Parliament: NCMP Leong Mun Wai calls for a cap on foreigner-to-citizen ratio in firms

Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai called for immediate action to be taken to restore the balance of interests between Singaporeans and foreigners. PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai has called for immediate action to be taken to restore the balance of interests between Singaporeans and foreigners, in view of concerns raised by locals about discrimination.

He also urged the Government on Tuesday (Sept 1) to reduce work pass approvals and renewals in the short term to channel more existing jobs to Singaporeans, and provide more data to get Singaporeans' buy-in on the foreign talent policy.

Mr Leong, who is from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), assured the House his party will "uphold this Parliament as a Singaporean Parliament, and not a partisan Parliament", and went on to add that he looks forward to more information and resources being given to the Opposition in Parliament for it to function as an effective voice and generator of ideas.

Speaking in his maiden parliamentary speech during the debate on the President's Address, he stressed that the PSP strongly supports an open economy and society.

He believes the Government has good reasons in pushing for a foreign talent model but added that some adjustments can be made to the country's immigration policy, including the way the policy is communicated.

"The foreign talent model, which involves the competition for jobs in our own territory, is especially sensitive," he noted as he called for more data to get citizens' buy-in.

For instance, it will be useful to regularly disclose statistics of professional, manager, executive and technician (PMET) jobs, broken down into citizen and permanent resident categories, he added.

Also useful would be details on intra-company transfers made under the various free trade agreements, he said.

"Without clearer data, Singaporeans cannot have an informed discussion on whether the existing foreign talent model is benefiting us."

Why Mr Leong is 'deeply disappointed' with a local bank

Mr Leong proposed grouping companies into two categories: offshore companies and onshore companies.

Offshore companies, with products and services sold predominantly overseas that Singaporeans do not yet have the skills to produce, can be given more latitude to tap talents from all over the world.

But this is conditional on them upholding the non-discrimination principle towards Singaporeans and follow the minimum salary requirements for Employment Pass and S Pass holders.

Other companies will fall into the onshore category, in which regulations and procedures will be tightened.

Elaborating on his suggestion, he said: "We stipulate that Singaporeans must be well-represented in the top management and human resource functions to ensure that the procedures are followed properly."

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A foreigner-to-citizen ratio cap should be applied to all of such companies and their various departments, and Singapore should protect entry-level jobs for its new graduates.

Also, foreign PMETs must have more working experience before they are allowed to join Singapore's workforce.

He further said there should be a succession plan to replace each foreign manager at the end of his visa period, with further visa extension granted only if the manager is due for promotion and his previous position is taken up by a Singaporean.

Mr Leong added that citizenship should be awarded only to permanent residents who have lived in Singapore for a long time, and have passed a stricter set of naturalisation criteria.

He called for a Citizens' Commission to be set up to oversee the award of citizenships.

"Citizenship is sacrosanct to Singaporeans who are justifiably concerned about the erosion of national identity and the dilution of our citizenship."

He noted that from the turn of the millennium, the Government had introduced a different brand of foreign talent.

A high-profile manifestation of that policy was the appointment of Mr John Olds as the chief executive officer of DBS Bank in 1998, said Mr Leong, a former managing director of OCBC Securities.

He recounted a senior Japanese banker telling him: "Leong-san, it's like having a foreigner to run Mitsubishi Bank in Japan. It's unthinkable!"

Mr Leong told the House he had supported Mr Olds appointment.

"However, I am deeply disappointed now because 22 years after his appointment, DBS is still without a home-grown CEO."

Mr Derrick Goh (Nee Soon GRC), a managing director and head of group audit at DBS Bank, in a swift response, said all members of DBS' top management team are Singaporean, except for one person, who is a Malaysian and a PR.

The bank's current CEO, Mr Piyush Gupta, was born in India and became a Singapore citizen in 2009.

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