Friday, July 30, 2010

Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

Lee Kuan Yew told his audience recently how a lot of policies in Singapore were the result of his experiences overseas. For example, deciding on having an underground train system over a network of tunnels for buses. Hmm, wonder which country has tunnels constructed for bus usage only. Here's another version.

Thr MRT system was a fight between Ong Teng Cheong and Goh Keng Swee because latter felt it was not economically feasible, "If an all-bus system is just as good as MRT, why have MRT if you have got to subsidise it?"

Ngiam Tong Dow explained his own involvement in the debate and elaborates on Dr Goh Keng Swee’s rationale for opposing the MRT:

"I was very much in favour of Mass Rapid Transit. But as we all know, Dr Goh was against it. So Finance Ministry was against it. But Minister for Communications and everybody else were for it. We really had to fight our way through on this one. We really had a public debate because the sum involved in those days was tremendous - $5 billion. So I think [then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew] wanted to be dead sure that we were right in investing this sum of money.

"But I told [then-PM Lee], I said, "Look, there is no way that you can solve the transport problem without this Mass Rapid Transit because land is limited. How much more road can you build for the buses to run through, if you depend on the bus system?"… In fact, Mr Howe was also telling him. Mr Howe Yoon Chong was very much involved in this. "Unless you are prepared to drive off all other vehicles from our roads, then maybe a bus system will work. But if you are not prepared, then I think the Mass Rapid Transit system have to be brought in." In any case, ours is both a bus as well as a MRT system until today. But it cannot be a total bus system. Impossible.

"But Dr Goh's view was that it was a very lumpy investment and if we are wrong, we can be very wrong. He thought that by adding buses, you add one bus at a time. If you are wrong, then you just write off one bus. But I disagreed with Dr Goh. I told him that this MRT is a way of providing access to the whole of Singapore, and our land prices were bound to appreciate. It was like opening up Singapore. Just like in a huge country, a railway system opens up the whole country. Similarly, the MRT is also a means of opening up the whole of Singapore. You can have quick transport.

"So I looked at it as an economic development project. But Dr Goh looked at it as just a pure traffic project. You can ask him if you interview him. He nearly overturned it. MINCOM put up a paper [saying] the benefits of all this. So he said, "Okay, what are you aiming at? You want to bring the MRT into the city. How many more new jobs can you accommodate in the city with the MRT?" I think we gave some figure. Mr Lim Leong Geok gave some figure. Then he said, 'Okay, $5 billion divided by this number. You mean to tell me that you're going to spend a hundred or two hundred thousand dollars just to be able to bring one more worker into the city?'

"He nearly torpedoed it. It was a sort of minimalist approach. Whereas my approach was the other way round. With the MRT we open up the whole of Singapore. Land values will go up. You can.locate offices [and] factories in various places. You can locate shopping centres in various places. In fact, you can disperse the concentration in the city to the outlying areas. Economists are very dangerous people. Dr Goh is an economist. I am also an economist. [It's] how you interpret the situation. He looked at it from a very narrow point of view. Anyway, thank goodness, the pro-MRT won and the anti-MRT lost.”

See how somebody always tries to grab all the credit? Mercifully, Al Gore already claimed he invented the internet.

4 comments:

  1. The man is totally shameless. Worse, he talk when others are no longer alive to rebut.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was only introduced to your blog today and I have gone through quite a bit of your past posts. Well written. A bit of "rant and raves" repeats but enjoyable nonetheless.

    There is a real fear to speak up and I think many find a voice in such blogs because of that. Its a sad truth.

    A very well established command & control system is in place. A supporting electoral system that will give incumbents the advantage. A well funded party. I believe part of the million dollar salry goes to party coffers. Basically an official diversion of govt money to fund political party. (Yes thats another perspective not commonly talked about).

    So how does one change the situation?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes I too have heard whisperings of MP's allowances being spent on grassroots. In this sense PAP practices money politics that is in substance similar to those that it frowns upon across the causeway. Remember someone's comment on "buying votes"?

    ReplyDelete
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