PSP Leong Mun Wai Fails Viswa Sadasivan’s Inconvenient Questions

Why is Leong Mun Wai entering the General Elections with his eyes closed?

PSP’s Assistant Secretary-General Leong Mun Wai, touted as the person who will ‘bring his managerial, organisation and financial competency to the party,’ unfortunately did not exhibit much of these competencies yesterday.

In an interview with former NMP Viswa Sadasivan on ‘Inconvenient Questions’, a Strategic Moves Project in collaboration with NUSS, Leong repeatedly failed to give satisfactory answers to his interviewer, prompting impatient interruptions from Sadasivan.

Here are some of his answers that do not make the cut for a credible opposition.

Not keeping up with the news

Viswa Sadasivan (VS): Can you specify what is an example of some change that you would like to implement that is different from the current economic policy?

Leong Mun Wai (LMW): We think this policy of free and uncontrolled foreign PMETs coming into the Singapore job market ought to be controlled and reviewed.

The tap already has been tightened, but Leong does not seem to be aware that hiring foreign PMETs isn’t free and uncontrolled at all.

Seven years ago, in 2013, the Ministry of Manpower already announced the implementation of the Fair Consideration Framework, which has been enhanced several times over the years to curb discriminatory hiring.

Just yesterday, MOM also announced new licensing conditions for employment agencies (EAs) from 1 October 2020 to ensure they consider Singaporeans fairly. What was Leong doing all these years?

According to his LinkedIn, he was providing “advice to high net-worth individuals on how to maximise and optimize financial returns”.

Doesn’t bother with statistical evidence

VS: Do you have evidence to suggest that (hiring of foreigners) is not controlled?

LMW: Ok, the statistics are difficult to sort of piece together…Nevertheless from anecdotal and some indirect analysis that we make on the employment figures, we are fairly confident (about this).

If Leong had bothered to Google, he would have noticed that MOM regularly publishes data on the labour market which can be easily found online. Its latest Labour Market Report 1Q 2020 shows a significant fall in foreign employment not only in 1Q2020, but also averaged down in the long run.

For someone who ‘educated and cultivated Japanese institutional clients on derivatives instruments’, he would have been able to use a simple technical analysis to notice this.

Copies other people’s ideas

VS: What would you do specifically (to control foreign hiring of PMETs)?

LMW: We would suggest implementing a quota and stricter screening of even EP holders.

If Leong did his research, he would know that his idea of implementing a quota on foreign hiring of PMETs isn’t new. In 2011 and 2012, NTUC MP Patrick Tay already advocated for a foreign PME dependency ratio, and labour market testing (where Singaporeans get first dibs for jobs before companies can hire locals).

Banks on populist policies without clear explanation

VS: What are your current reservations about the government’s approach to catering to the bottom 20%?

LMW: We should introduce minimum living wage.

Leong was certain about introducing a “minimum living wage”, but did not explicitly spell out what exactly it is, except it is not a minimum wage. He did not explain how high the “minimum living wage” should be, nor mention the trickle-down effects and implications of having such a policy.

Even PSP’s former member Yi Ling Teng, who quit the party and cut up her card, was able to anticipate these concerns and implications that Leong, a CEO and overseas merit scholar, did not.

Fails to put himself in workers’ shoes

VS: Minimum living wage is across the board, but the government’s approach is that it is more effective to find out people’s needs and give them what they need, and custom-make what they need as a combination of cash and vouchers. That’s the government’s argument and it does make sense to some extent.

LMW: That is one of the major objections we have when it comes to the government approach, dishing out the social and welfare payment. When you dish out the payment, we can easily find people slipping into complacency and be the sole dependent on the social net, so we have to avoid that. … The JSS (Jobs Support Scheme) is only for the next 3 months, and the next 3 months? … You should instill confidence by saying the JSS will be there for one year and maybe one more year.

Leong contradicts himself. Earlier in the interview, he demanded higher ComCare payouts, then proceeds to flip-flop and says that people will easily slip into complacency when they receive social and welfare payments.

He objects to the government’s targeted approach to custom-make help based on people’s needs, and prefers a one-size-fits-all approach of “minimum living wage”, whatever that is.

Even if this “minimum living wage” is a combination of minimum wage and living wage, as someone who studied and worked overseas, how come he does not seem to understand the limitations and flaws of minimum wage, or a living wage?

He also did not mention any of the alternatives to raising people’s wages that are practised in many parts of the world, including Singapore, revealing his inability to put himself in workers’ shoes or be a credible voice on workers’ issues.

Leong also forgets that as a CEO, his company benefited the most from the government’s Job Support Scheme which pays a portion of his employees’ wages. Yet he complains that the scheme should be longer such as a year or two, to help with long term planning.

He did not mention how CEOs like himself could help workers (e.g. work with unions to cut costs and save jobs, redesign workers’ jobs to be more productive, upskill workers during the downturn), nor did he talk about job matching.

He simply complains about JSS, which comes from him speaking as a CEO concerned about keeping his business afloat. How does he really care for workers?

Doesn’t care how the government does its job, as long as he’s not the one doing it

As Viswa Sadasivan succinctly said, “The onus is on the government, the ruling party, to actually implement and test it. And the alternative camp can throw darts and walk away.

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