|I don't hear too good|
Lim is not exactly the best person to discourse the finer points of the English language, or explore the nuances of semantics. More pertinent to the exchange is the evolving character of NTUC. A cooperative is loosely defined as an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations. In our context, NTUC was supposed to serve Singaporeans and had its humble beginning in the noble cause of providing affordable food essentials. Along the way, they have meandered into a myriad of diversification like the insurance business Tan had helmed. The dominance of the profit motive over social obligation in such activity is hard to pin down, but a clearer example is seen in NTUC Fairprice.
NTUC Fairprice Co-operative Ltd was founded by the labour movement in 1973, with a social mission to moderate the cost of living in Singapore. FairPrice has grown to become Singapore’s largest retailer, with a network of more than 230 outlets, and the economics of scale to secure best prices and offer the bargains to the people. Of late, they have encroached into the upmarket territory of Cold Storage and the like. Retail space for cheap rice is taken up by displays of fresh oysters air flown from New Zealand. At NTUC Finest supermarts, the clientele flaunting vast expanses of cleavage crowd the aisles. The humbly attired Ah Sohs retired to Sheng Siong's outlets, where they feel more welcomed and price tags are better suited to their budgets.
"My understanding is that the board has always wanted NTUC Income to become more professional in a sustainable manner," Lim said. The devil in the details is whether the profession is focusing on its original social mission of doing good, or maximising profits. Those practising the oldest profession in the world are plying the lorongs of Geylang, surely that's not the direction to go.