By the Singapore Democrats
11 May 2009

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The latest war cry from our multi-million-dollar cabinet: Re-skill, upskill and multi-skill. It’s the worn-out refrain started years ago to get our workers to “upgrade” themselves and prepare for the New Economy.

New Economy? We never even got out of the old one. We are still giving multinational companies (MNCs) heavenly tax breaks in the hope that they will continue to pull their investments here.

And when we tried to diversify into other industries, we ended up competing with other secrecy jurisdictions for money from tax cheats and money-launderers. We did this by re-writing our banking laws to protect the secrecy of questionable clients and constructing casinos.

But all this “New Economy” revamp has resulted in Singapore becoming the first country in Asia to plunge into recession. Since October last year the economy has been on a free fall, making Singapore the worst performing economy in the region and our worst performance since the 1960s.

Worse, our ministers who never pass up an opportunity to tell us how experienced and competent they are now admit that they don’t quite know how to get the country out of the rut. All we can do is to wait because, according to PM Lee Hsien Loong, “recovery will come once the American economy picks up.”

The New Economy? Who is the Government trying to kid? We are still nothing but a service station, albeit a glamorous one, for the multinationals.

The real difference between now and before is that now we have to compete with cheaper economies in Asia. Hence, the desperate measures to bring in en masse foreign labour in order to keep costs down so that MNCs will stay.

So what is all this re-skilling and multi-skilling? It’s just something that the Government has to talk about to make it look like it is doing something about the crisis.

The thing that the Government hasn’t explained is: What do we do with all these skills when the US economy doesn’t pick up?

But how can they be serious about the exercise when they continue to use cheap foreign labour to compete with Singaporeans? Upgrade your skills so that you can compete with a foreigner for a lower paying job. Does this sound like progress?

And why does the term “multi-skilling” sound suspiciously like euphemism for taking on another job (or two) to make ends meet?

There is a desperate need for a rethink of our economic model, one that, at least, pays our workers wages commensurate with the cost of living, and one that frees them from exploitation.

The “tripartism” between Government, management, and labour is a ruse. There is no symbiotic relationship between the three, just a predatory one where the ruling party teams up with business to put workers in constant want.

How else can you explain that after nearly half a century of this arrangement, workers find themselves with diminishing wages and with the cost of living outstripping what they take home?

And when the CPF pays a non-existent interest rate and when savings are withheld from retirees, the NTUC sees nothing, says nothing and does nothing. Actually this is not entirely accurate. It comes out as cheerleader for the Government’s moves.

In this time of extreme hardship, our workers are driven to gloom and despondency due to years of PAP’s deliberate anti-labour policies and laws aimed at denying their basic rights such as forming unions of their choice.

The PAP leaders, including those masquerading as labour chiefs and what have you, should stop shackling the aspirations and expectations of our workers.

Without a genuine trade union, free from the fetters of the PAP, our workers will continue to languish and remain deprived of their just demands. May Day may be behind us this year but the Singapore Democrats will continue to champion for the interests and rights of our workers. We will continue our campaign for:

  • Singaporeans First
  • Minimum Wage
  • Retrenchment entitlements (See here)

Enough with the endless and empty slogans like “re-skill, up-skill and multi-skill.” They are feel-good cliches meant to distract workers’ attention from the real economic issues. Let us instead focus on addressing the subjects of cheap foreign labour and the suppression of wages which are bringing much misery to all of our workers.


Wong gets worse Much that Wong Kan Seng needs to account for

  1. Singapore economy will definitely recovered in 1 or 2 years time. The problem is the emerging economy will have shed thousands of jobs and will leave many unemployed. The gov will be creative in classifying this unemployed people differently as to have a lower unemployment rate. Many factories will be closed and old jobs are destroyed forever. Unless the gov create new economy jobs to replaced them or Singapore will be in a limbo state for a very long time. The problem is the current Singapore gov aint good in making good investments and job creations. Thats bad.

  2. Would it be too much to say the Government – and not just here – are really the modern False Prophets?

    Train, train, train for what when there are no jobs? And even if there are, do they fit what people are trained for? Do we know?

    Well, from the Government perspective, you have to say something, something – anything – positive, something that gives hope, that dispel hopelessness, despondency and futility.

    So train, train, train is all they can say: It is something you can do, take charge, be master of your own life, occupy yourself, and delude yourself that you are improving yourself, and makes you more hopeful, etc.

    It is clearly false.

    But there will be people willing to believe whatever the False Prophets say, just to avoid the reality and not to be filled with despair. And anyway they have accepted that PAP is God.

    As to the economy I cannot think of anything but only likened it to an athlete who was once successful at the highest level, but only because he was on steroids, until he was found out. However he still needs to compete and continue to win at the highest level still, or else will die.

    Our smart MNCs way was, albeit in hindsight, a shortsighted one. But we had the chance to correct it. Then there were the various plans to go into IT, media, biotech, life science, etc etc. But alas we went for more steroids in the shape of foreign talent, and not correcting basic, fundamental flaws in our society, and left the populace to clean tables in hawker centres and sell trinkets in HDB shops, etc.

    So I think the real problems are very deep. And whatever fixing – which I do not know what – will again be a “smart” one. And we may have past the point of really fixing anything at all.

  3. Your argument regarding the Singapore economy lacks critical economic analysis.

    Singapore is an extremely open economy that relies heavily on its exports sector for economic growth. We have a very small domestic market. This is seen by the fact that trade is three times the value of our GDP. Our main trading partners are the US and the European Union. So what do you expect when the US and the EU plunge into a recession? Of course we will be affected severely.

    And this brings me to diversification. Due to our small economy, there is a need to push for export markets to bring about economic growth. To mitigate the dependence on a single market, the country has attempted to diversify. That is the pragmatic choice for our economy.

    The government is boosting efforts to improve workers’ productivity through the existing and new programmes. Our only resource is labour, and for us to be competitive in this globalised world, it is skilled labour. It is therefore logical that such schemes are put in place to help the workers and the PMETs.

    Why then do we need these improved skills when the US hasn’t picked up? As I have explained earlier, there is a need to constantly upgrade our labour force to remain competitive with, as you have correctly pointed out, low-cost countries. Do you want to start retraining workers only when the US economy has picked up? When we would lose out once we lose our competitive edge in the global economy?

    Importing foreginers, be it labour workers or foreign talent, will always be the case for Singapore. Our labour force is too small without these people.

    About the labour unions. Surveys of MNCs here say that a factor contributing to setting up their business operations here is due to a peaceful and skilled workforce. Isn’t this then a merit of the labour system that we have?

  4. Every year, the employers and the NTUC and the govt get together for a love-in called NWC Collective Bargaining . Throughout the rest of the year, as I have said elsewhere, the govt holds down the poor worker, his Labour Union spreads his legs and the Employers sodomises him! How is that for More golden years, the New Economy, More high value added jobs, Swiss std of living, Upturn the Downturn, and other nonsense? Our filthy rich Cabinet Ministers and their overpaid scholars in the Civil Service have never had to work and pay union dues, as they are air-lifted to the highest social and political and economic rungs. So empathy and compassion with the common man is mythological. They churned out so much propaganda that they are believing it themselves!

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