In his latest article, “Shortage of Workers or Lack of Creative Thinking?”, our Secretary-General Francis Yuen brought out a very important point about the Government’s approach to the foreign labour issue.
The government has depended on foreign labour to our detriment and for too long, in order to maximize economic growth with low-cost labour and to satisfy the short-term profit-seeking motive of business (employers). As a result of this easy option over the years, it did not think more creatively to implement policies aimed at maximizing the longer term benefits for Singaporeans and the Singapore economy.
So now we are left in a dire situation whereby the construction, marine and process sector (CMP sectors) are completely dependent on foreign workers. We hope the Government will learn from this experience and rethink the present economic model with the long term interests of the economy and our Singapore workers in mind.
However, will this Government learn from these lessons? In handling the Covid pandemic, it has again relegated the welfare and livelihood of Singaporeans to the second place. Now 5m people are inconvenienced with enhanced restrictions, badly hurting many small local businesses, because of the Government’s decision to let in a few thousands foreign workers and dependents of PRs from high-risk countries in the last month.
Even if we need to bring in the CMP workers, why did the Government accept nationals from those high-risk countries who are not critical for our CMP sectors? And as the risk of infection from those high-risk countries escalated exponentially in late April, why didn’t the Government take prompt and decisive action to close the border completely for a limited period of time?
And from the outbreak of the Changi Airport clusters, with about a 100 people infected, the Singaporeans are now awakened to the fact that the operational procedures in handling these passengers from high-risk countries are weak and not well thought through. Good execution was something we have taken for granted from a Government that we used to have complete faith in.
So whether it is the strategic decisions or the operational procedures, this Government has a lot of soul searching to do. This is not the kind of Government we used to have in Singapore and certainly not one that we expect.
However, all these performance problems of the Government have originated from one source: our over-dependence on foreign labour, an issue we need to debate thoroughly and seek a better long term solution.