Archive for December, 2012

Mr Lui should just shut up

December 14, 2012 8 comments

That is my kind advice. Repeated attempts to explain something that sounds wrong only made it sound even worse.

If raising fares also meant improving service standards, can the Minister of Transport explain how is it that service levels continue to deteriorate after all these years of fare increase? Since past increment in fares actually translate into worsening service standards, history obviously shows that a rise in fares will not improve service standards. Service standard is also not simply achieved by paying bus captains more. It is a combination of reasonable fares, timeliness of buses, training, bus captain’s personal service, efficient planning of bus routes etc.

If the minister is concern about ‘keeping transport operators commercially viable’, he need not worry. SMRT and SBS continue to earn great profits and even manage to generously give out dividends to shareholders after a year of breakdowns and accidents; thanks to it’s monopolistic position and PAP’s generous transfer of $1.1 billion from the tax payers’ pockets (that could have been used for public projects) to capital owners, investors and of course, the bulk of which goes to Temasek Holdings. And can someone remind Cambridge educated Mr Lui commercially viable does not equate huge profits (with the cheek to hand out dividends after a government bail out)?

Then Mr Lui goes on to say that having leaving the public transport operator privatized would meant more efficiency and depend less on tax-payers’ money. Is it any more efficient now? Has it not also depended on tax payers’ money? So despite government subsiding the public has to pay even more? Ever heard of double taxation? Is there any difference in money coming directly from the tax payers’ pockets and indirectly as subsidy from the government? Either way it’s financed by the public. The only nightmare is taxpayers are paying it BOTH ways. How is the current situation of the government subsidizing $1,100,000,000.00 any different from being nationalized?

What this smart minister said doesn’t seem to make much sense: “He said taking the populist approach of avoiding fare increases completely and pushing it onto public transport operators will give the operators no incentive to be efficient and provide better service for commuters.” In order to survive, the operators have to think of other ways if fares are not increased. Sometimes creative ways. Sometimes it may simply be a reduction in costs in other aspects, such as drop out some useless board of directors (see link, and think for yourself how has that entourage of government linked personnel contributed anything constructive in ensuring the past failures did not happen) and use that millions in director fees saved to increase the pay of the bus captains. I’ll tell you what would not give the operators any incentive to improve standards–Government guarantee of survival and profitability. Not just being ‘commercially viable’, but ‘huge profits’. Being a monopoly in train transport and free money from the government going into the billions, why should SMRT has the motivation or incentive to become better?


Pathetic attempts by the local media in shifting the attention of PAP’s disgrace

December 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Just look at how that poor Laura Ong being singled out by PAP’s extension, the PA or her former employer and having the local media attempting to paint her as a loose materialistic lady double timing on 2 men, one being the horny Michael Palmer and another innocent guy. Why should anyone be interested or concern about Ms Laura Ong? When did the local media start to behave like Paparazzi? All the while, nothing much negative was splashed on a former MP and Speaker of the House in Parliament. I should be concern about a half a million dollars a year MP & Speaker of the House who had displayed poor judgement, discipline and self-constraint, contrary to how the various PAP MPs were being trumpeted as capable, impartial, responsible people during Election. While expected, it reflected badly on the ruling party. Citizens are getting more savvy and are reading between the lines of news reported by media ranked amongst the worst in the world in terms of freedom and impartiality. Riding onto such old stances will not help PAP but makes it looks extremely despicable instead. Oh wait, isn’t that already taken as a fact?

And let the troubles roll

December 12, 2012 2 comments

The SMRT saga continues and all I see are denials and denials and denials. Where are the transparency and conversation the government sought to have? Where are the substances in all these conversation?

Touching down back to this sunny (or rather, rainy) island, the first thing the taxi driver yanked about is the failure of SMRT. Never mind that the recent sagas had created a deep distrust in the government handling of a private transport operator that had conflicting invested interest by the government itself, the transport minister goes on to showcase his EQ deficiency and insensitiveness in announcing the need to raise fares in order for SMRT to offer higher pay to attract Singaporeans to work as drivers.

And to the great embarrassment to any citizen of this ‘fine’ country, we have $15,000 a month MPs (see link) who are incapable of stringing logical answers and statements, flabbergasting in a stammer of nonsensical and heavily Singlish flavored replies that speaks zero confidence, absence of factual evidence, and simply devoid of intelligence. One can easily sense the great denial going on. When you can’t convince, you try to confuse, even though that’s a rather bad job done. I would rather hire Sarah Paulin as an MP. At least she knows the simple logic of Russia and Alaska being pretty near one another. How on earth did the great PAP ended up with minions like these?

