Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Losing Focus On Social Obligations

Tan Kin Lian let it be known that he was kicked out of the NTUC he led for nearly 30 years because "the board wanted NTUC to be more commercial", whereas he wanted NTUC to be "more cooperative".

I don't hear too good
In response, Lim Swee Say maintains that NTUC has never lost focus of its social mission of doing good and in supporting workers. He said the NTUC cooperatives' aim is to be competitive so that they can continue to serve the people. Lim said: "I was actually quite puzzled... about that the board wanting the cooperatives to be more commercial because to the best of my knowledge, I think to become more commercial, to become more professional are two different things."

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.


  1. The fact that a minister heading NTUC already shows that it has loses it's original focus, which is to help the workers in a collective bargain for cheaper food and better pay. Perhaps it's time for us to set up our own cooperative indepedent of NTUC to help ourselves.

  2. I notice that articles critical of TKL is always featured between page A4 to A6 of Straits Times. Whereas his reply to those criticisms are always buried obscurely so that readers will miss it, e.g. page B10 today.

    TT would have said "good job" and "well done" to his SPH editors.

  3. He may not be the best person to discourse the finer points of the English language but nobody can deny that he is quite 'creative' in using it.

    Come 2016, I hope the residents of East Coast GRC would be kind enough to allow him time off to do further study in US just like another ex-MP.

  4. LSS said cleverly that NTUC should also be able to endorse other independent candidate (other than TT) after the smart alec declare TT as "fit the bill" has all the "stature etc".

    Yet, today, which union leaders dare to step up and say "let's invite all the other candidates too so that our members can have an oppty to assess and evaluate them"? Who dare to ruin their iron rice bowl? Who are the virtuous workers leaders left who will go against MIW? Especially under the present economic situation? They have all lost all their back bones and sold out their souls to the workers. If they're doing the right thing, there won't be 40% of dissatisfaction in the society.

  5. Social Obligations.
    Corporate Duty.
    Any of the above enforceable?
    In a dog eat dog society, me
    wonders if the people have
    much sense of doing good to
    However, when it comes to
    stuffing oneself with money
    and gold, conscience can be
    fed to the dogs anytime.