listening but not hearing

During last night's PM dialogue with the youth the concern of letting in too many foreign talents in the salary bracket of $1,800 and $2,500 were raised. This is the group that will hit very hard on our young graduates and executives. The fear is genuine. Hsien Loong's response was to acknowledge the concern but added, 'I think we should bring in people who can make a contribution and as for our people, you'll compete with them but at the same time because they are here, our economy will grow and there will be more business, more opportunities for us.' Some may think that Singaporeans are incapable of competing with the foreigners. Maybe. And they are genuine and valid reasons why Singaporeans are worried of foreign competition. It is not that they are not competitive or would not work as hard. What they need is to be able to compete fairly, on a level playing field. How could Singaporeans compete with foreigners when the playing field in his own country, homeground, is levelled against him? Is this fair? For those who cannot see the uneven playing field, they should remove their blinkers. And Hsien Loong added, 'If I'm buying an HDB flat, I want to make sure that it's built as best as cheaply, as efficiently, as best as possible. So if they have foreign workers, foreign draughtsman, foreign architects, I would be happy because I think it's good for Singaporeans.' Then what about me, us, Singaporeans? What are we going to do? Be cleaners, or go overseas to third world countries and earn third world salaries? If these Singaporeans cannot find a job here because of foreign talents, how are they going to compete in the international arena? There must be fine tuning on this foreign talent policy. We need to employ our young graduates from the polytechnics and universities. They must be allowed to compete on an equal basis with foreigners, better with an advantage. How can they be disadvantaged in their own home country?


talking for a living said...

That may or may not be true; but on the other hand I would like to think that we are grooming a whole new generation of thirsty, hungry and super competitive youngsters, in the same way our generation were trained and toughened by the first generation national service; which to me is ten times more siong when compared to today's walk-in-the park training.

In my opinion, far from being short-sighted, our FT policies actually augur well for the country's future.

Singaporeans are not afraid to compete! Even the small time gamblers gathering in the bustling backlanes at geylang now, must have the dreams and gumption of fighting it out and making it in tomolo's Marina Bay.

Anonymous said...

To compete, one must be given a chance to get inside the ring to fight.

Not many can just talk for a living like the politicians do.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, life is never ever going to be fair. No one is going to ensure that the ground or playing field is level for everyone who wants to compete. That hasn't stopped many people from beating the odds and succeeding. As in a poker game, you learn to make do with the cards that you're dealt with. Moaning about the lack of a level playing field will not help you get ahead, that's a fact.

redbean said...

for a young singaporean, he has to think of the $300k hdb, $50k car, own medical bills, chipping in to family expenses, hopefully no parents that needs expensive medical treatments, future families/children, daily expenses and social obligations etc

not taking into consideration that his bosses will have to think of the time he will be away doing reservists.

a ft only try to live economically and make sure his bank account is being fatten for the day he returns home to buy his palace.

can a singaporean compete?

redbean said...

it is easy to tell people to compete with fts when one's rice bowl is protected from foreign competition.

redbean said...

agree that life is never fair. the grassroots are meant to be trampled, raze if necessary.

but we must never forget that we are a republic and not a kingdom. up to a point, the wrath of the people can be very fierce.

never take the people for granted and shaft into them logics that are not acceptable to them or when they cannot see any benefit but disadvantages.

Anonymous said...

The government is not asking everyone to buy a 50k car or a 300k HDB. If Singaporeans have the expectations that they should be able to afford these luxuries, then they should jolly well work for it, and not expect that the government will protect them from competition. Why also begrudge the foreigners who will be able to afford palaces in their countries of origin with the money they save working here. That money is from their own sweat and toil. Grow up, Singaporeans !!

Jimmy Mun said...

What exactly is so tough about the first generation Singaporeans? Are they more entreprenual? Do they dare to take to the streets and protest? Do they even dare to express their genuine opinion at the ballot box (instead of obsessing over the serial number)?

Their NS may have been tougher and the results shows: they are beaten into a bunch of fearful and obedient sheep.

