Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Nursing degrees from four Indian bodies valid in Singapore

Singapore has agreed to recognise degrees from four nursing institutions in India, a development that comes after nearly a decade of intense negotiations between the two countries and promises to widen overseas employment opportunities for Indian nurses.

India is close to signing a mutual recognition agreement (MRA) for nurses with Singapore under the comprehensive free trade pact signed in 2005, even as talks continue with other FTA partners such as Japan and Korea, officials said.

Nursing degrees awarded by Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Manipal College of Nursing, Christian Medical College (Vellore) and College of Nursing, Trivandrum will be recognised by the Southeast Asian nation, one of the officials said.

"Singapore has agreed to recognise degrees four of our institutes. Just a few more approvals are required for the MRA to be finally inked. This will open avenues for our nurses to go and practise in Singapore at competitive packages," said the official, requesting anonymity.

The MRA for nursing with Singapore had met a roadblock after the Indian Nursing Council (INC) insisted that every nurse trained at any of the country's recognised institutions should be eligible to practise in Singapore. "The idea is to start with some and then scale them up," said the official.

The MRA is aimed at enabling professionals in India and Singapore to offer services in each other's territory as the pact will give recognition to their degrees in both the countries. It will open up a safer avenue for Indian nurses, who also end up in countries like Iraq facing severe security threats. In July, 46 Indian nurses were rescued by the government.

India and Singapore had signed a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) in 2005, cutting customs duties on goods, but progress is still awaited on movement of professionals. The government is also negotiating MRAs for other professions including chartered accountancy, architecture, medicine and dentistry with Singapore.

India is making efforts to expand the scope of its services exports, beyond information technology. Services sector is a primary driver of the Indian economy, clocking exports of $151 billion in 2013-14 compared to $312 billion worth of merchandise shipments.

Although India has similar comprehensive pacts with Japan and South Korea, there has been no progress on the services front with these countries. "It is a challenge, it require reforms before it can happen. Services trade is a slow process," the official added.

Experts hailed the progress in agreement on nursing. "If the government has reached till here, it is a big positive step in the right direction. Let us be clear that singing an MRA is not easy and requires synergy of standards and matching of qualification, which requires a lot of goodwill," said Arpita Mukherjee, professor, ICRIER. "It will be very good for the nurses and it may also lead to easier access of Indian nurses to other Western nations with which Singapore has an MRA, like the United States," she said.

Source: The Economic Times, December 3, 2014

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