Government wrong to privatise public transport

Privatised public transport. What an oxymoron. Yet the government has been defending the benefits of a privatised public transport. When the WP proposed a not-for-profit National Transport Corporation to replace the two listed public transport companies in 2011, then Minister for Transport, Lui Tuck Yew, blasted the idea. He claimed that WP’s proposals had “serious downsides, chief amongst which commuters and taxpayers (yes, even those who don’t take public transport) are likely to end up paying more, and possibly, for a poorer level of service over time”. He added that “it is the profit incentive of commercial enterprises that spurs efficiency and productivity improvements”.

That has been the official policy position for many years. But is that really the case? Not so, according to Professor Kishore Mahbubani. Speaking  at the Singapore Economic Policy Forum organised by the Economics Society of Singapore on Thursday, Prof Kishore said that Singapore’s public transport woes are a result of privatising bus, train and taxi networks. He added that Singapore should not “remain a prisoner of old economic ideas”. He asked “Have we learnt from our mistakes and are we prepared to move ahead?” adding that privatisation “has been taken too far”.

Wait. Who is This Professor Kishore Mahbubani? What gives him the authority to speak about public policies? Oh…  Prof Kishore just happens to be the Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Who also happens to be a former permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I am sure he knows what he is talking about.

And that validates what the WP has been saying as early as 2011. I hope that the PAP government would really sit up and pay attention. But to make the necessary changes in the right direction to correct the past mistakes would take political courage. Does the present PAP government have the necessary political courage? I don’t know. Does it have the grace to admit that they were wrong and that the WP was right? Probably not. But I hope they would. For the benefit of all Singaporeans.

[Featured image: photo from ST file]


2 thoughts on “Government wrong to privatise public transport

  1. Prof Mahbubani couldn’t be more timely and correct. Now that the operations show these profits $1,235 mn & $951 mn the basis for these amounts should be examined. Did Govt provide $1.1 bn to buy buses? … would these profits have been possible without the $1.1 bn ?


  2. This kind of statement coming from the Prof is kind of shocking. He’s always been known to be pro-PAP in his views. Also, his view that we will need political courage…I’m not too sure what he meant by that. If all that meant just making a U-turn in policy making.

    Anyway, this is a state of inertia by the PAP led government. Also, the Prof was mainly talking about the privatization of so many things in Singapore which are for the public good. Transportation was just one example. IMO, public healthcare should not be privatized like how it’s been in Singapore. Of cos, i understand the idea of privatization is a way of risk diversification (is the state of singapore purely functioning as a company?!). If anything happens, just fold the companies. But, the state SHOULD be manning such public services directly, not through this intermediary of a company.


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