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Lee Kuan Yew's problem: tightly strung Singaporeans prefer secured jobs to business. By Kevin Hamlin, Institutional Investor
June 7, 2002
Where do you produce your entrepreneurs from?" asks Lee Kuan Yew. "Out of a top hat?"
The 78-year-old founder, ex-prime minister and now senior minister of Singapore complains during an interview with Institutional Investor that "there is a dearth of entrepreneurial talent" among Singapore's 4 million people.
The root of the problem, he explains, is "an East Asian reverence for scholarship":
The Chinese typically value education above all, so the ultimate aim is to become a mandarin - a shi, or scholar. Second in esteem is the nong, or farmer; third is the gong, or worker; and fourth and last is the shang, or merchant - the entrepreneur.
SINGAPORE BUDGET 2010
Levy not perfect but works
Mar 5, 2010
By Esther Teo
MANPOWER Minister Gan Kim Yong defended Singapore's system of foreign worker levies yesterday, saying that while it is not a perfect system, it is a practical system that works.
It works because companies which desperately need foreign workers to operate can still get them, but the system also gives them incentive to cut their reliance on these workers, he said.
The foreign worker levy - which is set for its first increase come July and further hikes over the next two years till 2012 - is a fee that companies pay to employ each foreign worker.
It works in tandem with a dependency ratio, which stipulates that in order for companies to have access to foreign workers, they also have to hire locals.
Mr Gan's comments come after many MPs expressed concern during the Bud-get debate that the levy hikes will increase business costs, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Companies may pass on this cost to consumers, or even leave Singapore to operate abroad, they added.
Budget shows Govt 'thinking of people's long-term interests'
by Joanne Chan
Updated 04:10 PM Feb 24, 2011
SINGAPORE - Should Budget 2011 be called an election Budget? Yes, according to Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, but only because it is a Budget of a Government thinking of the long-term interests of Singaporeans.
Pundits and observers had said the S$3.2-billion "Grow and Share" Package to be distributed this year would sweeten the ground for voters ahead of the coming General Election.
Speaking at a forum with union leaders yesterday, Mr Shanmugaratnam stressed that the Budget was not just about handouts that will make people happy. "It is rare for governments, on the eve, or during an election year, to be putting money ... on results that will only show up five, 10, 15 years from now, in some cases, even further down the road. So if it is an election Budget, it's because it's a Budget of a Government that is thinking of the long-term interest of its people, and that is the flag we're nailing to our mast."
During the forum, an official of the Singapore Maritime Officers' Union, Mr Wilfred Thiang, asked if a worker levy can be placed on foreign professionals as with unskilled or semi-skilled foreign workers, saying too many foreigners could put locals out of work.
Mr Shanmugaratnam acknowledged that more can be done to help PMETs stay employable. But he cautioned against closing the door on foreigners, saying that this would drive away the multi-national companies that help make Singapore globally competitive.
Mr Shanmugaratnam said some companies may lose out in Singapore's push for higher productivity and be replaced by more efficient firms. To avoid such a situation, he urged companies to take advantage of government schemes to raise productivity.
Mr Freddy Lim, president of the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority Workers' Union, said: "There are a lot of jobs in construction but Singaporeans don't want such work. With the levies imposed, some businesses may suffer and ... have to close down."
Speaking to reporters after the forum, the deputy executive secretary for the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees' Union, Ms Jennie Yeo, noted the construction industry's manpower shortage. Foreigners now think twice before coming here as they can get a comparative salary in their country.
Mr Shanmugaratnam said there is room for improvement in productivity. He noted that, in Japan, where with pre-fabrication widely used, fewer workers were needed on site.
Construction company bosses told MediaCorp that the levy changes will drive up costs.
Mr Yeow Kian Seng. managing director of Lucky Joint Construction, said: "You cannot buy machines to do the job."
Straits Construction general manager Kenneth Loo said: "We have to look at less labour-intensive work such as on-site assembly". Joanne Chan, with additional reporting by Hoe Yeen Nie and Ong Dai Lin
Fewer foreign nurses as more Singaporeans attracted to profession
Posted: 24 January 2007 0128 hrs
Photos 1 of 1
Watch selected videos in our special report
SINGAPORE : A total of 3,527 practising foreign nurses - 2,375 in public sector and 1,152 in private sector - made up 22 percent of the total number of practising nurses in Singapore last year, down from 27 percent in 2003.
