaporeans deserve better.

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