Foreign squeeze

In Money, News Reports, Politics, Society on August 14, 2012 at 1:16 am

Something important happened in Parliament yesterday, more important than Woffles Wu or whether the G over-billed or got over-billed on goods and services. It has to do with the foreign population but you have to read BT to find out the full works. Go buy BT.

Beyond revising the Immigration Act to weed out sham marriages of foreigners marrying Singaporeans just to get PR, the G has introduced a Bill to amend the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act. Bigger fines, longer jail term and even caning might be in store for errant employers who bring in foreign workers willy-nilly. They better not get caught forging certificates, giving under-the-table money to recruiters or get around their quotas. Seems the G is cleaning up all aspects to do with immigration here, whether foreigners come here to live or work. I mean, they are cleaning up Geylang too, going by yesterday’s TNP reports on foreign women who come in on student passes but somehow end up as street walkers.

One thing which made my eyebrows shoot up (note I didn’t raised): how some offences will be considered administrative breaches rather than offences to be settled in a court of law. This is supposedly to make sure cases are resolved quickly. I’ve said in the past that I’m concerned about such executive powers. What recourse do people who feel that they have been hard done by have? Appeal to the minister, the top member of the executive? One such “administrative” breach is circumventing the quota on how many foreigners in relation to locals employers can hire. That’s a $20K maximum fine and a possible ban on employing foreign workers. Quite tough.

I hope Parliament in its next sitting to debate the Bill asks some questions about how the G decides what should be admin breaches, and what should be criminal offences. Mere expediency? Can’t be that you leave the “cane-able” offences to the court, right?

I wonder what impact this will have on Singapore’s foreign population numbers in future? These moves are couple with tightening rules on employment of work permit and S-pass holders as well as those who think just plonking a certain sum of money here will get them PR.  Time we take stock of these many changes which have been taking place piecemeal over the past few months.


  1. A pretty comprehensive document on the proposed changes was put on Reach in May, and it explains, among other things, 1) how they decide if something is a breach or criminal offence (criteria include whether there’s direct harm to the worker and whether it would be a crime outside this specific law), and 2) the appeal mechanism for admin breaches. So the info’s there, it just presumably wasn’t in the BT report.

  2. I have always felt that laws are only as good as they are enforced/policed. Singapore already has many strict and good laws but the problem is always poor enforcement. Most of the times the G reacts only to complaints. Eg employers using phantom workers to boost local employee numbers, getting S pass holders to return part of their monthly salaries etc seems to have been going on for a long time. I don’t think there was much commitment from the authorities to do anything; otherwise things would not have come to this. Another example is the problem of streetwalkers in Geylang. This problem has been going on for more than 10 years as far as I can remember. The only time that enforcement was really strict was during the APEC meeting 2 years ago. I guess there was a reason for them to “clean house” before the VIPs arrived.
    So if they are not going to put more effort into enforcement, all these “enactment” of new laws will just be a “wayang”. They also need to have a proper whistle-blowing procedure in place to encourage people to report abuses.

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