And the Health Ministry expects to reduce the dependence on foreign nurses, as more Singaporeans are now attracted to the nursing profession.
But some MPs wanted to know what the attrition rates of local and foreign nurses are, and its impact.
Dr Lam Pin Min, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said: "What is the retention rate of these foreign nurses and if these foreign nurses are using Singapore as a stepping stone to greener pastures elsewhere? If so, whether this volatile influx of nurses will affect the standard of nursing care in Singapore?"
Mr Heng Chee How, Minister of State for Health, replied: "The attrition rate for the local nurses is about seven to eight percent a year, that for foreign nurses would be in the region of 20 to 25 percent a year. It is more than the local nurses. You would also agree with me that the vast majority of them do stay on." - CNA/de
December 07, 2007 Friday, 03:18 PM
You hit right in No.6 I'm a staff nurse for 13 years and I can tell you the hospitals have not done enough to retain Singaporean nurses. My friends in my nursing batch have since left for Australia, UK, UAE, Canada and me to the US. What bothers me when I was still working as a staff nurse there was that my Nursing Director would make frrequent trips to India to recruit nurses, instead of doing more to retain the local nurses.
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Büyük Ölçekli Mükellefler Grup Başkanlı ğı,
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More Chinese working in Indian eateries
Mon Aug 29 2011
Why is this Chinese national waitress working in an Indian restaurant?
She can't speak a word of Hindi or Tamil, she had never eaten Indian food before she came here and her command of the English language is poor.
But Miss Bi Ruonan, 20, is among a growing number of Chinese nationals working in Indian restaurants in Little India.
The reason - service sector companies can recruit work permit holders only from countries such as Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea and Taiwan, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
The ministry didn't elaborate on why India was excluded when asked.
An MOM spokesman would say only that these sources are reviewed regularly and the existing labour sources are found to be sufficient to meet current market needs.
The Little India restaurant owners said they have to turn to Chinese workers because of the labour crunch.
The Indian Restaurant Association of Singapore, with 82 members, said almost all their members hire Chinese nationals now.
Association President Shanmugam Ganesan said its members want to hire Indian nationals, but they can hire only those holding an S-Pass or employment pass, with a minimum wage of $2,000.
There are no minimum wage requirements for work permit holders.
Because of the rule, he has to hire chefs from India on S-Passes.
He said: "I pay an Indian chef $2,000, which works out to about 75,000 rupees in India, more than a doctor's salary there.
"Why should we give a not-so-qualified cook so much just because we are desperate? We shouldn't be so strict about hires for the F&B sector."
Miss Bi, who is from China's north-eastern Jilin province, said she chose to work in an Indian restaurant primarily because she wanted to improve her English.
She has been working in Gayatri Restaurant in Serangoon Road for the last six months.
She said in Mandarin: "It was tough in the beginning. I couldn't communicate well with my colleagues and my boss because my English wasn't very good."
She stays at the workers' quarters above the restaurant and eats the Indian food which is provided free by her company three times a day. She can also cook her own meals but at her own cost.
She shares a room with three Malaysian women, all Indian.
But she takes all these things in her stride.
Said Miss Bi: "I took some time to get used to the curry which is too spicy for me. But the naan is okay."
Her monthly salary is about $1,500, of which $500 goes towards food and boarding provided by the company.
Two of her colleagues, both waiters, are also from China.
She said she has not encountered any hostile customers who prefer to be served by an Indian. She added: "I know the menu well and now my English has improved.
"And being Chinese helps, especially when we serve tourists from China. It's easier to explain the menu to them in our native tongue."
Mr Shanmugam, who is also the owner of Gayatri Restaurant, said he has raised this issue about hiring Indian nationals on work permit with MOM, but to no avail.
These Indian restaurants used to depend on labour from Malaysia but switched to hiring more from China about three years ago, said Mr Shanmugam.
