$1.1 million fine for SMRT and SBS – who pays in the end?

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A total of $1.1 million fine has been handed out to SMRT and SBS for various infringements in safety standards and operation lapses. The offenses ranged from train breakdowns to life endangering lapses like exposed electrical rails during track maintenance work. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) claimed that the $1.1 million will go into the Public Transport Fund to “help needy families with transport fares”, but little is known that the SMRT and SBS themselves have an equivalent fund that helps the needy. How much have these funds built up and how much were disbursed, are not available to the public and the lack of transparency of these fund seems like good excuses for these essential services to chart record profit or fines in the name of charity.

When SMRT and SBS bracketed $1.1 million in their balance sheet, where do you think the money will come from? The average Singaporean who could not afford a car will be the ones paying the mistakes of the 2 Temasek Holdings-owned companies. These 2 monopolies will never go into the red, they will forever be profitable because through the Ministry of Transport, they can increase the fares – which PAP Minister Lui Tuck Yew have already hinted so.

As such, our present public transport system ensures the 2 public transport companies will always make profit. When they screw up, commuters get affected by delays and the same commuters pay for their fines. When they raised the salaries of drivers, they go to the commuters again. So how is privatization superior to nationalization?

The traditional school of thought for privatization is that companies will be motivated to innovate, operate efficiently and perform in the name for profit. SMRT and SBS have been listed since year 2000 and 2003 respectively (SBS under the ComfortDelgro conglomerate), what innovation, operational efficiency and performance have we seen in this 10 year period? We get a flamboyant CEO who cares more about investors’ dividends than the operations maintenance regime. Today, Singaporeans remain unconvinced about privatization of our national assets and the direction PM Lee Hsien Loong is heading where companies of essential services, like Singapore Powers, POSB, Keppel Corp. and Capitaland, are allowed to chart record profit at the expense of Singaporeans. High land cost, high utility charge, low banking interests, high public transport fares are all translated into dividends for their respective investors. It is no wonder the cost of living in Singapore is so high today causing a myriad of social problems like low birth rate, high income gap and diminishing meritocracy. Citizens of Singapore have become economic digits, who start paying from cradle to grave.

Unfortunately, the incumbent is very stubborn. Like the 6.9 million population target, they are against re-nationalization of these essential services. Nationalization in the past is as wrong as Lee Kuan Yew could be, yet strangely nobody from the present administration dare point out how wrong LKY was. The present PAP government believe they are the same quality who brought Singapore into its prosperous state today, when everything they do – be it casinos, GST, CPF and whatever – is the reverse of what the old guards did. We start to see many former PAP leaders stepping up criticizing the present PAP – former NTUC union cheif Tan Kin Lian, former LKY’s perm sect for 40 years Ngiam Tong Dow, former principal private secretary Tan Jee Say, former GIC chief economist Yeoh Lam Keong. When the present PAP don’t even listen to these leaders with a proven track record, do you think they will listen to Singaporeans?

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