The $2500 EP foreigner does not take a job that no Singaporean want to do. He or she takes away a plum job that will need at the very least, a polytechnic diploma. The end result is that we will have a whole generation underemployed.

And remember,the foreigners will leave when they have gained enough work experience (or money to build palaces at home), creating a big hollow in the mid-level job market, and taking away a huge amount of capital that could have been reinvested in businesses here.

Will anybody with a normal IQ sit down and play a poker game knowing that he doesnt have a fair chance of winning?

If most Singaporeans decide this Singaporean poker game is not worth playing and choose to try their luck elsewhere, will there be a Singapore left?

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Mun, the PAP has demonstrated that they're not concerned with Singaporeans leaving. That has been said by no less than DPM Wong. For as long as the economy keeps growing, there will always be ready takers to replace those Singaporeans from China, India, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia. Trust me, the PAP are not losing any sleep about that.

redbean said...

hi jimmy mun,

welcome to the blog.

this discussion is getting interesting. there is one point which i forgot to point out. it takes btw $250k to $500k to raise a child to a graduate. after such a huge investment, toil and sweat, are we going to tell our young to go overseas to fight for a living, earning third world salary or stay at home to fight with foreign talents whose upbring cost is probably less than 10% of his? and expect our young to earn the same lower salary as them?

the return should be proportional to the investment. if not, our formula is flaw. it will be a losing proposition from the start.

nutcracker said...

I agree totally with what you had said.

I am a fresh graduate and is having problems finding a job in my field.

I remember this employee offering me $1200 and can still tell me that he can easily get a FT on a S-pass for the same salary more experienced than me and that he is basically giving me a chance and I should be grateful as no one wans a fresh grad with no experience...


Anonymous said...

I'll say it again. The problem is not with foreign talent. The problem is Singaporeans' expectations. You go to university, and when you graduate you expect a plum position with a high starting pay. Wake up, man. No one owes you a living. No where is it written that a university graduate will be assured such a job. You have to fight for those jobs. If a foreigner can do the same job at a fraction of what you're expecting, you should take a good, hard look at yourself and ponder if you might be the problem you're heaping on foreigners. Remember the saying, for one finger that you point at others, another 4 are pointing back at you.

redbean said...

hi nutcracker,

welcome to the blog. allow me to reply to anonymous on a couple of points.

let's say there is no fts, all singaporeans, graduate or non graduate, will take whatever that comes. but now, you hanged so many weights on the singaporeans' shoulders and asked them to run against fts. is it fair?

'the second point is that no one owes the people(citizens) a living. that the govt is not responsible to assure a job for all singaporeans.' i quote anonymous. is that so?

would any politician dare to say it out openly that they do not owe any singaporean a living, a job? i will like to hear that.

a certain percentage of unemployment is expected and acceptable to the people. when the number of singaporeans unemployed crosses a certain figure, i bet you the govt will be thrown out. and during such a time if any politician dares to say it is not his responsibility, you can bet rotten eggs will be thrown into his face.

why do we need a govt, or vote a govt for?

Anonymous said...

Redbean, you and people like utcracker can continue to be in denial for as long as you want. Fact is, no matter how much you hate it, foreign talent are now a feature of our social and economic landscape. All your moaning in here is not going to change anything. My point was the sooner you accept this fact and change your mindset to deal with it, the better it will be for Singaporeans like you. Unfortunately, you persist in seeing the issue from your own myopic point of view. Good luck to you because at the end of the day, it'll be your funerals.

redbean said...

myopic you said? the only singaporeans who swear by the goodness and inevitable take over of singapore by foreign talents are a very small group of supertalents who thinks that they are good enough to compete with foreign talents.

in reality, their super talents, if not protected, will see them lose their jobs immediately. most of the singaporeans, maybe 99.9% will find themselves uncompetitive and will have to ship out if the foreign talent thing is not controlled.

with all due respect, i don't think you stand a chance too. our very best are creamed off from a small population of 3.6 million people. how best can they be when compare to the best, not the very best of 2.3 billion people?

if foreign competition is fully liberalised at all levels, the first group of people to say no and want to be protected will be the political leaders. they don't stand a chance. you make want to count out a handful of exceptions.

