Monday, August 17, 2015

Between AHPETC and SMRT

Which is the greater mishap for us, as the peasants of this aristocratically-ruled island country club? The perceived "failure" of AHPETC or the real-life experienced failure of SMRT? Which is a more costly failure for the peasants?

Direct impact of AHPETC’s “failure”

(1)State of cleanliness

Impact is limited to constituent level. The most disastrous impact will be hygiene discomfort, that is, cleaning work comes to a halt due to the breakdown of TC. That is based on the assumption that residents' Service and Conservancy Charges (S & CC) collected could not suffice to meet the cleaning cost somehow. That would at most impact the estate cleanliness.

Though a paranoid on cleanliness, I must admit that this is not even an inconvenient. The breakdown of MRT is inconvenient, considering the fact that peasants have to commute to work. As long as the services of shops, supermarkets, wet markets, post office, banks, public transport (if it is still in working conditions) and such still function despite the failure of TC, estate cleanliness does seem negligible.

In perspective, there are more pressing reasons, such as stubborn inflation, to worry about than estate hygiene discomfort really. NEA will tackle mosquito breeding and rats infestation in my constituent unless non-PAP wards are excluded from these services. Even if I have to engage an estate manager directly to manage our block of flats, that still won’t break my bank.

However, living costs do. Healthcare cost for myself and my aging parents will. I reject Mr Khaw Boon Wan’s aristocratic suggestion of putting my parents in any JB home care to reduce the cost of care.

In fact, a 10 million imminent population is more disastrous for me than failure of my TC.

(2) Lower Service and Conservancy Charges

Ironically, despite MSM’s repeated mantra of AHPETC paying more to their managing agent, residents still get to enjoy a lower rate of S & CC as compared to during PAP’s reign?!!! Doesn’t that show some form of efficiency and cost savings? Why couldn’t the TCs under PAP, paying relatively less to their managing agents than AHPETC, decrease the S & CC to benefit the residents? After all, they enjoy greater economies of scale than AHPETC. Yet, AHPETC which has been accused of paying their "friends" unfairly more, could help to bring direct savings to the residents. If paying more to managing agent could improve efficiency and brings lower service costs to residents, why not? We are already paying our political leaders the highest salaries in this universe to stamp out corruption and to attract talents into our political arena anyway. That didn’t bring about a cost savings unfortunately, to the peasants.

Greater implications
1) Doubts on the ability of AHPETC’s political party to govern at national level

Is that even relevant?

There is no relevance between Hsien Loong’s ignorance of our mee siam and his ability to run the country either. Cockles or no cockles in mee siam, he has been running our country for the past decade.

I doubt Hsien Loong knows about the details on the running of his ministries, nor would he know about the amount of money that is going into the sinking fund each month from his TC.

The management of a TC was thrusted upon the shoulders of our MPs when the rule of game for politics was changed to trip the opposition. Whatever justification said about MP’s additional role in TC management does not disguise the fundamental purpose of our MPs in their political roles. They are elected to shape our national policies to the benefit of our citizens, not just residents. A MP who has the abilities to keep his TC all in order but dead silent about the detriments of national policies in Parliament is a complete waste to taxpayers’ money and it defeats the purpose of even having a MP. An estate manager would just suffice for that task.

We have to understand that the purpose of our civil service is created to facilitate the daily functions of our country, and therefore leaving our political leaders to make decisions.

Our political leaders do not fret about our income taxes being paid on time or not; neither do they need to decide which cleaning company to engage. That would be under the purview of IRAS and NEA. In short, our politicians are not estate managers.

We do not need accountants, financial consultants, estate managers….to be our political leaders. On the other hand, we are in dire need of GENUINE leaders who can LEAD, who are not obsessed with their monetary sacrifices or aristocrat status.

2) Spread of corruption to the national level when AHPETC allegedly awarded contracts to “friends”

CPIB is there to ensure a corruption-free environment.

If there is really corruption involved, I have no qualms that our super efficient CPIB would have brought those involved to justice. The persecution of former chief of SCDF and directors of CPIB are fine examples of our super efficient CPIB.

If those were not enough, just look up there at the aristocrat level where Hsien Loong is. His wife is overseeing the investment capital of our sovereign funds. Such obvious conflict of interest. There must be a super robust system in place to detect any possible wrong doings of his wife. If such robust system exists, AHPETC would certainly be on the radar system.

Moreover, high pay has been used to entice politicians not to be corrupted, so that should apply to AHPETC team. If there is any shreds of doubt on our pay-more-to-reduce-corruption system, give politicians’ pay another boost then. And certainly Grace Foo will be the first to jump through the roof in joy.

3) Integrity of the AHPETC team

I maybe naive but politicians are not god-send angels. Also, absolute power corrupts any human heart. Which is why I would rather put my faith in an independent system or an independent body to check on ALL politicians than to believe politicians’ integrity.

A system that can compel politicians to uphold their duties with integrity is more effective than relying on individual’s integrity. In the real world, political parties’ power rise and fall, but the system in place do not. If we have such an effective system, we should not be worried about the integrity of the politicians at all. They will have absolutely no chance of enriching themselves at the public expense, like what SMRT is doing.

