Saw Phaik Hwa’s Resignation

I have not been really in touch with current affairs recently, so it was only today that I happened to know that the Saw Phaik Hwa resigned as the CEO of SMRT recently, ostensibly to “pursue personal interests”, but I think it is apparent to one and all that the escalating issues with the MRT system performance were the root.

I haven’t read all of the commentaries online, but I gathered from the few I did read that people were happy about her resignation. They see it as an admission of fault and taking responsibility for the dismal performance on her part. Me? I just think she got off scot free.

It is not the culture in Singapore to take responsibility by tendering one’s resignation. I for one, have always been glad about that, and frankly have always wondered why that gesture is favoured by so many others as a sign of responsibility. If the resignation comes after all the problems have been resolved, then there is something to be said for it, but what is so responsible of throwing the mess to someone else to handle? And creating a whole new logistical issue for the already pressed company to contend with during the handover?

I admit that I don’t like Saw Phaik Hwa. I feel that she is incredibly out of touch with the situation on the ground. Considering her background in luxury sales, her sense of customer service is totally lacking. However, when she commented immediately after the December MRT breakdowns that she would not be answering calls to resign, but would stick it out until the issues were all resolved, I admired her at that very moment for not taking the easy way out. Her subsequent resignation comes as a great disappointment.

In any case, I am not expecting any miracles for the public transport system with Saw’s resignation. The problems for the public transport infrastructure have been long in the making, and it is only going to get worse before it gets better. I am generally pretty sympathetic with the government’s stand and policies but in this case, I think the government has a lot to answer for in terms of poor planning, short sightedness and poor intra-governmental communication. The current administration has turned one of Singapore’s greatest strength into its greatest weakness.


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