Jobs panel: Never ask the obvious questions?


The Parliamentary jobs panel should arguably, be asking the obvious questions of the Government – on jobs and bureaucracy 

I refer to the article “Parliamentary panel calls for review of job help schemes” (Straits Times, Nov 17).

It states that “A panel of MPs has asked the Government to review the efficacy of the various programmes rolled out to help Singapore workers find new jobs.

While the MPs acknowledge the complexity of measuring the success of such schemes, they feel the findings from a review could be used to design future programmes.

This is one of the recommendations in a report released yesterday by the parliamentary Estimates Committee, which examines the Government’s Budget and suggests improvements.”

As to “One of the schemes is the Adapt and Grow initiative, which helps match jobseekers to suitable jobs and equip them with new skills.

The committee asked the Ministry of Finance (MOF) why some workers did not manage to find a job through the initiative, and if there was any follow-up on those cases.

MOF said Workforce Singapore and the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) would continue to help registered jobseekers until they found a job, declined further assistance, or became uncontactable.

The ministry told the panel that jobseekers, on their part, must be prepared to learn new skills to meet the requirements of their preferred jobs, while employers should give opportunities to jobseekers who might not have the full set of skills and experience but are prepared to learn” – Instead of just asking questions about specific schemes – why not ask what is arguably, the obvious questions – what are the statistics of the outcomes – such as how many of the jobs posted in the National Jobs Bank actually went to Singaporeans?

With regard to “Separately, it asked MOF how initiatives recommended by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) are being monitored. The recommendations include industry-specific road maps to transform sectors such as retail and logistics.

In all, $4.5 billion has been set aside for the Industry Transformation Programme, and 14 of 23 Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) have been launched as of Nov 15.

MOF said the CFE initiatives are subject to monitoring systems like other government programmes.

Said committee chair Foo Mee Har: “With the significant investment of $4.5 billion, the committee expressed the need for robust KPIs, monitoring mechanisms, transparency and accountability of the various initiatives under CFE, including ITMs”” – if I may echo the committee’s words – “transparency and accountability” – why are the jobs statistics not broken down into Singaporeans and permanent residents, instead of being lumped together as “locals”?

With regard to “The committee urged the Government to stay agile in adapting and updating regulations, to promote innovation and the adoption of new technology” – if I may just cite one glaring example of the bureaucracy that may be a stumbling block “to promote innovation and the adoption of new technology” – Singapore’s “wing-in-ground” craft ran into some bureaucratic difficulties – such as the difficulty in getting permission to test it in the waters of Singapore.

In the end, I understand that permission was eventually given, for about a month.

In respect of “The panel asked MOF about the effectiveness of productivity schemes in helping businesses, and abuses of the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) Scheme.

MOF said the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore has audited 98,000 of 313,000 PIC claims made from 2011 to last year.

Of these 98,000 claims, 64 per cent, or 63,000, were rejected upfront. About 29,400 were bona fide, but 3,300 required clawbacks. The remaining 2,300 cases are still being audited” – don’t you sense that something must be not right, when a whopping 64 per cent of the PIC Scheme claims audited “were rejected upfront”?

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.