Saturday, September 02, 2006

Overseas Singaporeans

SQ, a fellow student in my lowly ranked underfunded midwestern university in rural American, has written an article for Singapore Angle on why the Singapore government should reach out more to overseas Singaporeans or something along those lines. Some of the things he talks about sound rather querulous and I can't quite understand what his point is, other than he hopes that the Singapore government makes more of an effort to 'bond' with overseas Singaporeans. He seems to hold the opinion that the government neglects overseas Singaporeans , especially university students, and has the propensity to view them as disloyal. I know of no specific examples to prove or disprove that.

Personally, having had the wonderful 'privilege' of doing my undergrad in a world-class Singapore university, I think that the government probably makes more effort to reach out to overseas students than local students in Singapore. Take me as an example: in my one year overseas, I've received more email notifications of job opportunities and internships in Singapore than in my four years in Singapore. Oh, this despite the fact that the current university that I attend has a lower ranking than my undergrad school.

Some of the points that do not make sense to me:

Often times, I hear from fellow overseas students commenting on the lack of positive recognition and support from the nation, which shouldn't come only after these students have become successful in the fields they specialize in.

Actually, even if you were a very bright NUS/NTU/SMU student, you also won't get a lot of 'positive recognition and support from the nation'. For example, PSC looks to Harvard, Cambridge, etc to recruit interns. How many local undergraduate from NUS/NTU/SMU have been invited to intern with PSC?

One such benefit from an active overseas Singaporean workforce is the lesser strain upon the local employment scene. The local talent pool has to face poor local support ranging from companies granting relatively lower salaries to them than to their overseas counterparts, plus having to face competition from the government's ever-beloved foreign talent, and on top of that, returning Singaporeans who have acquired broader skills, knowledge and overseas experience.

Erm, thanks for the 'benefit' of not seeking employment in Singapore. In any case, we can derive the same 'benefit' from the millions of Americans, Japanese, Germans, Brazilians, etc not seeking to work in Singapore. It doesn't take very much effort to not compete against the locals in Singapore for jobs when you are overseas.

Besides, why on earth would someone who has paid for an expensive overseas university education think about going back to Singapore from the US when professionals there easily make double or triple of what their counterparts in Singapore earn?

Since he acknowledges that 'relatively lower salaries' and 'harsh environment' in Singapore, I have my doubts that any element of altruism plays a significant role in the decision of the overseas-educated not to return to Singapore and compete with their locally educated brethen. People overseas are already having it better than their fellow citizens in Singapore, in terms of opportunities and rewards. Let's not rub it in for those who are still in Singapore.

While local branding in the global market is honorable, overseas Singaporeans should also be recognized for being a part of global big names such as Microsoft, Motorola, KPMG, Boeing etc.

I am not sure what kind of recognition that overseas Singaporeans want. A medal or a certificate, perhaps?

However, more could have been done to better encourage and facilitate these countrymen who have the opportunity and courage to venture beyond our local shores besides.

I also don't understand what he means by 'encourage and facilitate these countrymen' to venture overseas. Why should the government encourage people to go overseas for the sake of going overseas? If anything, the government should restrict people from going overseas since it is not cheap to subsidize the education of a Singaporean from primary school to university. A university graduate consumes about $75K of tuition grant by the time he graduates and if he leaves Singapore, he takes that amount with him to the other country. Sure, it is great for the individual when he gathers more experience and opportunities overseas but it is Singapore's loss when he leaves.

In any case, it is not that easy to venture overseas. For most people, they need some form of sponsorship - either from their companies or from their parents. A lucky few can go overseas because they have skills that the host country wants.

Don't get me wrong. I support the forging of stronger bonds between overseas Singaporeans and Singapore; I just don't think that they should clamour for more recognition and accolades just because they are overseas. Compared to their Singapore-based brethen, they already have it a lot better. I know because I was a local too.

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