Anonymous said...

for a young singaporean, he has to think of the $300k hdb, $50k car, own medical bills, chipping in to family expenses, hopefully no parents that needs expensive medical treatments, future families/children, daily expenses and social obligations etc

With due respect to Mr bean; are these unique to singaporeans alone? Are you saying fts do not have family obligations? Who is forcing singaporeans to buy top end hdb flats? Why the need to own a car when our public transport sys are first class? What's the fuss abt medical bills when charges at public clinics starts from $8, for locals only?

Is your real concern to do with maintaining a high level of comfort zone and luxury lifestyle?

Anonymous said...

you said "why do we need a govt, or vote a govt for?" In the event of conflict, is it the govt's duty to protect the interests of its citizens or the fts; would it be on a case to case basis depending on economic factors?
Is "charity begins at home" dead?

redbean said...

it is not unique. but the high cost is a serious drawback on the singaporeans. and is it reasonable for us to tell the young singaporeans to aim for a quality of life like the foreign talents?

if we truly open up without any restraint, practically every single singaporeans will be replaced by fts. the world is filled with hungry people who are better than us and more willing to accept less.

shall we surrender the country and everything because of globalisation?

talking for a living said...

A country which began with mere millions in the coffer, that has in just decades evolved into hundreds of billions as in thousand folds ROI, is that not entrepreneurial enough?

A third world people that has suffered the poverty cycle and experienced such remarkable turnarounds in their lives in so short a time; a life that all its neighbours could only envy and dream about..

What in the world you think these people will take to the streets for?

Mr Birdee said...

I remember being told that Singapore is a country with little natural resources, except for her people. That we are important to our country. That we are vital to the economy, with our knowledge based skills.

It seems that this is no longer true. The government has discovered that people, skills, and talent can be imported to keep the economy running, just like how sand, water, and other resources can be imported.

The government needs to know that compared to FT, Singaporeans are suffering from a number of handicaps (high cost of living, NS) because of our unique geographical and political situation. Indeed, we appear to be on the losing end compared to FT.

Does the government have an obligation to protect Singaporeans from FT? I say yes.

The government said that we have to serve NS so that Singapore would be a safe and sovereign country. I did my part because the government has convinced me that it is necessary. The government has failed to convince me that welcoming FT with open arms is necessary.

Globalisaton is inevitable... but you don't have to overdo it!

Ironically, yes, it's true that politicians are protected from foreign talent. I don't see foreigners welcomed in to be politicians.

Unfortunately, the trend of importing FT doesn't seem to be reversing. It's my hope that all the FT will benefit Singaporeans and cause Singaporeans to win in the end, but somehow, I don't think so. Not for our generation, at least. Now you see why people prefer to run away.

Meantime, it's time for us to pull up our socks and show the world what Singaporeans can do; to prove to employers that Singaporeans are competant, capable, and hardworking, that Singapore is our nation, and we will fight for Singaporean jobs, with or without government assistance.

You can exercise your vote and show your displeasure later on.

Singapore can only trust Singaporeans to defend her. That is what I learnt in the Military Defense part of Total Defense. So what happened to Economic Defense?

redbean said...

hi mr birdee,

welcome to this interesting discussion. and you made several good and pertinent points there.

what is important is for a leader to convince the people that his cause is believeable, even if it is a lie. George bush has done it and carry the americans with him. now that the americans realised that it was a lie thru and thru, they are too embarrassed to turn around and slap their own faces.

also the damage is so severe that they cannot unwind the whole programme and tell the world that they are sorry to have fooled them.

let's deal with this ft policy by breaking it into 3 parts. the really super talent fts we have no problem. we will beg them to come. the foreign workers not really a problem as they are needed in places where singaporeans shunned.

now the middle bulge. why are the people so sceptical? simply because it is against the interest of singaporeans adversely affected by them.

the leaders must come out and convince the people and carry the people with them. i don't think they have done a good job here. if they have we would not have so many annoying noises everywhere. until the people can see the good stuff, no way are they going to go along quietly.

