Singapore's openness to world will never change: Chan Chun Sing assures foreign businesses over anti-foreigner sentiments

Representatives from 16 foreign chambers voiced concerns to Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Oct 1, 2020.
Representatives from 16 foreign chambers voiced concerns to Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Oct 1, 2020. PHOTO: CHAN CHUN SING/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - Foreign business chambers in Singapore are worried the recent rise in anti-foreigner sentiments and scrutiny on the role of foreign manpower could negatively impact future investments from the global business community.

Representatives from 16 foreign chambers, including the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, voiced these concerns to Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Thursday (Oct 1) during a dialogue hosted by the Singapore Business Federation (SBF).

They noted that it is Singapore's stable and predictable business environment as well as connectivity and openness that have encouraged many of their members to set up their regional headquarters and operations here.

But the recent rise in anti-foreigner sentiments could give the "wrong impression" to the international business community that Singapore was becoming closed to foreign investments and global talents.

The foreign chambers highlighted to Mr Chan during the dialogue that Singapore continues to require global talent to supplement the local workforce, so that it can meet the needs of the changing economy.

Mr Chan wrote in a Facebook post on Friday that he assured them Singapore remains committed to being open and connected to the world.

"This will never change," he said. "We recognise the role that international companies and workers have played in growing Singapore's economy and intend to continue to ensure we provide a business-friendly environment for them to operate in."

But, he added, Singaporeans are increasingly anxious about their future in these unprecedented times.

"It is important that we work together to support our Singaporean workers and assure them that we will always provide a fair and level playing field," the minister said.

"In this regard, I was very heartened by the international business chambers' assurance that their members were deeply committed to developing their Singapore workforce and would continue to abide by fair hiring practices."

SBF chief executive Ho Meng Kit said in a statement that the topic of foreign talent is fundamental to Singapore's development, and the country has been able to make a living because it is open and relevant to the world.

 
 
 

"Is there a change in orientation? We do not think Singapore is turning isolationist as some economies have become. It is good to hear from Minister Chan that this is not the case," he added.

He also urged the foreign chambers, who gave "many examples of their members' efforts to develop the Singapore core", to publicise their efforts and engage the community.

"All these will help to square the debate how our foreign companies are here to add to the economy and not to take away value from it," said Mr Ho.

CALLS FOR BUSINESS TRAVEL TO RESUME

During the dialogue on Thursday, the foreign chambers also urged the Government to push for the opening of borders with more countries, so that business travel can resume.

They also called for the pilot Business Travel Pass to be extended to more companies and employees, and for the Government to move from a stay-home notice (SHN) regime to a testing regime with a shorter SHN for business travellers.

Mr Chan said the Government understood the need for business travel and will continue to push for the opening of borders in a safe manner, balanced against health and safety concerns.

 
 
 

But to do so, mutual consensus between countries is necessary to establish bilateral travel arrangements, and sharing of information among governments on their local Covid-19 situations would better facilitate the resumption of travel, said Mr Chan.

The foreign chambers also said they support further easing of safe management measures to support business recovery and looked forward to details about phase three reopening.

They also expressed their appreciation for Singapore's management of the Covid-19 situation, and the support that has been provided to businesses, said SBF.