Singapore July 2020 –

Written by  //  September 6, 2020  //  Asia  //  No comments

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‘End of Singapore’ for expats as government tells firms to hire locals in coronavirus crisis
The city-state looks to cut expat workforce as unemployment rates rise
(The Telegraph UK) Singapore has long been a favoured destination for foreign expatriates seeking a smooth passage into Asia, with its reputation for cleanliness and efficiency being matched with generous salaries, low tax rates and a comfortable lifestyle.
But as the pandemic-fuelled recession begins to bite and unemployment rates soar, the lure of the city-state is fading as recruiters face increasing barriers to hiring and foreign employees expect to bear the brunt of job cuts. Some have become alarmed at a rise in hostile rhetoric and no longer feel at home.
Last week Gan Siow Huang, the minister of state for manpower, said employers should view Singaporeans favourably when hiring and retain citizens over foreigners if retrenchment cannot be avoided.
Despite growing interest in Singapore as an alternative global hub to troubled Hong Kong, the government last month raised the costs of employing foreigners by increasing the minimum wage requirement for an “Employment Pass” work visa.
Under domestic political pressure, the government also added 47 companies to a watch list for suspected discriminatory hiring practices between foreigners and locals. The list, mainly from the financial and professional services sectors, adds to hundreds of other firms already under scrutiny.
… the financial stress of the pandemic has caused underlying tensions between the local population and expat communities to surface.
One recent Singaporean graduate told the Telegraph that “many of my peers and I are completely disillusioned by the government…We see ourselves completely at odds with the foreign population. At every turn, citizens are disadvantaged. There really isn’t any prominent country that has such high foreign population.”
Foreigners living in Singapore said that on top of worries about the shrinking job market, they also felt increasingly ill at ease. One suggested government phone alerts indicating new Covid-19 cases by visa category was driving anti-foreign vitriol.

5 August
Singapore’s 2020 Election: Explaining the PAP’s Stagnation
Moving forward, the PAP will need to consider how to manage the electoral impact of several key trends.
By Conrad Guimaraes
(The Diplomat) Singapore’s 2020 general election saw the opposition achieve its highest number of elected seats in parliament since 1963. Much has been made about the relatively low share of the vote (61 percent) won by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). However, observers must also acknowledge that, in the nine elections since 1984, the PAP has secured less than 65 percent of votes in six polls. The more significant outcome of the election was the announcement by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that Workers Party leader Pritam Singh would officially be given the title of leader of the opposition. This development effectively consolidates the WP as the alternative government.
Three structural changes over the last decade have led to this pivotal moment in Singaporean politics.
First, government cash transfers to the population and businesses have had a diminishing effect on Singaporean elections. Since the 2011 elections, the government has adjusted its positioning and policies to increase handouts and training assistance packages significantly.
Second, voters seem to reject the PAP’s approach to allowing junior candidates to be elected into Parliament by fielding them as junior members of a group representation constituency (GRC) under a high-profile senior minister. In a society where meritocracy is extolled by the government, the idea of well-connected, white-collar professionals being elected on the coattails of experienced politicians has hit a nerve.
The final reason for the PAP’s decline is what can be called the “Clinton Effect,”… Since the 2011 election, the PAP government has erected several legal barriers to opposition success, all of which seemed to create a political environment where voters are more inclined to vote for the opposition.

4 July
Hype beasts, fan cams: does Singapore opposition have an online edge in election 2020?
With mass rallies out due to Covid-19, online campaigning could play a big role in Singapore’s digital-first election
Some analysts believe it will boost the opposition, with even a PAP stalwart saying the ruling party faces a ‘tough election’
(SCMP) While Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s PAP – in power since 1959 – is all but certain to return to power, some observers believe the elections may be far more of a contest than in the past because of a “levelling of the playing field” brought about by restrictions on physical campaigning.
As part of prevailing pandemic control measures, candidates, while allowed to conduct walkabouts and house visits, are only allowed to do so in groups of five or fewer.
With the restrictions in mind, the PAP stalwart K. Shanmugam described the contest to local media this week as a “tough election” for the ruling party as its strengths were in campaigning on the ground.
In pitching policies to voters, the incumbents enjoy an advantage, according to Woo. “For the opposition, the onus is on them to tell voters what alternative policies they could offer,” he said. “The ground work now is being limited … and there are fewer people out on the streets so the level of engagement will be far less.
Singapore GE updates, July 4: Where are the parties’ big guns
(Straits Times) The parties are also hoping to shift voters’ attention to what they feel should be the core issues in this election. For the PAP, it is steering Singapore through the Covid-19 crisis. For the opposition, it is the need for a constructive opposition in Parliament.
Singapore election: the present and future of the People’s Action Party
The party is fielding 27 new candidates and replacing 20 current MPs including former prime minister Goh Chok Tong.
Lee, his designated successor Heng Swee Keat and the younger so-called 4G or fourth generation ministers are fronting the party’s effort to win its 13th consecutive general election
THE ‘4G-16’
With the PAP likely to return to power, this year’s election has been characterised as a referendum of sorts on Heng and the 15 other younger ministers who make up the PAP’s 4G leadership.
The team will helm key ministries after the election, and Heng, 59, is expected to succeed 68-year-old Lee, who had previously indicated he would step down by the time he turned 70. … Heng, who is also finance minister, is the oldest in the group while 43-year-old Desmond Lee, the Minister for Social and Family Development, is the youngest.
5 reasons why Singapore’s upcoming general election is worth watching
(CNBC)  The Southeast Asian country is not the first to hold a national vote in the middle of the pandemic. South Korea in April held parliamentary elections that resulted in a decisive win for President Moon Jae-in’s party.  While the South Korean government was largely praised for its handling of the virus at the time of its elections, Singapore’s response — which was initially seen as a success globally — lost some of its shine due to an outbreak within dormitories that house migrant workers. Those workers — usually men from other Asian countries working in low-wage, labor-intensive jobs — account for more than 90% of nearly 44,000 confirmed infections in Singapore, according to the health ministry’s data.
Singapore is forecasting its worst economic recession since independence in 1965. The economy is expected to shrink by between 4% and 7% this year, according to official estimates.
For only the second time since Singapore’s independence, all 93 parliamentary seats that are up for grabs in the election will be contested. The ruling PAP is the only one that has fielded candidates for every seat. The last election in 2015 was the first time that every parliamentary seat was contested.
Last week, the prime minister’s younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, joined an opposition party. Although the younger Lee is not contesting in the election, he is expected to help rally support for the opposition.

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