Anonymous said...

But Mr bean, the people has been convinced in May 2006. The govt got a massive mandate. This FT policy is not something new that came about after the PM's National Day Rally. The doors were thrown open way back in 1997. All the PM said in the rally was that this is not going to be reversed. So, since 1997, the people have had 2 grand opportunities to signal their discontent to the government on this policy, in 2001, and then again in the just concluded poll. Both times, that did not happen. Also, if it is really true that the FT policy is impacting on Singaporeans livelihoods to the point of being unbearable, then why is there no unrest on the streets ? The truth Mr Bean is that only a small minority of whiners like yourself are the ones complaining. The majority IMHO are busily going about their daily lives because they ahve learnt to take the situation in their stride and deal with it. The small majority who cannot do the only thing they are capable of, that is whine in cyberspace.

Anonymous said...

Mr Birdee said "Now you see why people prefer to run away."

This statement doesn't make much sense. Those Singaporeans who choose to emigrate or as you put it 'run away' will also face competition in their new abodes. In fact the competition will be even more intense than the ones they'd face in Singapore because they are on new, unknown turf with no network to rely on. Contrary to what some may believe, starting out from scratch in a new country is not a simple case of packing and unpacking your suitcases.

Anonymous said...

Competition is everywhere. If there are no FTs, the competition will be with fellow Singaporeans. Only simpletons believe that all their problems will magically go away if the FTs ar ebooted out.

redbean said...

thaksin and badawi had sweeping victories when they won their elections.

would these be a good lesson of how volatile and unpredictable politics is?

the wind can change at the least expected hour.

redbean said...

your comment about election results and about why no protest in singapore to justify your points indicates that you might not be a singaporean or your understanding of the singaporean psyche is still too superficial.

firstly the data of the last election is a limited data as usual as not many constituencies were contested. and foreign policy is not the only issue at stake. and there are a lot of other factors that have influenced the result of the election.

when the ground shifts, it takes a while for people to feel it.

Anonymous said...

Ok, assuming I accept your view that election results do not prove anything because there is more than the FT issue at stake, that still doesn't explain why the disquiet about FTs is not out in the open. From your writing you make it look like ordinary Singaporeans are being displaced in droves by the presence of FT, taking their jobs away hence resulting in many unemployed SIngaporeans. Now, if this is true, there should be a lot of disgruntled, unemployed Singaporeans who are unable to feed their families, have trouble paying the mortgage on their properties etc ? Now my question is, where are these Singaporeans ? Why don;t they come out and make their predicament known to the government. Afterall, as you say, the government has an obligation to look after the welfare of their citizens.

Anonymous said...

Very good point!

redbean said...


how many days have this liberalisation of foreign talents been in effect? you expect a avalanche? just look at the response by some of the forumers here, in redbeanforum, in ypap, etc will do.

this is just the beginning of the problems that will come a long the way. by the time it blows up, it will be too late for damage control.

Anonymous said...

Are we being too pessimistic with gloom, doom, blow up and damage controls when it is bright and sunny outside?

Anonymous said...

redbean said "how many days have this liberalisation of foreign talents been in effect?"

In case you have just woken up from a long slumber, the foreign talent policy started way back in 1997.

redbean said...

if there is any doom, it will come much later. but the gloom can be felt by our young people like nutcracker's generation. i don't belong to their generation and may not have the same feel. only people who are in the shoe knows best. people up in the cloubs will see things from a bird's eye view.

the opening up to foreigners started earlier. true. but to sanction it as an official policy is recent, and dangerous. we know how singaporeans tend to over react, we can expect things to go wild and the door swings too wide and losing control. and it will take on a life of its own and god knows what monster will be created.

Anonymous said...

There won't be any monsters. The only monsters are in the heads of those who are afraid of competition. The majority of Singaporeans have always taken the presence of foreign talent in our strides. The writing is on the wall for those who refuse to accept the new rules of the game. They will likely die a slow, painful death if they continue to live in denial.

redbean said...

there won't be any monster left. that you are right.

once the unemployment rate of the young gets out of proportion you can expect them to become monster slayers.

