Wise to keep T5 solely in govt hands

It is wise to keep T5 solely in government hands, says reader Lionel Loi.
It is wise to keep T5 solely in government hands, says reader Lionel Loi.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

I agree with the Government's decision to say "no" to a public-private partnership for the upcoming Changi Airport Terminal 5 ("No public-private partnership for T5"; yesterday).

First, the Government will be able to commit to the project through boom or bust.

Private companies have a real risk of stopping work altogether during a recession due to being heavily dependent on external financing.

If that happens, the opening of the facility will be delayed, and millions or even billions of dollars will be added to the hidden costs of the whole project.

Second, full government ownership also means that during operations, service quality will not be compromised and improvements will not be delayed for short-term profits.

This is especially important because we cannot afford to have operations disrupted due to constant equipment breakdowns, as we see in MRT operations.

In the aviation sector, we face stiff international competition. Upholding our reputation will be crucial to maintaining a long-term relationship with airlines and passengers.

Canada started privatising its airports in the 1990s, but its then Transport Minister Doug Young, who oversaw the creation of the policy, has been quoted as saying that it was the worst decision of his career.

Profits were chased above everything else, and led to a lack of reinvestment that severely strained existing infrastructure and resulted in much higher airport fees.

To conclude, the concept of public-private partnerships for big infrastructure projects should be considered only when there is a lack of government funds or when the Government lacks experience or expertise in that field.

Given that our Government has shown its capabilities with the building and running of our four other airport terminals, and is capable of financing the whole T5 project, I am confident that our new terminal will dazzle and will exceed expectations.

Lionel Loi Zhi Rui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2016, with the headline 'Wise to keep T5 solely in govt hands'. Print Edition | Subscribe