This is because there's a perception that the Chinese national workers are more hard-working and less fussy.
He said: "I have no issues hiring Chinese nationals, but there's a language barrier there. I'd rather hire from India direct.
"I don't see why we can't recognise India as a traditional source. When I ask them (MOM), they just say it's confidential."
2-year work permit
A work permit is generally issued to foreign unskilled workers and the duration of a work permit is generally two years.
Mr Selvan Anbalagan, 39, said he used to hire two Chinese nationals to do the washing and cleaning for his Indian restaurant two years ago.
He has since sold the restaurant.
Mr Selvan, who now runs vegetarian restaurant Chellas along Serangoon Road, said he doesn't hire any more Chinese nationals because he has reached his quota - he now has four chefs from India on his payroll, all on S-Pass.
He said: "The Chinese nationals were not proficient in English, so they did the cleaning and washing.
"I think aside from opening up to India, MOM should encourage locals to work in service sectors. It's difficult to hire locals because they are more fussy, prefer white collar jobs, days off during weekends and no shift work."
He has 14 staff members and 10 of them are locals, mostly part-timers.
Customer Vijah Karuppaiah, 42, finds it novel to be attended to by a Chinese waiter in an Indian restaurant.
He said: "It's funny when you have them describing what goes into mysore mutton and all that.
"But I have no problems with a Chinese waiter. What matters more is the service and quality of the food."
There are about 871,000 work permit holders here.
MOM said they prosecuted seven employers of EP and S-Pass holders for false declarations under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act in the first six months of this year.
Four were jailed between one and six months while three were fined between $5,000 and $6,000.
Submitting false salary information in work pass applications is tantamount to making a false declaration, said MOM.
Under this act, making a false declaration in a work pass application is punishable with a fine not exceeding $15,000 and up to a year's jail.
Anyone with information on such offences is encouraged to contact MOM at 64385122 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Singapore beat Philippines 2-0 in friendly
Published on Oct 7, 2011
By Lee Min Kok
Singapore beat the Philippines 2-0 in a friendly match at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday night.
The Lions took the lead through a deflected shot from left-back Shaiful Esah in the 51st minute, before veteran striker Aleksandar Duric slotted the ball home 14 minutes later to wrap up a comfortable victory.
A 5,516-strong crowd - made up mostly of Filipinos -ï¿½ watched Republic's final warm-up before they face Jordan in a do-or-die 2014 World Cup qualifying match at the same venue next Tuesday.
October 2nd, 2008
Fanatical Filipino crowd lights up Slingers basketball challenge at Indoor Stadium
By Ian Chew
Its a sad fact -- but you would probably never see this happen among Singaporean supporters.
Midway through the third quarter as Slingers Filipino point guard Al Vergara stood on the free throw line, the near capacity Indoor Stadium crowd of mostly Filipino expatriates rose as one with chants of RP! RP!. RP by the way stands for Republic of Philippines.(I can still feel the goosebumps as I write this.)
I remembered turning in amazement to Shamir from the Today newspaper (who was also quite dumbfounded beside me) and saying,Have you seen anything like this before?
The deafening roar of the 5,500-strong crowd continued to reverberate around the stadium each time their favorite Purefoods team threatened to embark on a mini-rally. Even the Slingers looked slightly shell-shocked at fervent support for the visiting team.
Its kind of strange to hear boos ringing in our home game when one of our players step up to take the free throw, confided Darren Ng in an earlier interview.
But when facing any visiting team from the Philippines, the Slingers had better get used to that treatment.
We are extremely passionate about basketball back in the Philippines, especially about the PBA league and these scenes are common, explained one Filipino fan to me later.In fact, if you manage to get Ginebra Kings (the most popular PBA team in the Philippines) down to the indoor stadium, I would even be willing to pay $50 for the ticket!
Yet the fanatical Filipino crowd occasionally reared its ugly head as well. It happened when Purefoods head coach Ryan Gregorio got into a shouting match with one of the Slingers fans during the fourth quarter. That prompted the entire Filipino contingent seated above to rain down not only their abuse, but objects as well at the hapless fan! Fortunately, the visiting team managed to calm down the fans or I doubt the stadium security could have done much to hold back a full-scale riot.
