Saturday, 5 November 2016

Singapore economy, likes MRT, faces breakdown and disruption uncertainties

Image result for mrt breakdowns
Is MRT breakdown a good physical exercise?

When Singapore Mass Rapid Transit system was first introduced in the 1980s, we could never imagine frequent breakdowns or disruptions. However, this has become a certainty now. No disruption or breakdown has gone and the reality is we have to face and bear this uncertainty or unexpected certainty.

Will our economy also face the same challenge, the uncertainty, likes our MRT system?

While will our government also face the same challenge, the uncertainty, likes our MRT system?

In the past, we were very proud of our MRT, our economy, our government, but now we are not sure when unexpected disruptions and breakdowns will come. This means we will have more uncertainties and more risks.   

Interestingly PM Lee Hsien Loong speaking to union leaders, using a medical analogy, said Singapore economy only needs to do more exercises but no medicine.    

{ "In 2008, 2009, it was a crisis, we were sick, we needed medicine, we took antibiotics. One course of powerful medicine, we recovered. Luckily the germs also stopped coming and we were okay. But this is not that kind of infection that we can take a quick medicine to cure," he said before a closed-door dialogue with participants. "This one you see the doctor, the doctor says, ‘No you don’t need me. You need to see a physical trainer. You need to build up your muscles, you need to build up your skills you need to strengthen yourself. You need to keep at it. Several months, you’ll see a difference. A few years, you’ll be a different person.’" } #1

Perhaps, he is suggesting the frequent MRT breakdowns and disruptions are good for your bodies, so that you can do more physical exercises, running to catch transfer buses or walking in the dark tunnels. And so you become healthier, more fit to face the uncertainties?   

PM Lee also declares there is no economic crisis but go and do more physical exercises. You will be OK after your hard labour and training.

However, if you read Chee Soon Juan’s “After 15 years, the results are in and it is clear that Lee Hsien Loong has failed” , you get confused. Dr Chee reminds us:

{Now that the 15 years is nearly up, it is pertinent to ask what has been achieved. Apparently not much, according to Mr Lee himself. As he confessed this week: “We are feeling the pains of restructuring, but not yet seeing the dividends of our hard work.” } #2
So, who is to believe?

Will the delisting of SMRT good for system restructuring or another 15 years of failure?

By next week, we will have to face the first uncertainty - The Trans-Pacific Partnership.  To PM Lee, he is still talking and dreaming about TPP.  But this is already a certainty as both US Presidential hopefuls have said No to TPP. Why does a certainty become an uncertainty in the eyes of PM Lee? What we should study is what next after TPP - the uncertainty of a failed TPP. This is the reality and what will be the disruptions caused by the failure?

Are we putting too much attentions to TPP and distance ourselves to “One Belt, One Road”? TPP and “One Belt, One Road”, which one is carrying more uncertainties and risks?

We are not sure about another financial crisis? In fact, after every crisis, the GINI coefficient index will go up and the rich-poor gap will widen. We may need to use our reserve again.   

Just like the MRT breakdowns, some commuters will be affected.  Those affected commuters will have to do more physical exercise. Others will continue to enjoy their journeys and have a normal life.  Of course, we also have people outside the MRT system. They use another mode of transportation.  Comparatively, they can maintain their productivity while MRT commuters will suffer a drop in productivity due to MRT disruptions.

Will the partial disruptions of MRT spread to the whole MRT system? This means besides physical exercises, we not only need medicine perhaps an operation (economic restructuring) too. The whole economy will be affected, not some industries, by the breakdowns of external economy.

PM Lee thinks Singapore is not facing an economic crisis. He thinks only some industries are having problems, lower down the growth rate and productivity needs to improve. Hence, he suggests doing exercises to improve the productivity.

If we look at the MRT problems, is it a productivity problem or cultural, maintenance or other problems? By delisting SMRT, will the productivity increase or decrease? There are many unknowns, for example, the signalling problems, power problems, integration problems…

Like the MRT system, Singapore economy is also adding more lines, more industries. It has become so complicated and sophisticated, so much so we do not have advance notice of the illegal banking of 1MDB.

If we only need to do exercises to overcome the temporary economic problems as suggested by PM Lee, we may fail to understand the sophistication and complexity of Singapore economic structure. Today’s MRT system and economy have different structure as compared to even 5 years ago. Different individuals, families, and companies will face different issues. Some individuals, families and companies will have a very difficult time ahead even there is no economic crisis.  Is this just a simple exercise problem?



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