Yesterday, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan delivered a Ministerial Statement addressing concerns with regards to SMRT’s tunnel flooding last month. These were the best moments:
#1 SMRT CEO HEART IN THE RIGHT PLACE
Minister Khaw said, “if there is poor work culture, the CEO is responsible. You set the corporate culture.” Although he singled out CEO Desmond Kuek in that moment, he recognized that Mr Kuek “has been working very hard to try to change work culture.” He revealed that the SMRT CEO volunteered for the job and believed that “his heart is in the right place.”
Minister Khaw added on that “we’ve all felt ashamed by these, every now and then, disruptions in SMRT”. Minister Khaw also praised SMRT Chairman Seah Moon Ming for taking company measures instantly before addressing the CEO.
Unlike many of the keyboard warriors online, we’re not saying that the job (CEO, ministerial positions or jobs of the SMRT staff) should be taken over by someone else. If someone down the line made a mistake, every party has some form of responsibility and is at fault. We believe that in every problem, we address the individuals involved and utilize the experience and skills that each member has, to make the best of the situation. Public not happy with train problems, you think they also happy is it?
#2 REFLECTING ON HIS JOB
Minister Khaw spoke about his ministry’s mission to raise train reliability and saught the understanding and patience of commuters. “This is not an easy task. If it were so easy, it would have been fixed years ago. I don’t have to be in MOT!” he said with a chuckle, making references to his “Mr Fix-It” reputation he got by previously helping other ministries out of difficult patches.
We cannot deny that Minister Khaw has a lot to handle here. We are waiting to see him prove himself in time. This is also the same guy who helped Singapore through the SARS crisis and increased supply of HDB. Think we don’t know? Later SMRT service damn good already, you all action like never complain before…
#3 LAST TIME SMRT HELPED TAIPEI METRO, NOW THEY HELP US
SMRT invited a team of experts from Taipei Metro to conduct a review and recommend improvements. The team was assembled by a former Taipei Metro Chairman, who Minister Khaw met a week after the flooding incident.
“Taipei Metro – it’s done very well in terms of achieving rail reliability but they had plenty of problems too in the beginning… I asked him for help and he said sure, because he remembered many years ago he came here for help when we were still running the system quite well,” he said.
This was a strategic and commendable move. When the same group of people are looking at a problem for a long time, sometimes they may have missed something and getting an external party to take a look could offer greater insights. It is also great that Singapore and Taipei share such a connection even after all these years.
#4 REBUTTING OPPOSITION LEADER LOW THIA KIANG
The Workers’ Party chief raised his hand up to make the last clarification with the view that “the mission of SMRT is to make money for the Government” and “the core of the problem is money.” Mr Low Thia Kiang asserted that the Government expected profits from train operators while expecting tip-top performance.
Minister Khaw disagreed and countered that “there are easier ways to make money” and “we don’t have to use SMRT to make money.” He added, “Making money is not your objective, but you must not lose money,” Spending big also would come “at great cost” to taxpayers.
“There’s no free lunch Mr Low. He knows it, he runs a town council. He needs to balance the accounts too and he knows the importance of governance. So when your team fails him, what does he do?”
*drops mic* We applaud Mr Low for raising his concerns but let’s all just set aside our differences. We want to see progress for the nation and we’ll be watching.
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