Khaw Boon Wan missed an opportunity to score points

(The following article is contributed by a “Concerned Citizen”)

What would an opposition party do in the SMRT fiasco?

a.) Call for another public inquiry

b.) Fire Desmond Quek

c.) Install another CEO into the SMRT.

You would do all that “in the public interest” and score political brownie points in so doing.

Khaw Boon Wan had utterly failed to secure “face” for the Ministry of Transport, even failed to secure his very own seat at the next election by not doing this very simple task. 

Just fire the man, someone else will hire him.

It sounds easy… but is it?

Firstly, it is not up to Khaw Boon Wan to fire anybody at SMRT. It is a private organisation and he may only influence the board of directors if he wants to remove anybody.

So if you’re one of the directors, the first question on your mind is: who is going to take his place? This is in full knowledge that there will be intentional, but necessary downtimes incurred. This is a job that demands maximum consumer satisfaction, maximum security (trains are attractive terrorist targets after all), maximum commitment from staff, maximum profit and minimum downtime.

You start the job knowing that the revenue SMRT can produce is limited and predictable. Every department will be screaming for limited money and resources. The manpower pool you can work with is limited. The amount of time that your engineers can spend working on issues is also limited.

So who can fit the job description?

Some say, “find someone with an engineering background”. But an engineering background does not answer the CEO’s other work in management, meeting revenues, customer relations and even security.

Others say “find a foreign expert”. Then you would come across problems of national security, unhappiness with foreign talents. You also won’t be guaranteed this person would be apt at managing the extended work of SMRT.

But then again, is it really Khaw’s problem? Why not just fire first and place any one of those directors in place? And if that one fails, put the next one…and the next one… and the next one. It has to end somewhere right?

As Mr. Lee Kuan Yew had said before: “Firing someone is easy. But to find a replacement… that’s the hard part”.

Maybe that’s the reason why Khaw continues to protect Quek and despite pushback, continues to ask for public support for SMRT’s work.

 

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