Minister Khaw spoke at some don’t know what conference yesterday. He said that SMRT was once “an exemplary MRT player and a subject of study” but now seems to have lost its “mojo”. How did this happen? Minister Khaw suggested that it could be due to complacency or “distracted management attention”.
Minister Khaw didn’t go on further to analyse what the root of the rot could have been. What caused the management of SMRT to be so distracted that they lost so much of their mojo? Minister Khaw didn’t say. But I think we can all guess the answer. It was us.
That’s right. We, Singaporeans, are the root cause of the rot. We were the reason why the management of SMRT was so distracted. Why? How did we, normal, ordinary Singaporeans come to distract the management of SMRT so much?
You see. SMRT is a publicly listed company. As with most publicly listed companies, they are under immense pressure to present glowing reports with fantastically wonderful profits to their shareholders. And who are the shareholders of SMRT? Well… a lot of normal Singaporeans have shares in SMRT.
But the biggest shareholder of SMRT is… Temasek Holdings. In other words, the biggest shareholder of SMRT is the Singapore government. So the profits of SMRT flows back to the coffers of the government. Those profits go on to fund the government’s expenditure. Our schools, social programs, Pioneer Generation Package, healthcare subsidies. All these need money. And those are what the profits of SMRT go towards funding.
With rising demands from Singaporeans on our government to spend more on social welfare, there surely was a huge pressure for our government to raise money somehow. It cannot raise direct taxes much. So what can it do? Maximise profits from the Temasek-linked companies (i.e. the publicly listed companies whose major shareholder is Temasek Holdings).
So apparently SMRT had, at some time in the past, adopted a strategy of increasing their profits. I heard from a source (see, I can also be like ST, have unnamed sources…) that the senior management in SMRT asked that all the departments in SMRT be independently profitable. ALL THE DEPARTMENTS! Including the maintenance and engineering departments. What the flying fuck?! How can the maintenance and engineering departments be independently profitable?!
So came all the cost cutting and the focus on renting out retail space. Bye bye investments in preventive maintenance. Bye bye training and development for the engineering and maintenance staff. And SMRT were able to deliver fantastic profits and the shareholders were happy. The senior management were well-rewarded.
But you see. All these shit started because we demanded more from our government. If only we didn’t demand that our government to spend more on social welfare, then the Government would have pressurised Temasek to compel SMRT to go full-steam ahead on profit maximisation. THAT, I think, is the real reason why the management of SMRT was distracted. And it all started with us.
So Minister Khaw. We are sorry. It’s all our fault that you have to clean up this shit that we caused.