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Singapore must shed the protectionist mentality, here’s why.

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Covid-19 has accelerated the erection of more protectionist barriers globally and Singapore MUST resist these pressures.

Why? Because we are a city-state without natural resources.

We simply cannot afford to adopt a protectionist mentality. Protectionism during a time when trade flows are most needed will just mean self-destruction.

In case you are still not aware, Singapore’s economy relies heavily on trade. The economy of Singapore is a highly developed free-market economy. From the beginning, Singapore has an economic development model that prioritised courting foreign direct investment to bring in more opportunities and jobs for Singaporeans. And it is a model that has proven successful!

Singapore is a highly developed free-market economy.

Singapore has to continue to work hard to maintain our reputation as a hub for business and investment. The Singapore Government has invested heavily in creating jobs, upskilling our workforce and spending on modern, digital infrastructure to achieve this.

At a time when protectionist sentiments are on the rise globally, Singapore must remain open to the world in order to attract investments and create good jobs for Singaporeans. Singapore needs to pledge its commitment to globalisation despite the pandemic stirring a rise in protectionist trade policies in other countries.

One factor that has played a part in the expansion of multinational companies here is the network of free trade agreements (FTAs) Singapore has with major trading partners. Contrary to what critics have argued, bilateral agreements have not jeopardised employment opportunities for Singaporeans!

Reassuring Singaporeans, Mr Chan Chun Sing said: “I don’t believe Singaporeans are afraid to compete. I’ve every confidence in their ability to compete.”

“All they are asking for is a fair playing field, and to strengthen local development efforts. We will make sure that we do this, and this is what we are going to do for the next generation.”

FTAs have helped create good jobs

Indeed, FTAs have helped create good jobs for Singaporeans.

For example, CECA, a common misconception is that it does not benefit Singapore economically.

Well, numbers don’t lie.

Since CECA was signed in 2005, Singapore’s trade with India has grown by $7.6 billion and investments, by 34 times!

More than 650 companies in Singapore had also invested in India by 2018.

Resident workers employed as professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) rose from 1.12 million in 2014 to 1.3 million last year.

Free flow of Indian FTs to Singapore? Not according to India

Protecting Singaporean Workers

Negative sentiments against foreigners are rising as the heat from the economic storm intensifies. The anxiety Singaporeans have about jobs is rising but bear in mind, Singapore needs foreign talent to complement our local workforce.

It is not that Singaporeans are not good enough, but because Singapore does not have enough people for these jobs in high growth industries. Meanwhile, to protect Singaporean workers, Labour MP, Mr Patrick Tay, has called for the Government to consider further tightening its requirements for hiring foreigners in selected sectors.

Singapore’s position on having foreign manpower complement a core of citizens:

  • Fairness and zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind – tough action on firms with hiring bias
  • The transfer of skills to develop a pipeline of local talent

The Government has pledged to go “all-out” to attract investments and create good jobs – Singaporeans will continue to get top priority for jobs.

Meanwhile, other relief measures include financial support for individuals and companies, jobs matching and training programmes to support our workers through the storm.

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