Slingers Managing Director Bob Turner is taking everything in his stride.
I think the atmosphere is unbelievable tonight and it bodes well for the Slingers team as we prepare to embark on our ASEAN league next year, he enthused.Hopefully, we can get our locals to support us in a greater way.
The Slingers head coach was also excited about the record fans turnout.
It was a fantastic atmosphere at the stadium and the players were sometimes playing on adrenaline off the energy from the crowd Its great for basketball! he said.
Would someone pass the message to the Singaporean fans?
S'pore Slingers lose for the 1st time to Filipino opposition at Indoor Stadium
Our Singapore Slingers fought valiantly, but still went down to the new-look Philippines National team 70-67 in last night's friendly.
In regional basketball news,
Our Singapore Slingers fought valiantly, but still went down to the new-look Philippines National team 70-67 in last night's friendly.
Comprising several college basketball players, the visitors are currently together under a 3 year full-time contract.
And with more than 90% of the 2,000 strong crowd rooting for the Filipinos at the Indoor Stadium last night, it was American import Kyle
Jeffers who top-scored for the Slingers with 20 points.
And Singapore's rising star Hong Wei Jian added 12 points.
This was the Slingers 1st ever home defeat to a Filipino team.
The Republic is now looking to bounce back when they square off against another PBA club Ginebra next Wednesday.
These friendly matches are in preparation for the Slingers debut in the Asean Basketball League next month.
Tue, Feb 24, 2009
The Straits Times
Fights in foreign worker dorms common
By Nur Dianah Suhaimi
There is little room for patience, it seems.
A group of Vietnamese and Chinese foreign workers created panic in Geylang last Tuesday evening when they got into a fight in a dormitory. The cause is not known.
Wooden poles and kitchen knives were used in the attack which lasted some 10 minutes and left three injured. The police have arrested three people.
While the incident may have left many residents in the area ruffled, dormitory operators are not batting an eyelid.
Those interviewed by The Sunday Times said dormitory scuffles and squabbles among foreign workers are very common. Their most frequent bone of contention? Living space.
Said Mr Andreas Chan, former director of a Kranji dormitory:'Quarrels are an everyday affair. Fights take place at least once a week.
'When so many people live together in such a small space, there is bound to be friction. Even extended families living in the same house have their quarrels. What more strangers from different countries with different habits and cultures?'
Not being able to communicate in a common language adds to the problem.
Mr Lim Teck Ho, who operates four foreign-worker dormitories, cited an example:'Chinese nationals like to speak very loudly. This gives others the impression that they want to start a fight.'
Dormitory operators said arguments usually erupt when workers rush to use the common toilets during peak periods - before work in the morning and after work in the evening. Patience runs thin and tempers flare when they have to wait to shower or use the loo.
Said a dormitory manager who declined to be named:'Sometimes the morning toilet queues are so long that the workers have to brush their teeth in the lorry taking them to work.'
Mr Chan has heard of a case in a Tuas dormitory where a group of foreign workers stormed a shower cubicle and beat up a fellow worker because he was taking a leisurely shower during the peak period.
The television set can also be a channel of friction.
When workers of various nationalities have to share a TV set, and all want to watch different channels at the same time, there will be arguments. Turning on the volume too loud while others are sleeping can also lead to scuffles.
One dormitory in the north had to confiscate the TV set for a month when its residents got into fisticuffs over channel control.
Mr Lim said the more cramped the dormitory is, and the higher the ratio of residents to facilities, the greater the chance of fights breaking out.
'This is why I allocate each worker at my dormitory at least 5 sq m of space,' he said.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) guidelines require each worker to have room space of at least 3 sq m with a separate space for cupboards, or 4 sq m if there is no separate space.
Operators are not taking chances.
Most workers' dormitories have at least two burly, specially trained guards on duty at any one time. They will conduct spot checks every hour when there are workers around.
Said Mr Liew Kok Seng, dormitory manager at View Road Lodge in Admiralty:'You cannot employ any normal general worker to be a security guard at a workers' dormitory. You need someone who is fierce and can take control of difficult situations.'
