Parliament to debate two separate motions on jobs and foreign talent together

SINGAPORE – Two separate motions on jobs and Singapore’s foreign talent policy will be debated concurrently in Parliament, given how they cover common topics and related issues, said Leader of the House Indranee Rajah on Monday (Sept 13).

But she added that while the debate – due to take place on Tuesday – on the two motions will be conducted together for more efficiency, the motions remain separate and MPs will vote on them individually.

“A concurrent or simultaneous debate will allow members to address both motions in a single speech and enable the issues raised in the two motions to be considered holistically. It will also allow for more efficient conduct of parliamentary business,” she said.

The first motion was filed by Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai. It states: “That this Parliament calls upon the Government to take urgent and concrete action to address the widespread anxiety among Singaporeans on jobs and livelihood caused by the Foreign Talent Policy and the ‘movement of natural persons’ provisions in some free trade agreements like the (Singapore-India) Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca).”

The second, filed by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, states that Parliament:

– acknowledges Singaporeans’ anxieties about jobs and competition in a globalised and fast-changing economy;

– affirms Singapore’s needs to stay open and connected to the world in order to grow and prosper;

– supports government actions to manage the population of foreign manpower, ensure fair treatment by employers, and invest in education and upskilling, to create more good jobs for Singaporeans;

– calls on the Government to continue to update and improve its policies to secure the well-being and livelihoods of Singaporeans in an uncertain post-pandemic world; and

– deplores attempts to spread misinformation about free trade agreements like the Singapore-India Ceca, stir up racism and xenophobia, and cause fear and anxiety among Singaporeans.

The PSP first announced its intention to debate employment policies and Ceca in June. The following month, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung delivered ministerial statements in Parliament on the importance of free trade pacts and sought to debunk falsehoods about Ceca.

They also emphasised that changes in foreign workforce numbers over time are to be expected, alongside transformations in policies and industry needs.

In an exchange with Mr Ong in the House, Mr Leong said the PSP did not agree that Ceca was “net beneficial” to Singapore at this stage, and that it remains to be studied whether the pact has contributed to an influx of foreign nationals from India.

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During his National Day Rally speech on Aug 29, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the “campaign against Ceca” claimed to be about putting Singaporeans first, but had strong racial undertones.

Last Thursday, Mr Leong said in a Facebook post that he had filed his motion on Aug 31, while Mr Wong had filed his on Sept 8.

Mr Leong noted that many Singaporeans may be confused over why there is a need for two similar motions on the same day, but said he was looking forward to having an “open, objective and fruitful” debate.

“I certainly hope we will not be bogged down with unhelpful political posturing and labelling that obscures the real issue at hand; but arrive at agreeable and concrete decisions,” he added.

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