Parliament's scrutiny of the new Overseas Networks and Expertise (One) Pass this week was a welcome demonstration of the seriousness with which legislators take the initiative. The Government has responded to queries from MPs with assurances that safeguards will be put in place to ensure that recipients of the pass indeed deserve it. Careful vetting of applications to sieve out those making false declarations, and engaging pass-holders during their time in Singapore - to stay up to date with their income and professional activities - are two levels of safeguards. These are necessary to prevent abuse of the scheme.
The larger point, however, is that the pass is one of the ways in which Singapore can attract the best international talent to its shores. The qualifying bar has been set high: a fixed monthly salary of $30,000 or more from a single employer; or outstanding achievements in arts and culture, sports, science and technology, as well as academia and research. The pass is meant for talent comparable to the top 5 per cent of Singapore's Employment Pass holders, an estimated 8,000. It is an exclusive category. Thus, it is unlikely that professionals who come in under the One Pass scheme will compete for jobs with the average Singaporean worker. Instead, those professionals could play a catalytic role in developing the areas in which they work, and encourage top Singaporean talent to widen their horizons.