Beware graveyards of public service

This is a story about a story. The main character, at first sight, is an unemployed Bangladeshi in Singapore. But what happened to him shines a little light into the state of public administration in Singapore — which is the main issue here. The political boast is that we have a top-notch political and civil administration focussed on far-reaching solutions effectively delivered. What happened to him should make us stop and question.

The background is that around August last year (2011), Shahin Alom lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Manpower, saying that he and a few others had been paid less than what was promised by his employer. In response, the employer produced job contracts that showed a lower monthly salary. Shahin and three others said they were forgeries and made a police report accordingly.

He also had complaints about early termination after the employer had (illegally) demanded and received $7,000 from him for renewal of the work permit.

A year later, in August 2012, Straits Times journalist Radha Basu was putting together a feature about such illegal kickbacks, based on a research study done by Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a charity organisation concerned with the plight of migrant workers. The research indicated that kickbacks were a very common practice. Shahin’s experience came up as one example she could use as a sidebar. She sent a photographer to follow now-jobless-for-over-a-year Shahin around for a day.

The story that was published was headlined “crippling illegal fees”, for that was indeed the main focus. But towards the end of the write-up, after pointing out that his case was “dragging”, it was mentioned that he was not only unemployed, but homeless too:

Meanwhile Mr Shahin had been sleeping at an MRT station in Little India and bathing at a privately-funded drop-in centre for out-of-work workers nearby.

— Sunday Times, 12 August 2012, Crippling illegal fees, by Radha Basu.

At about 8 a.m., the morning after the feature article came out (Monday, 13 August), Shahin got a call from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) asking him to go over forthwith. It’s not often that workers get so much attention from the ministry. “I thought they call me because my case now close, and I can have airplane ticket to go home,” he said to me, now laughing at his own naive optimism.

Instead, he found himself with an officer who seemed rather cross with him. This officer, who is not Shahin’s regular case officer, had an email opened on his computer that showed the Sunday Times article. Recalled Shahin, “He ask me, ‘Why you talk to newspaper about your problem? Why you never tell MOM you have nowhere to stay?’

“I say, ‘Sleeping not a problem. I don’t care about sleeping in MRT. I did not talk to newspaper man about sleeping problem, he just follow me only.’

“I only want my case close; I want to go back.”

The officer then spoke on the phone to someone, following which he told Shahin that he could arrange a bed for him in a dormitory in Murai. Shahin said he shouldn’t bother — “Sleeping not a problem,” he repeated — but would the officer please focus on what’s really important: closing the case so he can go back?  His father has cancer, and he’s been languishing here jobless for one year.

Shahin got no real answer to his request and left the ministry with nothing to show for the visit, except for yet another “chop” (rubber stamp) on his Special Pass — the permit that makes his enforced stay here legal — extending it by one more week.

* * * * *

However, before I launch into a discussion about what Shahin’s tale signifies about the state of public administration in Singapore, I must mention another story. This came to me from a fellow Executive Committee member of Transient Workers Count Too.

She had encountered several out-of-job workers asking if they could use the address of the drop-in centre, or TWC2, for a form they had been asked by MOM to fill. After inquiring more deeply, she gathered that MOM was doing a survey of workers on Special Passes to find out where they lived. A worker would be on a Special Pass if his Work Permit had been cancelled by his employer or revoked by MOM because the employer broke a rule or two. A condition of the Special Pass is that the individual is not allowed to work.

There had been recent reports of homeless workers (penniless since they aren’t allowed to work) sleeping in the rough, and this is politically sensitive, because seeing homeless people around, particularly late at night,  impinges on the  sense of security in the Singaporean public. Most probably, MOM was trying to find out the scale of the problem.

However, according to my colleague, their survey form asked the Special Pass holders for an address, rather than whether they were homeless. Many workers then thought either that MOM wanted to know where to reach them, or that if they didn’t provide a valid address, they’d be committing an offence. Who knows, Singapore, with its many laws, probably had one against homelessness too!

So they all ran around collecting lawyer’s addresses, friend’s addresses, TWC2 address, drop-in centre address and so on, to write into the survey form . . . anything but the simple fact that they had no address.

Don’t be surprised if tomorrow, you see a banner headline from MOM saying that its survey has found that homelessness is a minor problem, since most out-of-job workers had nice places to stay in.

