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Giving back to Singapore

1 August, 2020

NTUC recently proposed a Fair Retrenchment Framework, including protection for the Singapore “core.” This is great and makes perfect sense. Being based and registered in Singapore, my firm only uses local freelancers on an ongoing basis, although many foreign freelancers approach me about joining my team of associates. Occasionally, I use foreign talent when necessary, but I deliberately use Singaporeans to the extent possible. I the last 7.5 years, I have paid nearly $300k to six local associates, and less than $25k in total to my foreign associates.

I occasionally read posts that protest nationalistic policies in the U.S. where I am from, and I want to point out that what comes across as nationalistic is no different from Singapore’s aim of protecting Singapore. It is the job of 100% of governments in the world to do what’s best for their own country, while it is the responsibility of 0% of world governments to put the world ahead of national interest. If you know of John Nash’s Nobel Prize-winning equilibrium theory, you would know that everyone does better when you promote both your own interest AND the common good at the same time. This approach underlies PM Lee’s excellent recent paper on Pax Americana, addressing the possible scenarios involving the U.S. and China as China pushes for dominance. I for one hope and pray both giants can peacefully and constructively serve both their own interests AND the common good, so that the world becomes a better place for each and for all. I personally look forward to visiting China to tour many places I have not yet been to. I welcome Chinese companies as clients.

I first visited Singapore in 1989 when LKY was in his prime running country. Brewerkz had a single outlet at Clarke Quay with 4 outdoor tables. At the time the Merlion marked the coastline. I visited again in 1999 when conducting an HR Audit of my company’s APAC region. I stayed at the InterContinental on Middle Road, when you could look from the lobby and see Raffles Hotel. When I was able to move here in 2007, I was so excited with my Singaporean friends whom I’d known since my university days.

In my work, I have devoted my energies to building the HR profession, in the area of compensation & benefits, or total rewards as we refer to C&B plus all the other tangible and intangible rewards a person expects or gets in return for their work. I have hired and promoted Singaporeans in Singapore, while hiring no foreigners. I have repatriated over 50 expats, and localised the packages for another thirty. I have trained over 1,500 Singaporean HR practitioners on C&B, including how to use local and local plus packages for foreign talent and how to localise their expats. I have partnered extensively with SNEF and collaborated with Human Capital Singapore and other Singapore agencies, GLCs and “national” companies.

Personally, my best friends are here, and I support local businesses, from Sally the juice lady at Adam road food centre to the various kopitiams and coffee shops. I pick up rubbish from the grass instinctively, which it seems no one else wants to do. But I take some pride in my neighbourhood.

In short, I have done my best to give back to Singapore, my second home and the place where most of my friends and contacts are. Although my PR application has been rejected twice, and locals often pretend I’m not there on the sidewalks, I value every day I am able to live here. Imperfect, but Singapore is as good as it gets, so far in my 59-year life journey.

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One Comment
  1. Dr Mark Bussin permalink

    Hi Tom, a very insightful article – well done. I hope you are able to stay on and continue doing the good work! Mark

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