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Government’s Soft Justification for CECA Hard to Swallow

ELSON: It looks like the government is trying hard to justify the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) by quoting facts and figures to bolster its case, and it looks like the government is failing at it.

This is what is stated on the Gov.Sg website, with data updated to 2020:

“Under CECA, bilateral trade has grown from $16.7 billion in 2005 to S$26.4 billion in 2018. CECA has facilitated the increase in economic interaction between India and Singapore.

Our companies’ investments into India has increased from $1.3 billion in 2005 to $48.5 billion in 2017, while India’s investments into Singapore have increased from $1.3 billion in 2005 to $20.2 billion in 2017.

Singapore exporters and investors benefit from the increased business opportunities through enhanced access to the Indian market: their success and expansion enable them to create more good jobs for Singaporeans.

Indian investments in Singapore similarly create good jobs for Singaporeans that would otherwise have gone elsewhere.

Locals comprise around 75% of employed PMETs in the sectors covered under the Growth Sectors Initiative.[1]

Since CECA was signed in 2005, the total number of local employed PMETs has grown by more than 400,000. Local PMETs have also seen their real wages grown, from 0.6%p.a. before CECA to 1.9% in 2020.”

There are many problems with the government’s CECA justification.

First off, the capital inflow between investments made by Singapore and India is vastly lop-sided ($48.5b vs 18.9b) considering the sizes of our economies.

We have invested significantly more in India. At the same time, the government has not reported the returns on these investments and how this had benefited Singaporeans at large.

The government did indicate that jobs were created for “locals”. But locals comprise PRs and the multitude of New Citizens as well, with New Citizen numbers growing at a rate of about 20,000 per year.

How many of these jobs went to PRs and New Citizens?

The point of this question? Because PMET retrenchment rates for Singaporeans have been steadily increasing, so who are the ones benefiting from CECA-linked job creation?

Besides this, the government added that locally-employed PMETs has grown by more than 400,000 since the CECA was signed in 2005 and their wages have grown by 0.6% per year.

This is a statement of correlation.

It should not be confused with causation – that CECA led to such PMET job creation and wage growth.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said in 2019 that Singapore’s network of FTAs (Free Trade Agreements) increased these jobs by 400,000 to 1.25 million since 2005.

So who is giving the right figures? Is this job growth a result of CECA, or is it a combination of Singapore’s FTAs and general economic growth put together?

Or is this yet another attempt to confuse Singaporeans?

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