SMRT CEO: We are accountable to shareholders

In an interview with ChannelNewsAsia, SMRT interim CEO Tan Ek Kia said his successor Desmond Kuek, the former chief of army, will need to do more to restore public confidence in the public transport. The outgoing CEO praised Desmond Kuek for having a “proven track record” when the former civil servant has no experience of managing a train company or ever stepped foot in a listed company.

Tan Ek Kia also emphasized on the profits of SMRT which has been hurt by the series of train disruptions. He reminded everyone that SMRT is a listed company and is ultimately answerable to its shareholders. Despite the fact that SMRT has monopolized Singapore’s train system, Tan said he is improving revenue by “promoting ridership” and enhancing the non-fare business arms of SMRT. There is no mention of the anguishes and inconveniences caused to affected commuters and how the train corporation is going to be answerable to the people instead of the investors.

The Public Transport Council oversees the train fare adjustment of SMRT but the statutory board always approve every single request by the train company to raise fares. While the nationalization of Singapore’s train system has resulted in an efficient and low cost public service to Singaporeans in the past, privatization today has led to corporate greed and incompetencies. It was reported that SMRT did not raise its maintenance budget for 10 years which is widely believed to be the main cause behind the slew of paralyzing breakdowns. Train fares were also raised while the company reports tens of millions of profits every year, and the PAP government started a 1.1 billion fund using Singaporeans’ taxes to help SMRT and SBS pay for 550 new buses. It is now apparent that profits are privatized and losses are nationalized.

PAP MP Lim Biow Chuan has also suggested to SMRT to apply for welfare from the Government in helping them to cope with the loss of income from the breakdowns:

“All these maintenance regime, the cost should be borne by SMRT. It shouldn’t have any impact on train fares for commuters to have to pay more fares. In the event that all these additional maintenance works cost too much, SMRT may want to put up a request to the government to see if they can receive any kind of government assistance. And if that were to happen, then the government should study carefully to make sure that SMRT is justified in making any such requests,”~PAP MP Lim Biow Chuan

Singapore’s public services have largely been privatized with the major shareholder being Temasek Holdings, a sovereign wealth fund company under the Prime Minister’s wife Ho Ching. The PAP government is exceptionally sensitive about its squeaky white image and will not hesitate to sue anyone for any allegations of nepotism.


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