Singapore is leaking talent
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Singapore is leaking talent: SM GohTEHRAN: As he sat speaking to reporters about his meetings with Iranian leaders, Singapore Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong's thoughts were still focused on home.
Singapore, he said, is leaking talent. Not just ordinary talent, but its best and finest.
The concern bubbled over when he was asked if Singaporeans could ever be as proud as the Iranians.
"If we can last 1,000 years, I think we will be just as proud as the Iranians, probably even more," he said.
But the question bothering him was whether Singapore could continue to do as well over the next 50 years as it had done in the past.
"The issue which we are most concerned with is the loss of our own people at the very top," said Mr Goh. "These are bright young people, children of very well educated Singaporeans."
Some may study overseas, and the best ones were harvested straight away by companies there. And this often starts a spiral that ends up with Singapore losing these talents.
"They do not want to come back to Singapore. They want the experience of working in foreign universities, banks and companies," said the Senior Minister.
And often, two or three years down the road, these talented Singaporeans marry overseas and settle down there.
Even if they were to think of moving back to Singapore later, some find houses here too expensive. Others are put off by Singapore's shortage of space. Still others prefer the lifestyle in America, Europe or Australia.
"They don't come back; we lose them," he said. "This is a very big problem for us because if we lose the top 0.5 per cent from the next generation, Singapore will have a much lower 'peak'. The world is now competing on human resources and talent."
That was why Singapore, too, has had to turn to talented people from other countries, get them to work here and eventually turn them into Singaporeans. That was the only way to ensure that Singapore's population "peak" would remain at a high level, said Mr Goh.
The battle for talent has not just been between various countries. Closer to home, the Government stands to lose civil servants to the private sector.
Mr Goh said that it had been mentioned in Parliament that salaries in the civil service will be reviewed. Ministers' salaries are now pegged to those of civil servants.
"I personally support such a review because I know from my chairmanship of the Monetary Authority of Singapore that there has been a high turnover of staff over the past one or two years," said Mr Goh.
And since the finance industry as a whole expected wages to go up significantly this year, the MAS has a lot of catching up to do, he said.
In fact, the Public Service Division had touched on a similar point earlier.
It had said that 42 per cent of accountants who left Government jobs over the past year had cited better pay and prospects in the private sector.
About 46 per cent of legal service officers who resigned over the same period also expected higher salaries outside.
In Tehran, Mr Goh said: "I understand the need for civil service as a whole to revise the pay for civil servants. Of course that means that ministers' pay will also be revised, but by how much, I do not know. No decision has yet been taken." - TODAY