Mixed model for public transport better

Professor Kishore Mahbubani was right to say Singapore's public transport woes are the result of privatisation "taken too far" ("Call for national transport agency"; Nov 19).

However, I disagree with the call to nationalise it. We should not replace one extreme idea with another extreme idea.

The dominance of the profit motive led to the engendering of poor service and shoddy maintenance. This position tells us that sufficient regulation is necessary to balance market and public interests.

On the other hand, in the absence of the profit motive and competitive pressures, there is a lack of incentive to be efficient.

This could lead to poor service, and constant government subsidisation.

Therefore, replacing a privatised system with a nationalised system may be akin to replacing a set of problems with a new set of problems.

A mixed model might be a better option. This means having government ownership with operators leasing assets, combining positive aspects of both models: hands-on state regulation and operational efficiency.

The Government will be able to plan for routes, maintenance and operating capacity to regulate service levels, while having private operators helming the operations ensures there is enough incentive to be efficient.

The success of our public sector lies in our insistence on running our entities like corporate organisations instead of like nationalised organisations.

The result is government-owned bodies run in the style of privately operated organisations that are highly efficient.

Hence, let us pursue the promise of a mixed model.

Aaron Lee Zhou Rui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2015, with the headline 'Mixed model for public transport better'. Print Edition | Subscribe