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Business chambers voice concerns over rise of anti-foreigner sentiment in Singapore

SINGAPORE — Concerns over the recent rise in anti-foreigner sentiment and scrutiny of the role of foreign manpower in the Singapore economy were among issues raised by foreign business chambers which participated in a dialogue with Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Friday (Oct 2).

From Sept 1, 2023, all employers will be required to verify the educational qualifications of new applicants for Employment Passes.

From Sept 1, 2023, all employers will be required to verify the educational qualifications of new applicants for Employment Passes.

  • Foreign business chambers said anti-foreigner feeling could give impression Singapore becoming closed to foreign investment, talent
  • Singapore remains ‘committed to being open and connected to the world’, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing assured them
  • Overall, participants expressed confidence in Singapore’s “stable and predictable operating environment”
  • The importance of resuming business travel was also among the concerns raised

 

SINGAPORE — Concerns over the recent rise in anti-foreigner sentiment and scrutiny of the role of foreign manpower in the Singapore economy were among issues raised by foreign business chambers which participated in a dialogue with Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Friday (Oct 2).

They added that this may give the impression that Singapore is becoming closed to foreign investment and talent.

In response, Mr Chan told the participants that Singapore remains committed to being open and connected to the world.

The Republic will continue to welcome foreign investments and global talent to “build the best team to play for Singapore in the global arena”.

The session, organised by the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), featured participants from 16 foreign business chambers, including the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, the China Enterprises Association (Singapore) and British Chamber of Commerce.

The participants said that many of their members were worried that such sentiments and scrutiny were giving the wrong impression to the international business community that Singapore was becoming closed to foreign investments and global talents.

“This could affect global businesses’ future investment decisions.”

The participants said that global talent continues to be needed to augment the local workforce in order to meet the needs of the changing economy, SBF said.

For one thing, the vast majority of multinational corporations based here have in place a “systematic transfer of skills and knowledge” from foreign employees to Singaporeans over the years, it added.

“These efforts will continue as companies seek to boost the upskilling of our local workforce, and continue to develop local talents and localise more jobs over time,” the organisation said.

The participants also reiterated the commitment of SBF member companies to fair hiring practices and to providing equal learning and development opportunities.

“This would allow their employees, including Singaporeans, to acquire the relevant skills and gain the necessary exposure to take on leadership roles in the future.”

In his comments, Mr Chan stressed that the concerns of Singaporeans also need to be addressed, as he welcomed the commitment of the participants and their members to adhering to responsible employment practices and strengthening the Singapore core.

He encouraged participants to showcase these efforts, so that more people could better understand the role that foreign companies and global talent play in the development and growth of Singapore's economy and its workforce.

Concerns aside, the participants expressed confidence in Singapore’s “stable and predictable operating environment”, SBF said.

They noted that Singapore’s status as a global hub is tied to its connectivity and openness, which is why many of the participants' members have set up headquarters and operations here.

IMPORTANCE OF BUSINESS TRAVEL

The importance of resuming business travel was also among the concerns shared at the forum, SBF said.

Participants welcomed the nation’s efforts to reopening its borders, but urged the Government to push for further opening of borders with more countries, and to extend the pilot Business Travel Pass to more companies and employees.

Currently, only senior executives in Singapore with regional or international responsibilities and who need to travel regularly for official and business purposes are eligible for the business travel pass.

They also urged the Government to move from a stay-home-notice regime to a testing regime with shorter stay-home notices for business travellers.

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

He added that mutual consensus between countries is necessary to establish bilateral travel arrangements and that sharing of information between governments on their respective Covid-19 situations would better facilitate the resumption of travel.

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