Anonymous said...

Fat chance. Two years of NS have beaten the young into timid slave boys of the ruling elite. Just the sight of the men in blue will have them shitting and pissing in their pants. No, the young will meekly accept their fate.

Anonymous said...

> once the unemployment rate of the young gets out of proportion ..

What's to say it hasn't already, if you extrapolate nutcracker's experience to the thousands of graduates that the 3 local unis churn out and also include the few thousands more who come back after graduating from overseas unis. I think the poster above hit the nail on the head. A neighbour's son recently returned from the UK with a first class honours engineering degree, job hunted for 1/2 a year but yet to land something he believes he is worth. In the end, he ended up working in a Starbucks outlet. I don't see him carrying placards and demonstrating in fornt of the Istana.

redbean said...

the papers today reported on the dialouge session which hsien loong had with the youth last week. and the concerns of jobs and foreign talents were raised.

similarly, lim swee say also acknowledge that foreign talent is a key issue that he has to address with the trade unions.

this is not a small issue that can be swiped away as it affects every young person and their families. i feel very sorry for those parents who slogged and pay through their noses to bring up a child and feeling to proud of his achievements in the academia only to be dissappointed because he lost out to foreign talents. and there goes their retirement plans as well.

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with foreign talent. Fact is a degree is a commodity today. Almost every other Joe or Jane on the street has it. A degree is no longer the passport to a good, well-paying job. Young people today need to have this drilled into their heads.

redbean said...

that i agree. 30% of the cohort are graduates. so they don't command the kind of salary they used to be. but the issues here are citizenship, responsibility of govt to people versus state, globalisation versus national interests etc.

Anonymous said...

You know what the problem is redbean ? The problem is you are still clinging on to airy fairy notions of days past and soon to be gone. In the age of globalisation, national interests have been rendered irrelevant. Govts have to do what the global marketplace requires them to or else they will be consigned to the dustbin of irrelevance. Globalisation is here to stay, that is a fact. The option for cpuntries who do not want to embrace it is to become a North Korea or Cuba, totally isolated from the rest of the world. Some countries with an abundance of natural resources like oil may still be able to resist the forces but not a small, vulnerable island state like Singapore which relies heavily on international trade for its livelihood. The days when govts can and indeed will go to extreme lengths to protect the interests of their citizens are gone, and they're not coming back. The citizens have to take care of themselves.

redbean said...

yes i agree that i am clinging to the concept of nation state. and you are being sold the idea that nation state is passe. is it?

by looking after the citizens does not mean that we are not embracing globalisation. it is like going to the beach. we strip but not to the extent of being naked. the vital parts still need to be covered up. if not, then sands will go in.

govts that embrace globalisation foolishly and forget their primary duty to look after their citizens will be thrown out in no time. and protecting your citizens is not anti globalisation. there are areas that must be globalised and areas that must be protected. even the americans and europeans are doing it.

may i add, only silly govts will open up completely to be screwed by globalisation and then by their own citizens.

pardon my language. can't put it in a better way.

Anonymous said...

You conveniently forgot to mention that Singapore is not America. America can close its borders to the world and they will still survive. Can the same be said of Singapore ? Singapore needs those mnc companies to come here and create jobs. MNCs do not like protectionist policies. You make it difficult for them to recruit non-locals and they will say "Up yours" and go somewhere else. Now isn't it better that some jobs be lost to foreigners then have the entire MNC go out of the country ?

redbean said...

hi anonymous,

the difference btw my position and yours is only how to fine tune and manage the situation. what is very common in singapore is over reaction. when someone says jump, everyone will jump. and many forgot to question jump from where and some will jump from the 25th floor.

what is needed is to look at the situation carefully and not go for a blanket solution.

my example of the long stretches of metallic studs for the blind is a case in point. the blind is there to take a train at the shortest and most convenient point. he is not there to walk all over the platform to enjoy the scenery when he could not see.

in such a case, a stretch of one door length along the platform for the blind to enter or exit the train will do.

help them but not throw away money unthinkingly.