* * * * *

There are several things that the above shows up about the state of public administration; I shall list them in order. It’s a mixed picture of civil servants, although rather miffed at first that they were the subject of unflattering publicity, making an effort to fix the problem. But you will also see that the fix is piecemeal, and to Shahin’s main request, he gets no solution.

1. Why does a salary claim take more than a year to investigate and resolve? Is any effort being made at all? The Sunday Times said the company had “closed down”, and that

… although several workers have made the same complaint against the company, their charges are hard to prove as their alleged transactions were made in cash.

— ibid.

If you look at TWC2’s website, you will see repeated suggestions to legally require employers to issue itemised pay slips, showing all allowances and deductions, and to pay salaries through the bank so that there is an audit trail. Radha Basu said the same thing in a follow-up article in the Sunday Times, 19 August 2012. So far no action has been seen on this front by MOM, but maybe in the wake of changes to the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, there will be soon — not that imposing these requirements on employers needed any law to be changed; existing law already allowed MOM to do that.

Even in Shahin’s case which would pre-date any possible changes to the law, what about a tax audit of the company to settle the issue?  Companies are supposed to keep proper records for several years, and it is an offence to have poor records. The fact that these salary and kickback claims (by several workers) exist and that records are hazy and difficult to investigate would alone suggest that there is a case for an audit. Where have the S$7,000 allegedly paid by each worker to renew his work pass gone? Threatening an audit and likely prosecution might be leverage to make the employer settle with his employees.

What this shows about public administration is either a slowness or resistance to adopting ideas from outside the bureaucracy — what has been described in organisational theory as the ‘Not invented here’ syndrome. It also shows an inability to be creative and use other tools (such as tax audits) to do the job. Or the inability to work across departmental boundaries, because tax audits are in the purview of the Finance Ministry. It’s a mindset that prime minister Lee Hsien Loong himself had, many years ago, castigated as the ‘silo mentality’ in the civil service.

2. Is the case suspended at MOM because it has been transferred to the police?

Having seen similar cases involving a police report of forgery, one possibility is that MOM has frozen its investigation while waiting for the police to determine if allegations of forgery in some of the documents are true. And so long as the police do not respond with an answer, MOM continues to wait.

There is a story about forgery in another worker’s case in TWC2’s website. See The scenic route to solving salary disputes. In that case involving unpaid salaries amounting to slightly under $5,000, the police spent about $17,000 of taxpayer money to investigate Ahsanur Rahman’s claim of forgery — which turned out to be true. Any taxpayer would be alert to such spending, but this should not be an argument for refusing to investigate. Equal justice for rich and poor alike demands that the police do its job. What it argues for is a public administration alive to how costly it can be to have to deal with such complaints after the fact. It’s so much better to implement systems that prevent these problems from arising in the first place viz. the proposals by TWC2  — see (1) above — that are designed to eliminate scope for forgery and disputes.

3. There is, from what I’ve heard, some sort of blanket rule that if a low-wage worker makes a police report, he must be held in Singapore and denied return to his home country until the police finish their investigation however long it takes. This may be why Shahin, despite his willingness to write off his $7,000 claim in order to go back to see his ill father, is still not allowed to go home.

The superficial explanation for such a rule is that in case the police report is found to be false, our government would want the complainant to be in Singapore so we can jail him. Otherwise, foreigners might make all sorts of unfounded police reports causing much work to the police and great inconvenience to others. So, holding them here is good so that people are deterred from making false reports.

You may or may not agree with this reasoning, but even if you do, it also means that the police need to act quickly in such cases to complete investigations.

It also raises a more troubling question:  does this blanket rule only apply to low-wage foreign workers?  Are tourists who make police reports also held here for a year or more while their allegations of being victims of pickpocketing or excessive hotel charges are investigated? What about rich expats?  Even when they are accused of a crime, they get bail and permission to travel for business and other reasons (and then some abscond).

If the rule only applies to low-wage migrant workers, this would suggest a kind of class stereotype and prejudice in operation. Even when they claim to be victims of a crime, we see them as potential criminals (false accusers) and think nothing of penalising them in advance by holding them in Singapore, jobless. Richer ones, who are accused of crimes, meanwhile go free. They are “innocent until proven guilty” we remind ourselves.

