Now the Restaurant Association of Singapore has joined the chorus of business groups screaming blue murder. They are all saying that businesses will be killed if the foreign worker tap is further tightened. I guess they have their eyes on the middle of the year when levies and quotas are supposed to be changed, never mind that they had time to prepare for this.
Those comments by business groups are hard to connect with if you’re not in business yourself. But restaurants? “Consumers can expect higher food prices without a concomitant increase in quality and service standards due to lack of manpower. In fact, quality and service may decline,” the restaurant people said. (I now invite snickering…you mean quality and service so good now ah?)
Back to being serious. The media have reported time and again about traditional favorite eating places which have closed down, and great foodies that we are, I am sure there is some sighing. I am already disconcerted by Filipinas greeting me in Mandarin at Chinese restaurants. Now the restaurant people are suggesting that foreign students be allowed to work part-time as well. Looks like I will have to get used to a blonde, blue eyed Caucasian reciting the names of Japanese dishes? Ah well, so long as the food is good, even if the ambience is not authentic…
I think we can connect with the restaurant people because we can feel and see the impact of the foreign worker crunch on them. But it’s more difficult when businesses say that they will have to start moving out of Singapore ecetera. So they move lock, stock and barrel – and with them all the jobs, investments and tax revenues we could have collected? Has anyone calculated the impact of such moves if say half of our SMEs and MNCs pull out?
Then again, I read in BT of an OCBC banker saying that most SMEs already have operations abroad. But they base their headquarters at home. What does that mean? SMEs which relocate some but not all of their operations abroad is a good thing? I mean, if they are re-locating because of cheaper labour, that’s okay so long as the money comes back no? And if MNCs which need cheap labour go abroad, that’s also okay no? So long as they do their higher-level stuff here and employ higher-level people?
I have a feeling that I might have over-simplified matters. But I think someone needs to tell non-business people like me what the impact really translates to in real terms instead of scaring everybody with this catch-all “We will have to re-locate’’ mantra. I read in ST today about Japanese firms coming here, mainly services. Legal and advertising. And how more of them are doing so. That looks like a good thing no? So they are not big-name manufacturing types hiring in the hundreds…but that’s not what we are looking for right? So do the entry of such firms out-weigh those who are exiting? This is economic restructuring right, just like the Population White Paper said?
I am getting thoroughly confused. But never mind. I am sure brighter minds will sort out the numbers and the economics.
Then I read about how we are short of bus drivers and ambulance drivers. Oh. So need more foreigners then.
I also read about cabbies saying they can’t get relief drivers easily, even though there is a big pool of them. I think cab-driving is about the only protected Singaporean occupation. You know, I can accept a blonde, blue-eyed Caucasian serving me in a Japanese restaurant, but I will scream blue murder at any disruption to my cabbing experience. I will feel thoroughly dis-located.
This is hard for me to say but, yes, I will pay more to keep a Singaporean at the wheel. Why? Because the confines of a taxi is just about the only place that hasn’t been invaded by the foreign and the unfamiliar.