This is a non issue for commercial enterprises selling hamburgers, shirts, mobile phones or chicken rice. Their primary preoccupation is to serve their customers, make them happy with their services and products to boost their bottom lines. And they can only boost their bottom lines if the customers are satisfied with their services.
None of these enterprises can hope to compete and exist in the market if their only interest is profit to please the shareholders. And the shareholders know too, that without the customers, they can forget about profits and the business.
In a monopoly, things get a little hazy. They can dump the customers, cut corners, provide substandard services and products and still get away with it. The customers have no choice. And they can blatantly carry the shareholder’s interest around to spank the customers. ‘We are answerable to the shareholders you know!’
If they are selling IPad or IPhone that are in demand, and the customers die die must have, no issue. Willing buyer willing seller, even if it is a monopoly, they can still have their cake and eat it. What if it is a public service like transportation? I can see eyes popping out now.
A public transport company has to serve the customers and the shareholders and also the national interest. Let me take the first two first. Between the shareholder’s interest and the interest of the customers, which is more important? Silly me to ask. If it is a monopoly, they can screw the customers and tell them they need to make profits for the shareholders first. Customers come second or third. What can the customers do? This is the reality of life, just lump it.
What if the money to build the facilities and the business first came from the customers, indirectly through the public coffer? Now this will make the customers angry for sure. Using public money to start a monopoly business and tell the public that the first priority is to serve the shareholders.
Do they care if the customers are transported to their destinations fast, comfortable and safe? Can any of these be compromised? You tell me.
The more important role of public transportation is to provide an efficient transport system to lubricate the economy and social activities. The economy depends on the efficient and safe transportation of people and workers all over the island, for economic and non economic activities. Failing to do this is undermining the economy and the social fabric of the society. A country can be crippled by a major breakdown of public transportation. Can a transport company carry the shareholder’s interest on its head and say, my shareholder’s interest comes first, the train can be slow, uncomfortable, unsafe, these are secondary? Can a transport company price the fares so high that people find it too expensive even to travel, or to go to work?
The top priorities of a public transport company, started with public money, must be national interest, the moving of people safely and efficiently, at a reasonable cost, and also the comfort and interest of the commuters. The shareholder’s profit must come last, and incidental to providing a good and efficient service. The shareholder’s interest cannot be the first and top most priority of a public monopoly. But this is just my opinion. I may be wrong or I am wrong. The shareholder’s interest is all that is.
And don’t forget the uniquely Singapore logic that it can only be efficient if it is privatised. No wonder non privatised institutions are so inefficient.