Bad Luck PUB


So there were a few negative comments to my previous post about giving credit to the gahmen for avoiding the problems that the dry spell is causing to Malaysia. Amongst these comments, there were two broad themes that need to be addressed:

Who say we should credit the current PAP govt? It was the previous team that had the foresight.

It didn’t take much googling to find out that the old PAP team… is pretty much the same as the current one. For the past 2 decades, the Minister for Environment and Water were:

  • 1993-1995: Mah Bow Tan (what really?)
  • 1995 to 1997: Teo Chee Hean
  • 2000 to 2004: Lim Swee Say (what happened between 1997 and 2000? Was the job outsourced?)
  • 2004 to 2011: Yaacob Ibrahim
  • Today: Vivian Balakrishnan

Why do these dates matter? Because according to the all-knowing wikipedia, Singapore’s NEWater began with a study in 1998, and SG’s first desalination plant opened in 2005. Without these two sources, it’s just imported water and rainfall. So I think it’s safe to say that the current PAP team can be credited with their watery foresight.

No need to thank these million-dollar ministers. They are already well-paid (or over-paid)

Maybe it’s just me, but I still believe in thanking people for service, even if that is their job to begin with. So I stand by my belief that even over-paid Ministers deserve the occasional thanks.

But what really interests me, was how this comment exposed something even more revealingly sinister about ourselves. In the corporate world, there is a tendency to glorify the “front office” people who start and sell projects, whilst the “back-end” people who do the detailed implementation and maintenance are often forgotten. This same attitude also appears in the comments of netizens.

We tend to forget that the elected minister is just one person, and all this water infrastructure would not have been possible without the army of civil servants from MEWR and PUB who make things happen. There’s also the people on the ground who work in the NEWater & desalination plants, including those from commercial companies like Hyflux. All these people are fellow Singaporeans (and maybe some FTs?), and I think they deserve some thanks too for their hard work. So even if you don’t think the PAP deserves thanks, at least the rest of the gahmen should receive some recognition right?

Thankless Job For Bad luck PUB

PUB will probably never be remembered for surviving this dry spell, but they will always be remembered and blamed for the “once-in-50-years” floods. I think the government is doomed to the fate that it will not be thanked for doing a good job, and always be loudly blamed for doing a bad one.

Actually, I think this is an inherent problem for all governments. Prevention may be better than cure, but prevention is also much harder to give credit for, compared to cure. Here’s a theoretical example: The 2008 global financial crisis could have been prevented if banking regulators had correctly recognised the risk that credit default swaps and collateralised debt obligations were causing to the entire system. If regulators had theoretically addressed these risks, would the public be any wiser on the potential consequences of failure?

Truly we do not appreciate what we have, until it is too late. We celebrate the heroics of the fireman, but not the steadfastness of the fire safety inspector.


About sgthinker

I'm a 40-year old Singaporean male, and this blog pens down my thoughts and feelings about Singapore's political happenings, government policies and society trends. I hope this blog will provide a moderate voice in the growing online debate about the state of Singapore's society. Some of the posts here won't be solely written by me, since there will be times when other writers are more eloquent at expressing their views, in which case I'll share their insights (along with my comments). The content on this blog is owned by me.If you wish to share or reproduce the content, please attribute it to this blog.
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20 Responses to Bad Luck PUB

  1. liaogz82 says:

    you know what sgthinker, maybe we should have a 5 year period where there is no PAP Government in charge and when disaster befall and we are forced to ration water, lets see their reaction.

    My guess is they will still remain ungrateful and blame the previous PAP Government not making the water infrastructure “government change proof”

  2. chloe says:

    Thank you for pointing this out! I am so proud of our local govt/ relevant authorities for once again providing us with these services that all of us ought to be thankful for. I just wish that there are more people like you around who are willing to show their appreciation to those who need to hear it.

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  4. HolyCow says:

    You are giving thanks to the rich business community. Yes, for instance, they build houses and provided a roof over your head – the easy part – but also made huge profit for themselves – the greedy part you chose not to see. In the long term, the cost of housing, and living, has become a burden to the next generation.

    Why do you suppose we are the most expensive city? Why are we so dependent on foreigners? Why do we need to increase our population? Why so low birthdate? Etc etc etc.

    To solve the rich chasing up the housing market(or the rich making money from the housing market), they decided to burst “the balloon”( to appease those who missed the housing jackpot and those who are waiting on the sideline for housing market to collapse so they can invest and reinvest and laugh to the bank) and in the process, hurting the economy and many lives. Then they inflate the balloon again the and cycle of money making for the rich sees no end – benefitting mostly the business community.

    You are thankful because you are short sighted and see not the long term consequences of their lofty vision.

    We are accustomed to frown on bad behavior but I would even caution on encouraging “heavenly behavior”!

    • Mikel Syn says:

      Paragraph 2 berates the government for “allowing” property prices to climb, while paragraph 3 berates the government for forcing property prices to fall. Clearly, you cannot make up your mind.

    • Cliff Tan says:

      The most expensive city reference is for foreign expatriates. I am sure you don’t spend $1400 on your utilities bill. If you don’t know what I am talking about here, then obviously you don’t fully understand the Economist’s report so stop dropping “facts” without due diligence.

      You came here just to express your frustration but have you actually read what the author has to say? About all the middle class civil servants toiling behind the scenes in their offices to improve our water infrastructure?

  5. Onlyheargoodstuff says:

    Water sustainability is much easier to solve than healthcare, housing and transport problems lah. Thank for what? When healthcare becomes world best and free and politicians get paid with real peanuts then we will thank them

  6. Push out so many ministers to try to get credit. So what really happened under each one’s stewardship?

  7. Mr Seah says:

    Cool! I actually vaguely remember one of the ministers arguing in a newspaper (way back when) that even though desalination was expensive, it was necessary. History proved that statement right.

    And yes, our civil service definitely deserves a lot of credit. But don’t forget that all (I think) civil servants have to sign that bit of contract that says (my paraphrase) “I will not be political”. They’re not part of the government, they’re supposed to run properly even if bo-cheng-hu 😉

  8. Pingback: Daily SG: 6 Mar 2014 | The Singapore Daily

  9. Roy says:

    Good to see all the like-minded positive individuals here. 🙂

  10. js says:

    Fully agreed! I didnt realize how well the PUB and government have been handling our current drought until I read your previous post. It’s really true that we tend to see the negative and not the positive. Thanks for the timely reminder and thanks also to all the hardworking public servants who helped make this happen =)

  11. akinldn says:

    I tried the last half hour trying to google who was the minister from 1997 and 2000. I have failed. That said, I assume it’s Teo Chee Hean who kick started it and Lim Swee Say who completed the implementation.

    Separately, all the people that complain indiscriminately about how badly Singapore is run should be deported to other countries and have a taste of what it feels like to be in a badly run country. Just across the causeway will do very nicely.

  12. Yolanda says:

    I agree fully to your posts. Many singaporeans are taking things for granted. The ministers are taking large salaries but we too are walking under covered walkways and well-trimmed trees, treading on well-paved roads and sitting in air-conditioned buses. The taxes we pay can be justified because people in other countries pay lots more!

    I’m sure I’ll be flamed by others very soon, reminding and encouraging me to hate the PAP and remembering that my tax money goes to packed trains and expensive cars. They however do not understand that the world is a zero-sum game. Reduce our fares and decrease the ministers’ pay. We will have no more covered walkways, slower trains and a corrupt government. Something has to be done, but thanks still have to be given.

    No matter how slowly my train travelled this morning, I choose to give thanks.

  13. Pingback: Giving credit where it is due |

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