Government should run Singapore's public transport system: Kishore Mahbubani

Professor Kishore Mahbubani said Singapore's public transport woes are a result of privatising bus, train and taxi networks.
Professor Kishore Mahbubani said Singapore's public transport woes are a result of privatising bus, train and taxi networks.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's public transport system should be de-privatised and be managed by the government instead of private operators, according to a prominent academic.

Professor Kishore Mahbubani, the Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said Singapore's public transport woes are a result of privatising bus, train and taxi networks.

Singapore should not "remain a prisoner of old economic ideas", said Prof Mahbubani, who was speaking on Thursday (Oct 29) at the Singapore Economic Policy Forum organised by the Economics Society of Singapore.

Private corporations are judged on the basis of quarterly results and have less of an incentive to spend on long term maintenance, he added.

"Have we learnt from our mistakes and are we prepared to move ahead?" said Prof Mahbubani, adding that privatisation "has been taken too far" and Singapore should have the "political courage" to make changes to the system given its shortcomings.

 
 

This is one of the three key challenges Prof Mahbubani said Singapore faces in the coming decades.

Another challenge involves navigating the "biggest geopolitical contest in human history" between the United States and China.

"The country that is the most vulnerable to US-China competition is Singapore," he said, noting that the Republic has close economic and cultural ties with both superpowers.

Though most Singaporeans do not discuss this, they "should be acutely aware of this as it will provide an existential challenge to Singapore" and also provide opportunities for deeper collaboration, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The professor also pointed to the Asean economic grouping as being of vital strategic importance to Singapore's long-term survival.