Monday, August 17, 2015

Raymond Lim retires from Politics

I think I bumped into Raymond Lim more than any other ministers. Several times I saw him sitting at the next table with his wife at the hawker centre or having breakfast at McDonalds. Then my routine changed and I stopped seeing him again. That was many years ago.

I am sure he is a nice guy, a great MP but a lousy Transport Minister. Lui Tuck Yew ever gracious to his colleagues and subordinates used the oldest trick in the book. Praise others for what they are good at and avoid mentioning their shortcomings which he prefers to deal with in private.

Raymond also didn't understand trains and left it to SMRT to handle it. He forgot that GLCs could play heads they win; tails you lose with ministers. Structure breeds behavior. SMRT will go for maximum shareholder value and minimum effort on what we all can't see: maintenance. If anything goes wrong the lion share of the blame will fall on the minister if the train operator cannot solve the problem.

The axe should come down on Desmond Kuek and the SMRT Board. There will be no sympathies like Lui Tuck Yew received if these people are booted out.

You might miss Raymond Lim as a caring MP but certainly not as Transport Minister. In fact I am hard put to think who can do that job better than Lui Tuck Yew who nevertheless could not explain and persuade us on how the challenges should be overcome. The arrow of blame heads for the PM when the transport minister quits. Netizens are quite public about this.

I salute Lui Tuck Yew not because he has been a successful transport minister but he is a good and capable guy put in am impossible structure, something which the PM and his Cabinet have the power to change but did not.

1 comment:

  1. To get an insight into Raymond Lim's appointmrnt as Transport Minister, read ex ST editor Cheong YY's book. He said that Raymond Lim had authored a paper or two about public transportation previously and apparently, enamored by this, PM Lee chose him as Transport Minister.

    To me, the biggest sins he did during his tenurr is not just the wanton neglect of maintenance of MRT system. But that shortly after he took over, LTA also "streamlined" the bus network so as to create monopoly in SMRT or SBS bus routes (no duplication) and also ripped out bus routes that had any duplication with the MRT lines. The underlying theory is hub & spook network. Sounds fine on paper but disastrous in practice. Why? Commuters now need go change bus/trains many times. And bus providers have zero incentives to minimize waiting times in the name of profit maximization on monopolistic routes. But more importantly, any redundancy in the system is now ripped out. So when a Train breaks down, there's literally no alternative mode of transportation.

    The second biggest mistake he made was to allow shrewd CEO Saw run circles around LTA and his ministry. He literally handed over free real estate to SMRT in the form of leasable space. In HK, lease and revenue from fares are complementary part of the same coin - the real estate gains subsidises the fares. Our oublic servants did not recognize that and was blindsided by Saw. The result : revenues from fares is now viewed on a standalone basis and as a result, must continually be raised for the system to be sustainable.