4. Our public administration erases from consideration the emotional wellbeing of the people they serve. Treating people as mere digits, and making demands on them for the convenience of bureaucrats is par for the course. Shahin’s pleas to let him go home to see his sick father has so far cut no ice. The personal toll on thousands of other workers stranded here on Special Passes, penniless and making their families sick with worry, does not factor into our administrative policies and work priorities.

5. That Shahin had not even previously told his case officer about his housing problem is a sign of how the public (in this case, the migrant worker public) sees the civil service. The perception is of an uncaring one, so why bother to raise issues with them? This is a dangerous signal: of breakdown in trust, and the gradual atrophy of an information feedback loop.

And when Shahin’s housing problem is revealed by a journalist, the bureaucratic reaction is that of going after Shahin for embarrassing the public servant. This highly defensive response shows that the service cares more about saving face than doing good.

That said, it was just the initial reaction. The same officer also offered him accommodation at Murai dormitory — an effort to solve the problem at hand.

6. But it’s a partial solution. Even though meals were offered to him alongside a bed, no susbsistence allowance was offered. Yet, under MOM rules, Shahin would still be required by MOM to go there weekly to get a “chop”  to extend his Special Pass. Each trip from Murai would take close to two hours by bus and cost him maybe $3 per direction. Where will he find the money to go to MOM when MOM itself puts him that far away? And if he doesn’t go to MOM weekly to get his pass extended, he flips into an illegal overstayer and can be jailed.

Moreover, does one expect Shahin to squat inside the dormitory for the other six days a week? Anyone would go mad. We all need a social life, and for foreign workers from the subcontinent, it is to be found in Little India. Without a subsistence allowance, Murai is an impractical solution.

7. In any case, Shahin is only one of very many homeless workers. Paying attention to his problem because he was featured in the press suggests a quick-fix mode of operation, as is paying attention to housing without equal attention to an allowance, his psychological wellbeing, or his desire to go home.

8. It might be argued that MOM is aware of the problem of homelessness, even if they are not going out of their way to offer accommodation to others. That might have been the aim of the survey they conducted. But it could well have turned into farce, perhaps because MOM officials failed to communicate to respondents why they were doing the survey, or perhaps because workers were so suspicious of MOM’s motives — the abyss of mistrust again — they thought the survey was to single them out for punishment.

It is, in sum, not a pretty picture. Face-saving and fire-fighting seem to be at the fore. Wholistic solutions (e.g. including a transport allowance) don’t figure very much, and, in fact, a prickly defensiveness when failings are aired in public is more noticeable.

Why is that so?  Has the quality of the public administration declined?

One possibility I’ve wondered about for some time is simply that with the massive increase in the numbers of foreign workers over the last few years, it has led to a parallel increase in the number of complaints, and thus increased stress and workload for the ministry. Perhaps the staff strength is just not enough to cope. If so, it would be a bit of an irony.  Just as Singaporeans are complaining about the influx of foreigners affecting the quality of life, here we may have the very ministry itself groaning under the weight of the problem it created.

Maybe things will change. A hopeful sign is that the laws are being reviewed. But that itself presents another danger, for it is easy, when faced with problems, to reach for more rules and stiffer penalties and think that these are sufficient. However, the problem may be internal — the eroding ethos and caliber of the organisation, and increasing devotion to self-protection than public service. That is what needs watching.

28 Responses to “Beware graveyards of public service”

  1. 1 ape@kinjioleaf 27 August 2012 at 22:13

    Are employers of foreign workers required to place a security deposit like that of foreign domestic workers? If so, can’t the SD be used to cover for some form of expenses for the worker’s accomodation?… especially if the company has closed down?

    I too suspect MOM is facing a shortage of staff to handle such cases or the increase of such cases. Also, the likely reactionary solution is to increase staff. Have the senior management or the policy makers look deep enough in the first place before implementing piece meal policies?

    • 2 yawningbread 27 August 2012 at 23:40

      > Are employers of foreign workers required
      > to place a security deposit like that of
      > foreign domestic workers? If so, can’t
      > the SD be used to cover for some form of
      > expenses for the worker’s accomodation?

      Yes, all employers of work permit holders, domestic or non-domestic, have to put up a security deposit. TWC2 has asked MOM the same question, and the answer was that when the monies in the security deposit are to be forfeited for some breaches of rules by the employer, they become “government money”, part of general government revenue just like taxation revenue. MOM has no discretion to spend from any forfeited security deposits to pay for this or that.