When fights break out and cannot be stopped, the guards will first threaten to call the workers' employers. This tactic is usually successful as workers are most afraid of being repatriated. But if the fight continues, the police will be called in.
Stopping a fight is not easy when there are so many men involved. Which is why efforts are made to prevent one from happening.
The Seletar Flats dormitory in Seletar West Farmway imposes a stiff $200 fine on residents who fight, said its property manager Kelvin Low. This is a quarter of the salary of the average foreign worker.
The dormitory, which houses 3,000 workers, has never had a fight since it started operating three years ago.
Other dormitories prefer a simpler method of keeping peace: providing more space and better facilities.
The View Road Lodge, for example, allows residents to install their own TV sets in their rooms so that they will not have to share the common set.
At the Blue Stars Dormitory in Kian Teck Lane, near Boon Lay, workers are housed in self-equipped units that resemble HDB flats. Each unit has two toilets, two shower rooms and a small sitting area, and is shared by 12 to 14 men.
Residents get to choose who they want to live with to ensure they get along well with their roommates.
Said its property manager Raymond Mak:'We may have 4,000 workers of many different nationalities in our dormitory. But all of them live in harmony.'
Viet, China nationals clash in Geylang dorm
4 men, 2 women from Vietnam said to have used knife, wooden poles in attack
By Lediati Tan
February 20, 2009
Integration is a two-way street: Citizens must welcome foreigners, but immigrants too must accept the Republic's core values.
The Straits Times, 22 May 2012
AS EVENTS of the past week have revealed, the divisions between Singaporeans and foreigners, between so-called 'old' Singaporeans and 'new' Singaporeans, are deep and worrisome.
We must take the task of integrating foreigners,'new' Singaporeans, as seriously as we took racial integration or religious harmony. Indeed, the local-foreign divide may pose a more serious risk to our social stability now than racial differences. The differences within each race today - especially among Chinese and Indians - seem to be greater than the differences between the races. That is so chiefly because of the large inflow of ethnic Chinese from the mainland and ethnic Indians from the subcontinent into Singapore over the past decade or so. We have to deal with this problem - now, urgently - or we will have a fractured society, a divided polity.
Consider what has happened in Sweden and Denmark, two countries that many people in Singapore - progressives, liberals, centrists - admire: The anti-immigrant, far-right Danish People's Party is now Denmark's third largest party; and in Sweden, the equally anti-immigrant, extreme right Sweden Democrats won for the first time 20 out of 349 seats in the country's parliamentary election in September 2010.
Choosing the better angels of our nature
This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 22, 2013
Published on Apr 24, 2013
By Janadas Devan
I WAS born a British subject, became a Malaysian briefly and then a Singaporean at the age of 10. I remember singing God Save The Queen in kindergarten, Majulah Singapura in Primary 1, Negara Ku from Primary 3 to 5, and then back to Majulah Singapura in Primary 5 when we were booted out of Malaysia.
My father was born in British Malaya, was subjected to Japanese rule for three years, became a Malaysian for six and then a Singaporean at the age of 46. He got his identity card late in life.
Every one of Singapore's founding fathers began their political careers believing there was no such thing as a Singaporean and that Singapore couldn't possibly be independent. They all believed Singapore was a part of Malaya. They stumbled, tripped into their identities as Singaporeans.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew became a Singaporean at the age of 42, Dr Goh Keng Swee 47, and Mr S. Rajaratnam 50.
To use a contemporary term, they were all "new citizens". They weren't born wanting to be Singaporean. Indeed, they didn't expect to be Singaporean till Aug 10, 1965. On Aug 9, they were still shedding tears, mourning the loss of a previous identity.
There will be no majority or minority race in Singapore, Mr Lee declared after Separation. Instead, we will have a "Singaporean Singapore", he promised. That was Mr Lee's and the Old Guard's finest hour.
The natural thing to do, having been booted out of Malaysia primarily because we were a Chinese-majority state in a Malay-majority Federation, would have been to base your political legitimacy on appeals to Chinese identity. Instead our founding fathers decided to base their legitimacy on an extraordinary dream: a Singaporean Singapore. To a remarkable degree, we have fulfilled their dream - not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.
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