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Remaining open to talent for the future economy

Published Mon, Feb 27, 2017 · 09:50 PM
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IN sketching out a vision of the economy over the next 10 years, the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) sees a role for all stakeholders in shaping the future. But the conspicuous lack of specific focus on the role of foreign talent has drawn attention from some quarters.

The questions and interest in the issue are no surprise, if not perhaps a little misplaced. In a world marked now by rapid advances and convergence of technologies, as well as upheavals in areas from trade to globalisation, the CFE has prescribed innovation, value creation and entrepreneurship for Singapore to stay ahead. This places a strong focus - perhaps even stronger than before - on having the sharpest minds as a driving force behind growth. As such, although it did not outline a clear approach to foreign talent, there is tacit understanding and acknowledgement of their role in the Singapore journey. "We cannot know which industries will succeed," says the CFE in its report. "What we do know is that Singapore must stay open to trade, talent and ideas, and build deep capabilities."

Yet there clearly remain strong socio-political considerations around issues on foreign talent. It's a policy imperative that the fruits of economic progress be shared across the workforce. There is thus an understanding that the influx of foreign talent should be complementary to, and not at the expense of, the local workforce. Singaporeans expect to benefit from having foreigners among them. And the political leaders have said as much in recent days, stressing that Singapore has remained open to foreign talent, while deeply mindful of the local workforce's needs. Just last Friday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that while it is "critical" that Singapore remains open to talent, it will scrutinise who gets the nod.

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