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Lifting incomes of S’poreans, ensuring fair hiring among measures to be unveiled at NDR: Lawrence Wong

SINGAPORE — Policies aimed at continuing to raise the incomes of Singaporeans, especially those earning low incomes, as well as measures ensuring fair hiring practices here, are among the announcements that the people can expect at the upcoming National Day Rally (NDR), Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong (pictured) offered a teaser to the National Day Rally speech to be delivered by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Aug 29, 2021.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong (pictured) offered a teaser to the National Day Rally speech to be delivered by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Aug 29, 2021.

  • Finance Minister Lawrence Wong gave a teaser for the National Day Rally during an interview with BBC
  • He also addressed questions about the foreigner-Singaporean divide and the country's border control measures
  • Mr Wong said Singapore was taking a more cautious approach to reopening social and economic activities than some other countries

 

SINGAPORE — Policies aimed at continuing to raise the incomes of Singaporeans, especially those earning low incomes, as well as measures ensuring fair hiring practices here, are among the announcements that the people can expect at the upcoming National Day Rally (NDR), Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said.

Mr Wong gave this teaser during an interview with British news organisation BBC aired on Friday (Aug 20), where he also addressed questions about the divide between foreigners and Singaporeans here, as well as the country's response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The broader adjustments that many countries are facing with regard to social contract are issues we face in Singapore, too,” he said.

That is why the Government is looking at a “full range of measures” that would allow it to continue to lift the incomes of Singaporeans, especially those from the lower-income groups, and ensure that companies are engaging in fair hiring practices.

This is so that “both the Singaporean core and foreign professionals complement one another”, Mr Wong said.

“We want to assemble the best team in Singapore in order to ensure that we can survive and thrive as a nation for many more years to come.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will deliver the National Day Rally speech on Aug 29.

During the BBC interview, Mr Wong was asked to address sentiments from the expatriate community here who, due to the difficulties they have faced leaving and returning to Singapore, now feel that they have not been valued despite some of them living in the country for a long time.

This is especially since Singaporeans and permanent residents have not been subjected to the same border restrictions when trying to re-enter the country.

In response, Mr Wong pointed out that Singapore is not the only country to prioritise its citizens over foreigners.

“Singaporeans have the right to come in and out… Every country would value its citizens and give privileges for its citizens,” he said.

He added that the authorities never imposed a ban on work pass holders from coming into the country.

Rather, a cap was placed on the number of travellers who could come into Singapore to minimise the risk of imported coronavirus infections.

“The flow never went to zero… but it was throttled back to a smaller number in order to reduce the risk that we were subject to. And therefore, because of the reduced approvals, the reduced permits, the queue became longer,” Mr Wong said.

While he acknowledged the feedback given that these measures have been painful for the expatriate community, he stressed that they have only been introduced temporarily to deal with the ongoing crisis.

And to demonstrate how the Government has treated all residents here fairly in its pandemic response, Mr Wong gave the example of the national vaccination exercise and how foreigners living in Singapore were also offered Covid-19 vaccine shots.

Nevertheless, he acknowledged that the pandemic has exacerbated “broader concerns” about globalisation and foreign manpower that Singaporeans have.

Still, he noted that these issues are not unique to Singapore, and other countries, too, are grappling with the same concerns on foreigners taking over jobs and opportunities from residents.

“That's why we will adjust our policies, and when we make adjustments to our policies, it’s not that we are shifting our fundamental orientation, but it's saying that we want to strengthen public trust in globalisation, we want to strengthen the social compact to deal better with the excesses of the free market, and to bolster support for an open and dynamic economy,” Mr Wong said.

TAKING ‘MORE CAUTIOUS’ APPROACH

Mr Wong was also asked about Singapore’s border controls and why the country has not relaxed measures further as other countries across the world have.

The Government’s Covid-19 task force announced on Thursday that it will soon ease border restrictions to allow some travellers to enter Singapore without needing to serve stay-home notices. But it will extend this to only travellers from Germany, Brunei, Hong Kong and Macau for a start.

In his reply, he said that the Government is taking a “more cautious” approach towards reopening social and economic activities as it “values the importance of stability and security”.

Other countries, he noted, may have bigger risk appetites due to their experiences managing the coronavirus outbreak on their own shores.

For instance, those who have seen a large surge of cases may be more risk-tolerant and are prepared to relax measures further now.

“We are not New York or London… So, as much as we want to resume normal life and we are trying as much as we can to do so, we want to ensure that we keep hospitalisation and ICU (intensive care unit) cases low, that we continue to ensure that our hospital system is intact, and we get to the end of the pandemic with minimum death and damage to our society,” Mr Wong said.

“(Our approach) is risk-based, it is based on data and evidence. We make very rigorous assessments of the infection situation around the world, and we calibrate our measures accordingly.”

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus Lawrence Wong border controls National Day Rally expatriates

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