Home > Is it only about SMRT, Singapore Scene > Is it only about SMRT?

Is it only about SMRT?

 

 

I am getting quite fed up. Not long after PTC announced that fares on buses and MRTs are going up, ComfortDelgro announced fare “revisions”. This is on top of an expectation of higher costs of living, and stagnant wages. Worse still, social workers are now on standby to counsel people who may become victims of a global recession in the coming year. Of course public transport companies are all showing healthy profits. COEs are now incredibly expensive. So unless really well-heeled, those without cars can forget about getting their own vehicles. Actually it looks as if all companies running public transportation systems will see profits continuing to rise. How difficult can it be to make money? They have millions of commuters who require their services, and if cost of business gets high, they can just raise fares. They will have the blessings of the powers that be.

 

Then the breakdowns. What really makes me furious about the breakdowns is not the breakdowns themselves but the way the evacuation process was handled. It is inexcusable to allow passengers in crowded trains to stay in carriages with no ventilation and in the dark for more than an hour. Trains are mechanical devices and breakdowns, though never welcomed, have to be expected. Contingency plans should have been in place to evacuate. Why did they not kick in?

 

Needless to say, the public is now calling for blood. Many have called for the CEO to resign. As usual, main stream media has to put in some form of damage control. In the last few days, there have been reports singing the praises of Ms Saw and her abilities. They work…NOT.

 

Take a look at her credentials. She was a Retail Director ofDFS. RETAIL! How is a Retail Director suitable as the CEO ofSMRT– a public transport company? What it tells me is that just like the rest ofSingapore, the main focus is profit generation, not the well running of trains or providing services for the citizens.

 

Next, the papers highlight how she tripled the profit ofSMRTsince taking over from 56m in 2002 to 161m in 2011. Sounds impressive? Not really.SMRThas a captive and rapidly increasing ridership. If she has given the public better, more efficient train services, and controlled fare prices or even reduced them, I will be impressed. But with increasingly more crowded trains and ever increasing fares – how difficult can it be to increase profit? So she used available space for retail outlets to generate rental income. Given the escalating cost of rentals inSingapore, it does not take a genius to figure this scheme to make money. The question is how much of this money has been returned to commuters, to improve the trains, as compared to the amount pocketed as bonuses and salaries of top management and directors? How much of this profit is the result of hiring cheaper “foreign talents” to replace our more experienced, local technical and professional staff? Why is there a need to increase fares if she has done so well by way of profits? I think we need some answers.

 

SMRTproblems unfortunately are symptomatic of many things that are going wrong with the country. We pay top dollar for so called top people. Except that I wonder if there is proper skill matching. How is Ms Saw suitable if her area of expertise is retail? Top dollar for the best people. Sounds logical except that when we pay top dollar for, say, a military man – does his skill set match what is needed to be, say, an education minister? Or finance minister? Sure, if a potential minister, who happens to be a highly paid cardiologist, remains a doctor, he will be paid millions. I doubt if Citibank will pay him millions to be their CEO though. But we think nothing of co-opting someone like that into the government and paying him very well indeed to be a rookie politician or  minister in a field that may be totally unrelated to his profession. We just trust his intellectual acumen will be enough to make him the right man for the job.

 

In the event of problems, we highlight profits made. In the case of the government, we throwGDPfigures in the faces of the citizens. The real issues that worry or anger the people are often given only cursory attention. Take for instance Lui Tuck Yew and his concerns over the overcrowded trains, and the frequency that the trains are running, and whether that meant maintenance has been compromised. Aren’t overcrowded trains thanks largely to the increased numbers of foreigners in the country? Haven’t we grumbled about that before? Then Rear Adm Teo mentioned contingency plans and proper evacuation. Ermmm – we do not need million dollar ministers to tell us that. We do not need you to tell us the problems – we have been telling you about the problems for a long time. We are looking to you for solutions.

 

We are always told to bear with it, to work together, to understand. Who is going to tell the employer to understand the lateness of his staff? Who is going to compensate the man who is penalized financially by the lateness – whether because he is an hourly rated worker or if he missed an important appointment thanks to the breakdown? We are always having to understand difficulties, but all you have to do is to apologise for inconveniences suffered? And be paid millions for it? On the other hand, the ordinary person who may lose money for this inconvenience– something that often causes real pain, are just told to bear with it? To move on?  How can you even understand what losing $20 mean to a daily rated worker, when the value of money has become so cheap to you who earn so much?

 

I am feeling very discouraged. The issues surroundingSMRTare really similar to the issues surrounding many government policies. We cannot focus on money alone, whether in terms of profit orGDPor in terms of paying the top man obscene amounts of money. The focus has to be the well being of the citizenry.

 

Anyway what’s the point of my ranting? When Gerard Ee proposes new ministerial salary, I am steeling myself to see a token reduction. Leopards do not change their spots.

 

However, a straw can definitely break the camel’s back. There is only so much people can bear.

 

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  1. December 22, 2011 at 4:25 am

    On the bright side it appears the shitstorm of communications disasters has at least got SMRT using their social media accounts outside of business hours. Maybe it might encourage others to do the same =).

  2. Hsq
    December 22, 2011 at 6:20 am

    Well said. Thanks for this article. Exactly my sentiment.

  3. December 22, 2011 at 7:03 am

    Hi sis, good article. Do I have your permission to submit your articles to TR Emeritus and other sites? 🙂

  4. December 23, 2011 at 12:36 am

    Thank you for your “ranting”. We love to read cuz what you say mirrors our feelings. You express it for us! Keep ranting.

  5. patriot
    December 25, 2011 at 4:02 am

    Hi Skribe;

    SMRT did use the social media to inform their cab drivers about
    business opportunity during the breakdown.
    It used social media, BUT, selectively.

    patriot

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