Sukesh Ananth, a computer engineer who lost his job at Hewlett-Packard Co last month, has discovered that Singapore companies are turning away the skilled foreign workers they once courted. \n"I find it difficult to get a job because I have an Indian passport," the 26-year-old said. "Headhunters say companies prefer to hire Singaporeans, permanent residents and then foreigners, and they are not being discreet about it." Singapore's companies are idling machines and cutting staff as the country of 4 million slides deeper into recession, and foreigners, who make up almost a quarter of the population, are often the first to get the ax. "Singaporeans Only," say some newspaper ads for the few jobs available. \nThat creates a dilemma for Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, whose People's Action Party has ruled Singapore since independence in 1965. \nHe doesn't want to alienate voters before an election that must be held by September 2002, nor can he afford to turn away the foreign engineers and scientists Singapore needs to stay competitive. \n"As our economy slows down and unemployment increases, some Singaporeans may again question the need for more global talent," Goh said in his National Day speech last Sunday. "This is a matter of life and death for us in the long term." Once a trading hub for the British Empire in East Asia, the resource-poor island has become a manufacturing powerhouse, last year exporting US$78 billion worth of semiconductors, disk drives and other goods. With per capita gross national product of about US$24,000, it's among the world's 25 richest nations. \nSingapore hires foreign workers because its small population lacks many of the skills the country needs. One quarter of Singaporeans have fewer than six years of education. \nSingapore's openness to foreigners helped bring in companies such as Royal Dutch/Shell Group, Royal Philips Electronics NV and American Express Co. Foreign companies make up 42 percent of the economy, though most of their workers are local. \nScientists in lab coats aren't the only recruits. Singapore brought in executives to work at government-linked companies. Among them were John Olds, former chief executive of DBS Bank Ltd, and Flemming Jacobs, CEO of Neptune Orient Lines Ltd, for their management expertise. Locals joked that the shipping company's acronym, NOL, meant "No Orientals Left" In the past decade, Singapore's population grew 32 percent. \nForeigners working in Singapore for at least one year accounted for half the increase. Last year, the number of foreigners rose 3.5 percent to 754,500, more than double the 1.3 percent increase in the population overall. \nSingapore's economic success has brought risks -- US business spending on equipment and software has declined for three quarters. \nAs demand for electronics plunged, the economy shrank at an annual rate of more than 10 percent in the first six half of the year. \nTo wean the island-nation from dependence on electronics, Singapore's leaders are using tax incentives and grants to nurture new industries such as biotechnology. That will require yet more foreign talent. \nWith unemployment expected to rise to 4 percent at the end of the year from 2.6 percent at mid-year, some foreign job-seekers are getting the cold shoulder. \n"I'm sorry I can't help you if you're a foreigner," said Malvis Lee, answering the telephone at WMS Group, a recruitment firm. \n"Companies have become fussy," she later explains. \nThe government predicts 20,000 people may lose their jobs this year, about double last year's number, as companies such as disk drive maker Maxtor Corp cut back. Almost half of the 3,250 people laid off in the first quarter of this year were white-collar workers. \nAs the pain deepens, resentment of foreigners is growing. \n"Some companies think that by bringing in any white guys, they all of a sudden become international companies,'' said Abraham Thomas, a 33-year-old Singaporean who was laid off in May from Edge Matrix Pte, a local information technology company. \nStill, companies seeking to cut costs have an incentive to lay off foreigners, who often demand moving expenses, cars, and housing allowances. \n"Expats are expensive even if they do bring skills that are in short supply here," said Manu Bhaskaran, chief economist at SG Securities Pte. \n"With everything being pretty much equal, naturally it's locals I'll be looking at first," said Jack Ho, human resources manager at Fuji Xerox Asia Pacific Pte, who is screening 70 applications for five vacancies. Only 10 of the company's 450 staff are foreigners. \nThe government has resisted calls from opposition members of parliament who say Singapore should require companies that lay off workers to start with the foreigners. \n"If in an economic downturn, we suddenly say, `Well, you are foreign, you go out first,' this will unravel a reputation that we have painstakingly built up over the years,'' Trade and Industry Minister George Yeo told Parliament. \nFor some, Singapore's reputation is already tarnished. \nKumar Muralidharan, an Indian computer engineer with five years' experience, came to look for a job as a telecommunications stock analyst after several university classmates found work here. After a fruitless, three-month search, he's going home. \n"Next time I try to get a job outside India, it won't be in Singapore."
FORCED LABOR: Customs officials have seized a 11.8 tonne shipment of products made from human hair on suspicion they were produced by people facing human rights abuses Federal authorities in New York City on Wednesday seized a shipment of weaves and other beauty accessories suspected to be made out of human hair taken from people locked inside a Chinese internment camp. US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officials said that 11.8 tonnes of hair products worth an estimated US$800,000 were in the shipment. “The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in
JUST QUESTIONS: Expelled reporter Ai Kezhu said that every member of Southeast Television had complied with the law and had not appeared on any talk shows Two Chinese reporters yesterday left Taiwan after the government revoked their accreditation and ordered them to leave amid a probe into allegations that several Chinese media outlets have set up studios and produced political talk shows in Taiwan. The two reporters — Ai Kezhu (艾珂竹) and Lu Qiang (盧薔) — worked for Fujian Province-based Southeast Television and arrived in Taiwan in December last year. The Mainland Affairs Council has launched an investigation after local media reported that Chinese broadcasters — including China Central Television, Southeast Television and FJTV — had set up studios in Taipei and produced political talk shows. Council Deputy Minister
PROBE LAUNCHED: An officer who served as a supervisor in the drill died in an apparent suicide after the accident, which was caused by unexpected waves Two marines who were on Friday injured in a military exercise in the waters off Kaohsiung passed away yesterday, Navy Command said. The marines — surnamed Tsai (蔡), 26, and a sergeant surnamed Chen (陳), 36 — were in a seven-member Marine Corps team that encountered rough seas during a simulated response to enemy forces landing on Taiwan. Their rubber craft overturned in waters off Taoziyuan (桃子園) beach in Zuoying District (左營), injuring four of the marines. They were rushed to hospital, where three of them — Tsai, Chen and a 34-year-old sergeant — were taken to an intensive care unit
‘SIGNAL TO ALLIES’: The US Navy’s exercises are not in response to those carried out by China, the commander of the strike group led by the USS ‘Ronald Reagan’ said Two US aircraft carriers were yesterday conducting exercises in the disputed South China Sea, the US Navy said as China also carried out military drills that have been criticized by the US Department of Defense and neighboring states. China and the US have accused each other of stoking tension in the waterway at a time of strained relations over everything from COVID-19 to trade to Hong Kong. The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were carrying out operations and exercises in the South China Sea “to support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the navy said in a statement. It did not say exactly