Dr Chee Soon Juan has been indulging in his favourite pastime lately – talking shit about his own country to foreigners.
In a Facebook post on 18 Oct, Chee said that he was in South Africa recently having lunch with Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro, the “Official Tourism, Trade & Investment Promotion Agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape” in South Africa.
His post went on to say that Mr Harris was “enamored with Asia’s openness to free trade and cited the example of Singapore, adding that South Africa should work along a similar approach, in particular, attracting MNCs to set up shop there.” Chee was thankful that his “friends” at the table warned Mr Harris of the pitfalls of such an approach and then proceeded to list all his grouses about Singapore’s approach.
This is all typical Dr Chee. Cherry-picking catchy phrases for maximum effect with little or no evidence. But it is the constant pandering to foreign audiences that gets to me. The way that Dr Chee presents Singapore’s situation, it must be that we are doing poorly as a country.
What is most galling is the blatant misrepresentation of facts to bring his point across i.e. that the approach of attracting MNCs here is failing. Citing a TODAY article from April 2015 which states that “at least three major pharmaceutical companies have shut down their research and development (R&D) operations here,” his post said that “giant pharma companies Eli Lilly, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Novartis all left, after lapse of tax breaks, other govt incentives”.
What he does not quote are more recent news reports that offer a more balanced picture.
A Straits Times report from October 2017 announced the opening of GlaxoSmithKline’s Asia HQ here, adding that “GSK was the first global healthcare company to establish a presence in Singapore, opening an outlet in 1959. Since then, it has invested more than US$2.5 billion here,” and that “the company has manufacturing sites in Quality Road and Jurong, as well as a vaccine manufacturing facility in Tuas. It employs around 1,600 people here.”
In addition, a Straits Times report from December 2016 announced that Pfizer has “officially opened a Manufacturing Technology Development Centre here.” The report added that “the company has had a presence in Singapore since 1964, when it started out with 10 employees. It now has more than 600 staff here – about 500 at its Tuas manufacturing site and 100 in its corporate office.”
When Dr Chee says in his Facebook post that all these pharma companies have pulled out, he conveniently leaves out the fact that they only pulled out their R&D operations.
The reality is that pharma companies are still opening up new facilities here. Honest mistake or deliberate misleading? You can make up your own mind. I still don’t trust the guy. Judging from the ballot box, voters in Singapore tend to agree too. The Singapore Democratic Party deserves a better sec-gen.