      It may be a little more complicated than that, or I may have gotten some details wrong, but I remember clearly that that was the thrust of the answer I heard.

      • 3 Anon p9E5 28 August 2012 at 10:50

        i think that if MOM has tightened the rules for WP applications in the first place with a check to the monthly salary earned as well as employment contracts signed, all these will not even take place

      • 4 yawningbread 28 August 2012 at 13:40

        This is another thing that concerns me. What I have seen is that MOM is adopting a reactive approach. Instead of checking preemptively, it has a policy of only acting after receiving a formal complaint. The problem is that from the worker’s perspective, to complain involves costs, most obviously, he will lose his job and can expect to languish jobless for months. That being the case, workers will be very reluctant to lodge formal complaints, so problems persist uninvestigated, and magnified over many months.

    • 5 ape@kinjioleaf 29 August 2012 at 21:59

      Alex and p9E5, pre emptive vs reactive approach relates to the second part of my comment.

      I’m not sure if tightening of applications helps given that those who don’t exploit workers are already facing difficulties renewing the WP of good workers and whatever bureaucratic difficulties they have. Perhaps MOM can can conduct random spot checks in the form of visiting the workers and interviews to check on their salary drawn, accommodations and general work conditions? Questions need not be direct as in how much salary they are paid or where are they staying. It can be like how much are they sending home their salary and which agent do they approach for the remittance, where do they go when they knock off from work? Where they have their meals etc. Questions that relates to their overall well being. Where answers are inconsistent or suspicious, that should also raise some alarms that calls for more thorough checks… rather than waiting for formal complaints to be made.

  2. 6 KC Chew 27 August 2012 at 23:22

    Alex, you deserve a medal — for the analysis and commentary.

  3. 7 Webbie 27 August 2012 at 23:27

    Most of the problems come from manpower agencies. Instead of spending resources on fighting fires caused by these leeches, why don’t the government take over the recruitment of foreign workers? They can then loan them out to projects which need them. I wonder if the new manpower minister have the guts to implement this.

    • 8 Tsumujikaze no Soujutsu 28 August 2012 at 00:46

      Hopefully BG Tan will say something about this. One issue left under the radar is this. That bar the NGOs, there’s no source of help for these foreign workers. I suspect a gross lack of coverage from the media is the chief culprit.
      After hearing PM Lee’s National Day Rally message, I’m now starting to wonder whether the relative extent of changes will come anywhere soon for these people. One way or another, MOM needs to look into this issue. It’s no different from human beings dehumanizing their fellow people.

  4. 9 Leecher 28 August 2012 at 00:00

    Drag feet so that cases will go away naturally when parties give up hope for any solution. Less paper work and fewer cases show that MOM is actually their work as ridiculous as it sounds.

  5. 10 kampong boy 28 August 2012 at 00:42

    just felt so sad reading your report…

  6. 11 Anon 28 August 2012 at 05:09

    Alex, good job on raising the issue!! And I appreciate the fact that you keep pushing on such subject matters, even though its not on the radar of most Singaporeans.

    I find this ironic, coming just a day after the PM rally speech. He talked about how we are a broad-minded people, welcoming of foreigners. He berated the online community for overblowing incidents involving foreigners misbehaving, complained that this got the attention of New York Times and caused Singapore a bad name. He preached : That is not who we are, we are broad minded people, we are bigger in spirit than that.

    And right under our noses, are many such incidents of how helpless foreign workers being exploited. Will Singaporeans agree to work for employers in which they are paid in cash, with no proof of payment, no formal contract? No. But its OK when it comes to these workers.

    Broad minded? Big spirited?

    To me, therein lies the crux of the issue – The Govt has decided that there lies 2 classes of people. The nameless, faceless hands and legs to build our roads, buildings, etc – the foreign workers. And the rest – the foreign talents. Though the word “talent” is used very questionably, but it simply means that which are not foreign laborers. The person manning the service counter, the waitress, the manager, the Facebook co-founder — these are the “talents”.

    The Govt wants us to be known for being welcoming when it comes to foreign talents. But when it comes to the foreign workers, it is “okay” to not just not be broad-minded, but to be completely unfeeling. As long as it lowers employers costs. As long as it gets our roads built, buildings built, who cares. As long as no one notices egrogrious practices.

    That’s why the ST article was a pain-in-the-xxx to the MOM officer. Damn it .. now he needs to deal with the problem!!