Direct impact of SMRT’s failure

For peasants without cars, public transport is not even an option. And because we are peasants, we have to work till we die, therefore, reliable and affordable public transport is crucial to our livelihoods. The impact of train failure goes beyond train commuters and affect across various groups of people who are in some ways connected to the train commuters.

I am not sure if our aristocrat leaders and ex-generals realize that. If they are fixated about productivity, they should know the relation between train breakdowns and our productivity.

Greater implications

1) Privatising profits; nationalising loss

SMRT fails on two levels. First as a private company which fails to deliver its core product; on a second level, it fails as a private company which is supported by public funds.

And SMRT has been given a credit card with no spending limit and is definitely a spoilt brat who has no priorities in spending. We have seen it happened in its interest of venturing into retail and telecommunication when it fails to maintain reasonable standard of its own core product, which is our public transport. Expensive infrastructure such as the stations and tracks have been built for SMRT’s operations. On top of that, public funds were used to purchase new trains and distribute monetary rewards when SMRT trains run on time. Do we also reward police with cash for catching thieves?

There is also an “independent” fare review committee that has been advocating higher fares for SMRT in 9 out of 10 years, amidst all local and external circumstances such as surging and slumping oil prices, fall of real wages for bus captains, growing ridership.

Why does Hsien Loong cringe at the sound of welfare for our people but extremely generous towards private companies which profits have not benefitted the general public? Not even when it comes to assuage the burden of healthcare costs on our people, Hsien Loong is more concerned about the breakeven ability of his Medishield Life than the out-of-the-pocket costs for our people. 

If we are worried sick about AHPETC's management of TC's funds; we should be million times more worried about how our public funds are being spent. It is an accumulation of successive reluctant prudent spending on our people, in the form of our healthcare, social spending etc, that built up our public funds. In other words, we the peasants are spending more from our own pockets to ensure the surplus of our public funds.

2) Profit-oriented

Think of the cheap plastic cables used to stabilise our sleepers. There will be no end to the corners that a private company will cut to boost its profits. Inevitable.  

But how did we end up with a profit-oriented private company providing public service?

Desmond Kuek made known his priority clear soon after he was parachuted to head SMRT. SMRT answers to their shareholders, not the peasants who have to board the train out of no other transport alternatives. Ironically, the public transport company and its CEO owes their very existence to the peasants who couldn't afford COEs. Desmond, Tuck Yew and Hsien Loong do not see it that way.

No compelling reason for such a private company to remain competitive or efficient when there is free-to-spend credit card thrusted into its hands.

3) The scariest part--No accountability of public funds

SMRT is a mutant, not entirely private and neither entirely public. How many of such models have been adopted in other services? Using direct or indirect public funds to boost the profitability of private companies. Think of Temasek’s monetary support given to Olam, a private company with dubious financial and accounting. It was an amount of S$2.5 billion spent.

The bigger question is, who actually condones the behaviour of channelling our public funds to satisfy the insatiable greed of private companies? WHO IS THIS PERSON?

Hsien Loong and Tuck Yew, on different occasions mentioned, that the public has a responsibility to ensure the profitability of SMRT, a supposedly private company. Coincidentally, they were silent on SMRT’s responsibility towards its commuters. And that paints the big picture.

That our public funds are used callously to recoup the losses of irresponsible private companies. This dwarfs the “sins” of AHPETC’s mismanagement of their TC. There hasn’t even concrete evidence of AHPETC’s misuse of funds.


  1. SMRT has nothing to lose but AHPETC has
A private company allowed to nationalise its loss while privatising its gain will have no worries about its efficiency. Even LTA’s millions of fine on SMRT for poor service can be recouped through charging higher fare in the subsequent years.

AHPETC has everything to lose. It has a political team that went into politics with no guarantee of cushy jobs in GLCs or PA or being appointed as advisors of any constituent if they were to lose in the elections. For them, the only way to secure future votes is to perform. SMRT may break down 365 days of a year and it would still be be granted a fare increase. Peasants will still have to board the train out of no other alternatives.

2) SMRT is an epitome of how our country is run?
Isn't such possibility ten times worse than AHPETC's allegedly dishonesty? Our reserves are freely accessible to private companies, as well as private individuals? Worryingly, there is no debate or an independent system to oversee the expenditure of our public funds. One person determines the use of public funds.

3) Who is actually screwing the peasants
If the worst could be said about AHPETC, it will be their incompetency to manage the TC. But should there be a relation between a MP and his/her admin abilities in the first place? Are we looking at the abilities of our MPs to better the welfare for the citizens through municipal and national policies?

That Khaw Boon Wan scored a gleaming record on his Sembawang TC but failed miserably to provide sufficient hospital beds for a booming population during his term as a HEALTH minister. His residents in Sembawang GRC rejoice; but patients across the entirely island, save for those aristocrats of course, are paying for his incompetence as a Health Minister. A* in managing a TC but F grade as a health minister.

Which is worse? Who is screwing the peasants harder? And why are we even worried about AHPETC when there is already a bigger monster baring its teeth right before our eyes?

The truth is, we still prefer to close our eyes when it is already right before our eyes, praying fervently that it will miraculously go away on its own accord.