Thursday, 14 August 2014

If SIA can make silly mistake, so do the government, Temasek, GIC, …

In many ways, Singapore Airlines has the same management philosophy of the PAP government.

SIA is the image of Singapore that the PAP government wants to show to the world.  Indirectly, it is a mini PAP as the major shareholder of SIA is Singapore government through Temasek Holdings.    

SIA is a symbol of Singapore. It represents the quality of Singapore in a competitive international airlines market.  It is a listed company subject to quality check of internal and external auditors. However, it still made a silly public relationship mistake on the issue of flying over the Ukraine airspace.

Parliament was told that ‘SIA plane (was) about 90 km from MH17 when it was shot down’.#1 In another report, we know ‘SIA used same MH17 flight path 75 times in past week’. #2 It seems there is a quality control problem at SIA.  How come a company statement can be issued without proper checking? Or is the statement used to cover up a bigger potential mistake and lie?   We don’t know as SIA only says sorry for the insensitive remark.

Few international corporations or organisation will issue statements without proper internal check and balance. The problem is not whether SIA plane was 25 or 90 km from MH17 as explained by the Transport Minister in Parliament.  It is a question of whether SIA did fly over Ukraine airspace or not. It is also a question of ethics: taking advantage of the situation and telling a lie.  

So, SIA with her good reputation, always providing good quality products and services, still can make silly mistake  and not telling the truth, same things can happen to the government, CPF, Temasek and GIC. We cannot rule out the possibility just like we cannot imagine SIA would issue insensitive remark on MH 17.

The government has explained that Temasek and GIC are subjected to very strict auditing and they even have top rating from international credit agencies. In fact, SIA too is (more so as they need to publish quarterly report) having even more stringent controls and supervisions under SGX. Investors can buy and sell SIA shares in open market.  Public confidence and investors’ confidence are extremely important to SIA.

Anyway, a silly mistake has already been made. A truth has been discovered. It proves that everyone of us can make silly mistake. But how we tackle and solve the problem, correct the mistake and gain back public confidence is a question of wisdom and honesty.

Without transparency, the government always maintains there is high standard of governance in Temasek and GIC as well the management of reserve. They believe public trust is still with them and a ‘sorry’ (for the insensitive) statement like the one put up in SIA Facebook will be sufficient. The sorry can gain back public confidence.

Perhaps the PAP is right. What if they are wrong and public trust is indeed much lower than 10 years ago?   



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