Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, had some harsh words for the state of Singapore’s public transportation system yesterday, speaking as a panelist at the Singapore Economic Policy Forum today.

According to Mahbubani, the privatization of the transport system had gone “too far” and that the system should be nationalized by the government instead of being run by private operators.

In criticizing the current state of affairs, Mahbubani also chided the government and warned it not to be “a prisoner of old economic ideas”, and have the “political courage” to rethink the idea that privatization is necessarily always good for the economy.

“Let us consider the possibility that we may have gone too far, and we have become a prisoner of old economic ideas,” Prof Mahbubani said. “And to suggest one concrete area where we have gone too far is in the area of public transport.”

He further added that public transport is a public good, but Singapore went ahead and decided it should be privatized. This however meant that operators became more focused on quarterly results and did not deal adequately with long-term maintenance, resulting in the current situation.

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