Forum: Discussion on foreign talent goes beyond jobs

Office workers crossing the junction of McCallum Street and Cecil Street, on March 27, 2019.
Office workers crossing the junction of McCallum Street and Cecil Street, on March 27, 2019.PHOTO: ST FILE

I refer to the letter by Dr Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Educate Singaporeans on value-add that foreign talent bring, Jan 9).

Singaporeans are by and large rational. In fact, few places roll out red carpets like we do in welcoming newcomers to the country. After all, we are mostly of immigrant stock ourselves.

As an open trading economy traditionally, we have grown accustomed to people from near or faraway places.

There is no doubt that foreigners help grow the economic pie for all.

We have accepted this narrative and it takes masses to boost demand for just about everything.

But it is social interaction at the ground level, or the lack of it, that is cause for concern.

We may be small and have a relative short history as a nation. But that does not make us less of a people who should be treated with dignity, especially as host to guests in our own land.

Has our warm hospitality been mistaken as subservience?

Has overplaying the narrative of the need for foreign talent made us overly dependent on them?

Do we ever graduate from being trainees to trainers in the process?

If so, have we grown accustomed to this outcome over the years?

It is also perturbing that despite expanding the capacity of our tertiary institutions over the years, we still do not have sufficient employees to feed the economy.

This discussion is certainly not about "us" versus "them". It goes beyond jobs, although to bring it up amid economic uncertainties may seem opportunistic.

Undoubtedly, we need a solid Singapore Team to stay competitive. But on a day-to-day basis, how components of the team are interacting is cause for concern.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2020, with the headline 'Discussion on foreign talent goes beyond jobs'. Print Edition | Subscribe