    And frankly speaking, I’m sorry to say that Singaporeans are complicit too. Just look at some of the articles you have published on such laborers – I remember a recent 3 part series commenting on the inadequacies of the proposed MOM law. Did you notice how many replies you have to your aritlcle? Last time I checked, close to zero. Compare that to the number of replies you get on other social / polical commentary issues – double digits usually. In other words, we don’t see the problem, we shove it out of our mind, get on with our lives, assume that between the govt and NGOs, someone will solve it. If Singaporeans don’t care, why should the Govt prioritise solving it?

    That’s why I admire the doggedness in which TWC and people like yourselves pursue the gross unfairness that exist.

    In other words, the problem you pointed out exists precisely because of a lack of political will to address the problem. The Govt is aware of the problem, but it chooses to close an eye in the name of keeping business costs low. It implicitly allows such practices. As long as Singaporeans don’t care enough. As long as it doesn’t make headlines in the New York Times.

    There’s something called “tone at the top” in organizational theory. Essentially it says that the top sets the culture of the place. Its hard to tell Goldman Sachs employees to not be so money-minded or competitive, if the “tone at the top” is as such.

    Similarly, its hard to tell Singaporeans to be broad-minded when the “tone at the top” is as such too. You cannot “switch on” or “switch off” broad-mindedness. Its either in you, or not.

    • 12 henrietta 28 August 2012 at 12:10

      “…I remember a recent 3 part series commenting on the inadequacies of the proposed MOM law. Did you notice how many replies you have to your aritlcle? Last time I checked, close to zero. Compare that to the number of replies you get on other social / polical commentary issues – double digits usually. ”

      Perhaps replies never got published by the blog owner?

    • 14 MS 29 August 2012 at 13:39

      Completely agree with the article and this well thought out comment. Remember the productivity drive some years ago. I feel it’s been quietly consigned to the dust heap when it was realized that that would entail significantly higher salaries for existing local workers. Much cheaper to follow the LKY mantra of keeping our “labour costs low” by bringing in cheaper foreign labour. We’ve become addicted to it.

      Only exception appears to have been the ministers. Increase their salaries with absolutely no discernible increase in THEIR productivity.

      We had a real chance to develop our economy in a different direction from the late eighties to early nineties. I remember reading an article on the Finnish education system where they realized in the early ’80s that it wasn’t producing the goods and the subsequent reforms lasted a good 10 years or more. Now their students consistently score among the highest and if I recall correctly, their first formal exams are when they’re 14. No private schools in Finland. Education is free and every student gets an equal chance.

      We need to do something similar here to our labour system but I know it won’t happen any time soon.

  7. 15 Anon jD95 28 August 2012 at 09:45

    My Heart sank reading this report… People who work so hard to build my country should be treated better by our Government and given better redress… I am turly sorry to hear this…

  8. 16 ikan bilis 28 August 2012 at 10:07

    You know how it is. The ordinary senior officer (lowest ranking officer) is enthused about a case, sought to raise the issue ti his superiors, was told to write a paper and present to his superior first. Depending on his mood and attitude, the superior may ask the officer to rewrite a few times to moderate the tone etc. or jump thru more hoops before finally it is escalated up to the Board. Depending on the PS or MOS, whether he is a brave man or not, the paper either gets the light of day and ends up on the Cabinet’s table or consigned to die a natural death. The route is circuitous, with many defensive turf wars fought in between, the issue can get swept under the carpet, or taichi round and round until it gets lost or trashed or timed out. Worse, if it is a cross-Ministry thing, the old boys’ network may frown on “saboing” each other, as these Scholar-civil servants who helm the Ministries knew one another at college, Uni or Harvard. This guarantees that the paper is destined for the rubbish heap or self-expires due to obsolescence of the topic or events have overtaken since then. I have been in the civil service at a high enough grade and I know how things work.

  9. 17 ikan bilis 28 August 2012 at 10:13

    You really need perseverance to drive the paper all the way. In between, you have mountains of overdue cases, you are overwhelmed, workloads keep your head down and nose to the wheel. Eventually, to a lesser mortal, as we all are, you give up hope trying ti help, you are disillusioned, but you have no choice to work at a job that stinks…and of course, you turn purple at the thought that all these leaders up there who take home bigger bucks than you had it easier…

  10. 18 Ethan Hunt 28 August 2012 at 11:44

    The conduct of an apathethic government has been like this since time immemorial. In the 80s-early 2000 the migrant workforce is East Malaysian and when in conflict btwn employee and employers, the workers are just sent back to west malaysia by the agents. Growth at all cost is the order of the day for years to come, for the leading party.