Firstly, SMRT got someone who had not a single day experience in transport management to head a major transport company that offers public bus services. How is that risk assessed or approved is anyone’s guess. A few years down the road, it became obvious that Singapore Mass Rapid Transport is turning into SuperMaRkeT Inc with all that focus on retail rather than the core business in transport. Sure, revenue increased, which is a good thing for shareholders, notwithstanding that fares were still being raised in the face of “ever increasing cost in fuel and wages” despite increasing profits. Consequentially, failures of the train system came one after another, another after another.

The answer provided by the Ministry of Transport, which seems to have been sleeping on for years, is to spend more tax payer’s money in creating some random council to assist an entire ministry in solving SMRT’s problem. Why then do we even need a ministry for in the first place? Are all these people working in the ministry so useless they have to get additional resources to remedy something that they should be overseeing all this while? Lawyer fees were incurred, effort and thousands of hours later, it simply culminated in a muffed blaming game; in the hope of boomeranging the responsibility on the already guilty transport operator away from the government.  What I see is simply a show, a boring show by script writers who slaved away in MediaCorp’s cubicle box paid for by tax payers.

Turning back to an ex-military 3-star general to solve the current issue signified the depth of buried head the government had. Further stepping up on the bureaucracy ladder, this ex-general intend to rope in his soon-to-be-retired colleagues in the military. Isn’t it funny yet somehow familiar at how the military becomes the magic pill that “should” set things right. It’s simply a matter of going back to how things used to work before all that drama. Since things were fine headed by an ex-military honcho in the past, it must work in today’s time right? I’m baffled by the simplicity solution the government sought to create.  Anyone who had experience in the military will know that it is not the most efficient organization around. Appointing people who used to direct tanks and heavy vehicles to manage a nation-wide transport system isn’t really the wisest thing if you ask me. To be fair, time should reveal how capable our military is.

While the government stands by the view that public transport operators should be left privatized in order to achieve ‘efficiency’, they are slapping themselves in their face by indirectly admitting that the government, as a public serving body, is not efficient. Well, that’s pretty obvious going by the waste of tax payer’s money in the recent Procurement saga where there’s no logistical expert, no due diligence and no controls on spending money on the various ministries and statutory boards. How privatize is SMRT in the first place when the government is free to insert their own people as and when it deemed necessary? If simply being privatized equates efficiency and profitability, maybe the ministers, with their highly decorated accolades and degrees from prestigious universities care to explain the reason SMRT failed, or any other privatized firms such as the major banks failures in recent years.

Although “privatized”, the government goes on to use $1.1 billion of tax payer’s money to assist these transport operators to upgrade their infrastructure and procure new vehicles. $1.1 billion, that’s 1,100 million. It’s not a small figure mind you. It is equivalent to more than 8 years SMRT’s profit. How is such a huge amount approved so easily and so fast amazed me. All the more amazing when the PAP has always been reluctant to spend even an additional couple of millions more on healthcare and aid for the unfortunate.

In another showcase of efficiency, or rather, the lack of thorough debate and discussion with a fast approval in Parliament, the citizens of this island state are coerced to bail out a company that feeds profits to the government. In theory, privatized companies do perform better as they have a bottom line to take care of. By taking away that urgency to take care of bottom line, the government is signaling that SMRT will be guaranteed survival. Well, not only survival, the government goes an extra length to signify their willingness to guarantee profitability, even at the expense of the real shareholders—the citizens funding the entire infrastructure upgrade and bus procurement. The issue is not a matter of market failure and treating it with a useless tagline of ‘privatization’ when it is in essence heavily subsidized by public funds. The real issue is a Principle-agent problem, exacerbated by common interests between the government’s investment arm and the problematic company in question.  In essence, tax payers are paying for their own buses and bus captains and paying on top of it extra premium to ensure shareholders (ie Temasek Holdings) get their fatty pay check and bonuses. What choices do the common man and woman down the street has?

P.S. At the time PAP experienced WP’s episode of ‘unfaithful MPs’, we see Low Thai Kiang reacting to crafty interview questions (read between the lines how those questions posed are designed to bait certain answers) with ease and style. Why can’t the PAP ever learn their PR skills?