Anonymous said...

No amount of fine tuning can help molly coddled citizens who think too highly of themselves. Have university degree => working for $1200 is beyonf them ala nutcracker. Puh-lease. I'm talking as an employer, which I am as well. All things being equal, is it wrong for me to choose the foreigner over the local because he is willing to work for $1200 whereas the local is demadning $2000 ?

redbean said...

you said you are an employer, ok, accepted that you see it from that angle. as an ordinary citizen who can get $1k with 'o' or 'a' level, why should they waste time and money to get a degree to earn $1k?

from the govt's point of view, they cannot run away from looking after the people's welfare. different group of people will look at things from their own angle. things only go upside down when govt thinks that it is running a private business or govt thinks that it has no responsibilities to the people.

take the case of the marina IR. 30,000 jobs will go to chinese, indian and philipino workers if the govt says let the market forces determine who should be hired and how muct to pay.

that is globalisation? that is a totally free market at work. no restraints of a state and protecting the citizens interests.

a viable scenario?

Anonymous said...

"as an ordinary citizen who can get $1k with 'o' or 'a' level, why should they waste time and money to get a degree to earn $1k?"

That question is best posed to someone like nutcracker. For me, as an employer, I am not obliged to pay someone $2K just because he has a fancy piece of paper certifying he completed studying in some university. It's as simple as that. If I can get a non-degree holder who can do the same job at half the pay, then I will. Why do people like you and nutcracker find that so hard to accept ?

Anonymous said...

"that is globalisation? that is a totally free market at work. a viable scenario?"

That is what globalisation is all about. That is also the principle of meritocracy that is the bedrock of Singapore's system. The best person will get the job. it doesn't and shouldn't matter whether he is filipino, indian, chinese, eskimo or timbuktuan.

redbean said...

if i am running my own workshop or a little shop, i pay the price i like and wait for a willing applicant to come by.

having been the hr manager of several big companies, i am familiar with the market rate for different positions. even a clerk or admin asst is getting more than $1k. a fresh graduate, depending on his discipline has an ongoing market rate. from their point of views, they need not have to accept a job that is paying below market rate. maybe if they are desperate they will it up temporary until they find what they could get.

any govt or politician who think he can talk globalisation and tell the citizens to shove off will find himself being shoved off.

as a small time employer, to recruit one or two staff, that is not an issue. as a professional hr mgr, he will not employ anyone over qualified knowing very well that it will not last.

Anonymous said...

"any govt or politician who think he can talk globalisation and tell the citizens to shove off will find himself being shoved off."

On the contrary, it is people like you who are being shoved off. Should I remind you that the PAP got an overwhelming mandate in the just concluded general election. Everyday I wake up and thank the Lord that Singapore is in the hands of visionary leaders PAP leaders who understand and embrace globalisation, and not myopic, country bumpkins like you. Eat your heart out, dude.

redbean said...

hi anonymous,

if you are in the party i will definitely vote for the opposition.

what say you people out there?

Anonymous said...

The odds are stacked so heavily against the opposition here, and thank the Lord Almighty for that too. No one in his right mind will dare to imagine the opposition can form the govt anytime soon. Even if they do by some freak result, as the esteemed MM has said, the army will move swiftly to restore the status quo. In case you don't already know this, your vote is inconsequential.

Anonymous said...

What say you people out there?

Politics belong to the politicians and the youngsters. It is their world. You want to change the world? for what, for whom?
Don't kaypoh lah, every man (you included, especially) lived for himself. Fat chance anyone would be grateful for what you did. This is reality redbean.

redbean said...

hi anonymous,

you must treat this as cyberspace kopitiam and nothing else. when you are bored or free and wanted to chat, just pop in.

and never expect anything or anyone to be grateful. it is just for passing time. that is why i can be on this side or on that side. just try to make the chat interesting, maybe a little provocative.