Spread the foreign talent around

January 30, 2009

hsq9dvGlobal competition in Singapore is an everyday affair. Whether you’re in banking, IT, academia, sales or just about any other industry, you’re in competition with foreigners. And in the long run, this is a good thing. If you keep an open mind and are willing to learn, working alongside talented folks with different experiences and finer skills helps you improve in what you do. The accepted mantra seems to be: exposure to global competition makes you better.


If so, then why is it that some vocations just seem to be foreigner-proof? Members of Parliament for one. There is no reason why a Singapore MP needs to be Singaporean. Firstly, most of them have slipped into Parliament through the GRC system so it’s not an elected post but an appointed one. The PAP appoints you to be a PAP MP, places you in a GRC and viola! You’re in and given your 008 status (license to talk bullshit). Secondly, unlike other societies where there are deep ideological divides between, say, Labour and Tories (even they are hard to tell apart nowadays), there are no such political divisions in Singapore. We have 82 PAP MPs in Parliament all singing the same ideological hymn book so it’s not as if you need Singaporeans to represent certain political segments of the population. Any foreigner can learn to speak like a PAP MP; they just need to learn a few key phrases like “no free lunch”, “sack the coach”, “don’t complain, just re-train”, or “fire, fire” (last one was a bit insensitive; pretend I didn’t write it).


Thirdly, it’s not as if PAP MPs represent specific interests or constituencies like, say, the aged, or the workers, or women’s rights and so on. We have Nominated MPs for that. The NMP scheme was, after all, proposed by LKY back in the 1980s to improve parliamentary debate and to bring in expert knowledge. NMPs are specialists in their own fields and are nominated to speak about causes close to their hearts without needing to toe the party line. Hence, if you want specific representation in Parliament you turn to them, not PAP MPs. For example, Eunice Olsen is associated with youth issues, Thio Li-ann crusades for religious conservatives, Geh Min fought for environmentalism, Siew Kum Hong can be relied on to speak for the gay community, Jessie Phua champions the sports fraternity and so on.


Fourthly, being a PAP MP in Singapore is a purely administrative job. The PAP MP has three primary roles – to say “aye” to any Bill put in front of them; to give handouts at Meet the People sessions; and to pass complaints and feedback from the ground to their political masters. The first role any monkey can do. The second and third are administrative.


So there you have it. Being a PAP MP is a de facto appointment that is ideologically uniform and purely administrative. There is no reason why a competent foreigner with excellent managerial and people skills can’t do the job.


Another vocation that should be open to foreigners but isn’t is journalism. Ok, so we have a few ang mo correspondences in far off places writing about far off things in the Straits Times. But that hardly improves the overall reading and journalistic quality of the broadsheet. Why not open the Crime beat, Foreign beat, Transport beat, National Development beat to the best young writers from around the region? Journalists from, say, India or Philippines make far better writers than local ones because they have a better command and flair for the English language. Same with the Chinese papers too. Get in PRC nationals to write and edit. I’m sure we’ll see a dramatic leap in standard of Mandarin.


Oh, but MPs and journalists are part of the PAP machinery to keep Singaporeans in check, you say. No problem. You pay a foreigner a PAP MP’s salary and I guarantee he’ll answer to no one but the party. As for foreign journalists, you can still subject them the local Newspaper and Printing Presses Act to keep them politically compliant.


After all, we’re no longer a country but Singapore Inc. Singaporeans are no longer citizens but customers in their own country, with the state acting as “service provider”. There is no reason why we shouldn’t think out of the box, kill sacred cows, and other uniquely Singaporean clichés we can come up with, and apply market logic to every aspect of our lives. We can start with PAP MPs and local journalism. It’s about time the Invisible Hand smacks some people…hard 


8 Responses to “Spread the foreign talent around”

  1. sushibar Says:


  2. […] Read the original here: Spread the foreign talent around « groundnotes […]

  3. But appointing a foreign MP will be political suicide for the PAP

    It will only cause more xenophobic fears and the backlash will be increased.

    I am not against foreign MPs, but the problem is that if they are appointed and not elected, it could be going against the will of the people – the foreign MP wannabe will have to work to gain acceptance first.

  4. […] Daily Discourse – still me: small news – choongyong.com: Waste of Money, Waste of Electricity – Making History Relevant: S’pore is Evil – groundnotes: Spread the foreign talent around […]

  5. Bernard Says:

    I second the introduction of “competition” for the MPs and journalism job market. Let the smacking begins!

  6. David Says:

    YOu forget to mention other MPs’ specialities.

    Charles Chong represents the lesser mortal and immortal
    Seng Han Thong represents the ‘Don’t torch me’ movement

  7. […] Waste of Money, Waste of Electricity – Making History Relevant: S’pore is Evil – groundnotes: Spread the foreign talent around – Chemical Generation Singapore: Ignorantia legis neminem excusat? – Everyday’s Life in a […]

  8. GLOW Says:

    lets get it on..nnnn…SMACKDOWN…

    slaughter that sacred cow.. or cows..

    lets privatise the citizenry.. employ some PRC soldiers to do NS.. and reservist..

    sell every bit of singapore off .. proceeds will have to be split equally to the people.. every citizen is a equal shareholder..

    be done with governing.. let private enterprise fill in .. from cradle to grave.. No more ministers.. just CEOs, CIOs, CFOs, etc… then no argument about welfare state and all that mollycoddling..

    …. the people then won’t ever need to complain.. in fact they won’t even get a chance to protest… what a PAP nirvana that will be… don’t worry.. I am sure that is coming to a city state near you.. soon.. just some more rubber stamping to do…

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