Delisting SMRT through a buyout of minority shareholders by Temasek Holdings is not really a nationalization of SMRT despite Temasek being the government investment holding company. For nationalization to take place, Temasek and minority shareholders have to be bought out by the LTA. It is then run directly by the government in the same way as Changi Airport Group.

By no stretch of the imagination is this to be interpreted as the government having accepted that rails is a public good that should not be run under a private framework in which the demands of capital has to be met. Having Temasek taking 100% ownership of SMRT will not change that. Besides, Temasek will require a level of returns from SMRT in order to meet its obligations of providing part of the Net Investment Return Contribution to the government’s budget.

Most importantly, the nationalization of rolling stocks and signals together with tracks and infrastructure which had always been in state hands, is to enable the objective of introducing competition in providing rail transport service, That is to say SMRT will expect to bid for the operating license in competition with other servicers.

This does not look like nationalization, does it? I do not see how delisting SMRT through 100% Temasek ownership changes anything. Mass rail transit will still not be run as an essential public good.

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