  11. 19 Willy 28 August 2012 at 14:37

    Nothing like a picture/video/documentary to really show the incompetence of the MOM/PAP/Leegime on this issue. They have willfully turned a blind eye to the plights of these people in Singapore. Show the world what kind of hypocrites we have in the Singapore government.

  12. 20 Chanel 28 August 2012 at 16:31

    The apparent internal rot at MOM is also prevalent at SPF. Police officers regular palm away complaints from the public because of the work involved in investigating and report writing. Lawmakers also want this country to have “low” crime and the one way to achieve this KPI is to decriminalise certain actions that would have been considered a crime in other developed countries. A well known example is assault, which is not a crime (i.e. police will not make an arrest). The victims need to spend the time and money to file a magistrate themselves.

  13. 22 Doing what is right by following your heart 28 August 2012 at 16:53

    I still feel that the work done by the TWC will just alleviate the problems of foreign workers. To really nip the problem at the bud, it goes all the way to how policies on foreign manpower are formulated and acquisition and allocation of foreign labour. SMEs actually have not much access to foreign manpower, most are getting through the GLCs and large corporations because of the existing policies on manyear and project value. In the process, these are abused by certain people within the system and thus trickled down to the problems faced by the migrant workers as highlighted by TWC.

    • 23 Anon F8j9 29 August 2012 at 10:21

      i agree twc2’s activities are along the lines of band-aid operations mostly. however, a) the opinions of people not actually facing the minor problems of starving and being out on the streets is probably irrelevant, because….well, they are not the ones looking at the issues in the eyes, are they? and b) it raises consciousness. b) is particularly important, because you are right, it does go all the way up. how do you then think the change will come? carebears coming down to “stare” at the ministries and then it’ll all be sweet cakes and rainbows? no, the attitude of the people as a whole has to shift. not just the people in the ministries mind you, but people in general. like you and me.

  14. 24 Chow 28 August 2012 at 19:53

    And a thank you for continually bringing this up. If what Ikan Bilis wrote is the reality in the Civil Service (and I think it is not far off the mark) then the only way to get them to move is to make this become a public issue such that they will be forced to act. Sometimes I think that the MPs and bigger players in the Civil Service have it quite easy. The MPs mainly run on platforms of Hdb upgrading and other such fluffy stuff and the others seem mostly to engage in studies and recommendations but hardly in follow-ups or follow throughs.

  15. 25 Vincent Young 28 August 2012 at 22:47

    The public service is now an illusion of serving the general public. What is really happening is they spin the image of being world class and very efficient, but what they are really doing is cronyism and working together to cover their own asses.

    They want employers to support the yellow ribbon project, but they themselves are not willing to open the second prison to people who ask for second chance. They are just too afraid of the political fallout if they do take the risk but failed. They are afraid that the ranking of Singapore in the world will be implicated if these kind of news increased.

    Which is exactly why for every public servant gets implicated in any criminal act, they publicise it so much so it becomes sort of like propaganda that they are firm to manage such miscreants. They do not accept that the core of the public service is rotten or rotting now which is indirectly causing such problems to take place.

    The case officer is mad with the Shahin probably because his superior wants him to answer why such things are happening and are being revealed by the media and not by the MOM first. The case officer is mad because he has to write and file so many reports to explain why such things happen. And the reports will be read and assessed by the superior who has to answer to the Minister, who, at the end of the day, is made to believe whatever the superior reported to him.

  16. 26 TAP 29 August 2012 at 18:44

    Good article and analysis.

  17. 27 tananon 30 August 2012 at 01:14

    Watch tv programmes on migrant workers and the scams:

  18. 28 Saycheese 30 August 2012 at 10:52

    The problems at MOM are not due to staff shortage. Staff shortage exacerbated those existing problems when the government had long ago pretended that our labour relations was perfect and worker/employer issues are smothered by the workers financed NTUC with the MOM only playing a supporting role. Simply put, the MOM had atrophied such that it do not know how to play its role when the de facto labour minister may be the one going about without a portfolio in the PMO.

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