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More Indians in Singapore returning home due to job losses: Envoy

More and more Indian workers are returning home as Singapore businesses cut down on the workforce following the severe impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic, an official said.

“On an average, about 100 Indian nationals in Singapore continue to register daily with the High Commission here for flights back home, with over 11,000 having registered so far,” Indian High Commissioner P Kumaran said on Wednesday.

Special flights have been arranged as part of the ongoing Vande Bharat Mission and, wherever necessary, more flights are added to help meet the high demand for some destinations to help Indian nationals return home as they have lost their jobs, or going back for medical treatment or family-distress situation, he said.

Kumaran said the high commission would continue to work to ensure enough repatriation flights, even though formal flights between Singapore and India had not resumed.

The high commission has repatriated over 17,000 Indian nationals by arranging 120 special flights since May, said Kumaran.

Speaking to PTI, the envoy also listed out his priorities in working on the India-Singapore relationship during his tenure here, especially further intensifying the political engagement, focus on increasing trade and investment flows, and technology collaborations in the space of fintech and startups.

“We have planned an India-ASEAN hackathon later this year, as part of similar hackathons done between Indian and Singapore in the past,” he said. “We are also working further on other collaboration opportunities such as enabling digital payments in Singapore through Indian domestic RuPay cards, working together to develop a Global Stack, on the lines of India Stack, and for making our MSME platforms interoperable.”

Discussions are on with the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) to explore opportunities for a manufacturing partnership.

“India offers industrial sites in planned economic zones to promote manufacturing,” he said, stressing that the country had “a very cost-competitive” manufacturing ecosystem, especially its low labor cost.

Singapore, through regionally-linked institutions and trade bodies such as the SMF, as well as a good understanding of the ASEAN market, offers good scope for such a win-win partnership.

“This perfectly fits into India’s strategy to be a global manufacturing hub with Singapore’s investment in specialized manufacturing sectors and cooperation in the area of developing the required skills for Indian workers,” Kumaran said.

“Singapore has been a longstanding FDI source for the Indian market and, by expanding collaborations with SMF, we aim to bring in more industries into the manufacturing sector in the country,” said Kumaran.

Investors see India as a long-term market with growing domestic demand and the ongoing economic reforms creating a business-friendly environment as well as the government’s support for export-oriented industries, according to Kumaran.

Separately, the high commissioner is also set to start work on India’s new High Commission building at Stevens Road on the outskirts of the hotel-belt of Orchard Road and the central business district.

It is designed to be a multi-story complex on the free-hold land parcel owned by the Indian government, along with the current chancery and the High Commissioner’s residence.

“We are looking at completing the Indian High Commission’s new complex in about three years,” said the envoy.