Not too long ago, I blogged about a deceitful Facebook post by Dr Chee Soon Juan. The main point about that blog post was about how Dr Chee took the quotes out of context and deliberately left out key parts of one of the quotes. That blog post was then reproduced (without my permission) on another forum. And, on that forum, it attracted numerous, mostly anti-foreigner and xenophobic, comments.
A lot of those who commented are of the opinion that making it easier for Singapore firms to set up operations in Indonesia and recruit Indonesians would lead to a loss of jobs here in Singapore. One particular person who commented on the forum (and also commented on my blog) used Taiwan as a an example. He said that Taiwan companies have moved their factories to China two decades ago and that led to a spike in unemployment and depressed wages in Taiwan. Using that as his basis, he argued that it is a mistake to make it so easy for Singaporean companies to set up operations in other countries. He also used Japan as an example, saying that even though Japan has a number of companies that have operations all over the world, its economy remains in the doldrums. It seems that he is thus suggesting that Singapore companies should not be allowed to set up operations overseas.
What is curious is that these people forget that Singapore benefitted greatly from numerous MNCs from other countries having set up operations here. These MNCs employ Singaporeans. They are here because by being here, they can expand their business. And by being here, they hire Singaporeans and contribute to our economy. Not wanting Singaporean companies to set up operations in Indonesia and hiring Indonesians in the process is like telling those MNCs that that shouldn’t be here in Singapore, and even if they are, they shouldn’t hire Singaporeans.
Given Singapore’s small size, it is crazy for us to not encourage Singaporean companies to expand beyond our shores. And as our companies expand operations to other countries, how is it likely that we don’t employ the locals in those countries? In the process, will there be jobs that would flow out of Singapore as a result? Of course. The phenomenon of hollowing out of certain jobs that Taiwan faced is something that Singapore had already faced. Over our history, we’ve seen various types of factories leave Singapore for other countries with lower costs. But unlike Taiwan, Singapore took the active and conscious steps of moving up the value chain.
In a world that is so highly globalised, it is stupid not to see the world as our market. It is foolish to think that we can thrive by being isolated. It is naive to think that jobs won’t leave Singapore if we don’t make it easy for Singaporean companies to set up operations in other countries. If we don’t make it easy for Singaporean companies to set up operations in other countries, what is more likely to happen is that these companies would fold and we would still lose jobs anyway.
It is worrying that there are Singaporeans who are so vocal about being anti-foreigner and xenophobic. I hope that vocal as these people are, they are but a very small minority. As a small nation, we cannot afford the luxury of being insular and isolated. We need to see the whole world as our oyster. As much as the globalised world poses threats to us, we need to find the opportunities that are there for us to seize. That is how we will do well.