Not too late to reverse ills of privatisation

Our postal service used to be top-notch and one befitting a First World country.

That started changing when Singapore Post was listed on the Singapore Exchange in 2003.

Its bread-and-butter function of mail delivery must now be balanced with more lucrative retail operations.

As shareholders understandably demand greater returns, SingPost has shifted its focus further into retail by developing a shopping mall while outsourcing deliveries ("SingPost's new mall to capitalise on e-commerce"; Oct 29, 2015).

The result is yet another retail mall while the quality of mail delivery continues to suffer.

The recent incident of Singapore Armed Forces armoured vehicles being transported by shipping company APL and seized in Hong Kong is arguably the result of taking the commercial approach one step too far ("SAF armoured vehicles seized at Hong Kong port"; Nov 25).

Citing manpower and cost efficiencies, the SAF has outsourced to private contractors many functions it sees as non-critical.

Examples include meals in army camps and some transport for soldiers during training.

While these alternatives appear fine during peacetime, they call into question our operational readiness in times of conflict when these private contractors may not be available.

The world is becoming more volatile and we should start reassessing what we outsource in an area as critical as defence.

Our founding fathers had the foresight to put defence as a top priority.

It is now up to us to maintain that vigilance and not be lulled into complacency.

It is not too late to reverse this trend of privatisation.

One just has to look at the bold step taken by the Land Transport Authority in taking ownership of the train infrastructure from SMRT.

Eric Teo Hong Kiat

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2016, with the headline 'Not too late to reverse ills of privatisation'. Print Edition | Subscribe