22 March 2004

Budget Roundup

It wasn't a case of writer's block, though I wish that is the reason why I haven't commented on it. Unfortunately, I needed to resist the urge to scream at my television screen, at the radio, and tear up the newspapers every day for the past 2 weeks of nonsensical speeches from our overpaid and underperforming clowns in Parliament.

The trade-off? Instead of an almost daily rant and snipe at our great leaders, Dear Reader, you will be subjected to just one long, but calm and measured post from me.

What can one write about without ending in a rant or a primal scream? I'll have to skip the great ideas from our leaders about the baby issue, or Sentosa Casino, or what I call the next big white elephant to rival the Tang Dynasty Village and the Esplanade. Or the budget, which Morgan Stanley's analysts complained was one of the most miserly, and certainly Not A Very Good Thing For Our Domestic Economy.

"It's the economy, stupid"

Our ministers have never been good orators, or skilled in any form of rhetoric, or cunning lingustics. They would do well to steer clear of the rubbish they've nevertheless uttered over the past 2 weeks, such as this little gem of a phrase from our infamous Manpower Minister, to "re-take jobs for Singaporeans".

What kind of jobs does our great Million-dollar Minister want to take back for our thousands of unemployed Singaporeans? Choice jobs in the marine, cleaning, and nursing industries, where there is a "shortage" of labour.

Translation: We want to be known as a nation of modern coolies, amahs, and nurses.

This is despite the fact that PMETs "were the biggest group of local workers retrenched last year", according to the Straits Times and the Manpower Ministry. Now, when Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (i.e. just about the white collared middle classes) form the largest group of unemployed Singaporeans, our great minister wants to solve the unemployment and recession problem by taking back the marine, cleaning, and nursing industries for us.

Why no one rubbished Mr. Ng Eng Hen in Parliament is a great mystery to me.

We have a shortage, really?

Having sources in nursing, I'll just talk about this sector and its apparent "shortage of labour" that needs to be filled by Singaporeans.

Firstly, there is NO SHORTAGE of nurses in Singapore's healthcare industry.

For almost 20 years, Singapore's national health system has systematically relied on employing and training foreign nurses for the industry. Nurses from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and China are a mainstay of our healthcare industry. They sign 5 or 10 year contracts with our hospitals, and our efforts have paid off - Singapore healthcare's "professional and dedicated" image is solely due to these matyrs.

There is a giant sucking sound

And that's the sound of disgruntled expat nurses voting with their feet. Year after year, expat nurses choose not to renew their initial contracts with Singapore hospitals, despite promises of an automatic PR status as a 10-year long service award gift. Instead they flock, not back to their homelands, but to Australia, New Zealand, the US and UK.

Over there, our former expat nurses (great export product, by the way) work much less for much more pay, and are offered PR-ship one month after they arrive, and that PR-ship is extended to their immediate families as well. This speaks very much for the "working climate" of the hospitals here, and how great our Human Resource departments are.

This situation has gotten so bad that most expat nurses here really treat Singapore like a stepping stone to a much more humane, sensible, and better-paid job in another country - they just need to suffer for a short while before hitting paydirt overseas. Even expat junior doctors from less-privileged countries working here see how lucrative and imbalanced things have become, and actually make the switch from being doctors, surgeons, and researchers... to nurses.

Thank you, Singapore, for fucking up the global healthcare market.

And this is why, this time round, our PAP Ministers have "learnt their lesson", and will now resort to hiring people who cannot escape Singapore, to become nurses. Yes, they are taking back the nursing industry for Singaporeans.

Or perhaps, will thousands of Singaporeans take up the exhortation to be nurses, serve their shitty contracts, then leave for greener pastures with the magic bullet vocations?

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