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13 July 2003
The most obvious reason is the suffocating presence of the GLCs. With virtually every part of Singapore’s economy linked to a GLC, how can any entrepreneur hope to break the stranglehold?
Picture this. You have a great idea. You approach a GLC with your idea and show them how you can save them millions if they buy into your idea. Everybody is excited. They tell you they will be in touch. Weeks turn into months and you receive no word despite many further attempts to speak to them. Then to your horror, you read in the papers that a subsidiary of a GLC has come up with a new way to save them millions. They’ve stolen your idea! They figure why let an outsider make money from them.
So all your hard work goes down the drain. Don’t laugh. The people to whom it has happened don’t find it very funny. I know a couple of them. The moral of the story being, if you do have a bright idea don’t take it to the Government.
Also, lucratic contracts awarded by one GLC will probably go to another GLC. Private companies don’t have the connections to compete. We know that the situation will not change.
On the one hand the government assured us that the Economic Review Committee would not hesitate to sacrifice ‘sacred cows’. In fact the Economic Review Committee expressed strong concerns about the GLCs’ stranglehold on the economy. But Lee Hsien Loong immediately added that the GLCs are here to stay. So we know nothing is going to change.
So why the need for so many GLCs and their hundreds of subsidiaries? The reason is simple. Come election time, the PAP can count on getting the votes of people who work for GLCs. Fear rules these voters. Because they know which side of their bread is buttered. These votes probably account for about what, 30-40% of votes cast? Think about it. How do you begin to fight a system like that?