THE STRAITS TIMES : Monday, March 15, 1999
I HAVE followed with interest the debate initiated by MP Tan Cheng Bock’s call to the Government to tone down its call on the need for foreign talent and reassure Singaporeans that they come first, and the responses to it by journalist Rahul Pathak in The New Paper and Minister of Information and the Arts George Yeo in Parliament.
I support the recruitment of foreign talent as the Government pushes our country into a knowledge-based economy. However, I agree totally with Dr Tan’s call to think Singaporeans first as this is borne out by several facts.
First, all Singaporean males have to serve two to two-and-a-half years of National Service. This translates into two years of significant opportunity cost.
They enter the job market two years later and also lose two years of job experience, with lasting implications in promotions and benefits.
Second, all Singaporean males have to be operationally ready NSmen for several more years during their working life.
Thirdly, and most importantly, all Singaporeans have duty and responsibility to defend Singapore with life and limb.
Therefore, I think it is not wrong to ask our Government to reassure us that our Singapore passports count.
I am not suggesting any handouts, but I am confident that our Government is capable of drawing up innovative schemes and programmes to achieve the desired effect.
Yes, we should still continue to attract foreign talent and press ahead with our strategy for a knowledge-based economy, but this needs to be balanced by stark facts — that 17 per cent of our new graduates, as well as retrenched Singaporeans, have yet to find jobs.
CHUNG KONG MXJN