26 May 2006

What are MPs for?

Transport Minister Yeo Cheow Tong never expected to enter politics — and to stay in it for the past 22 years.

In an exit interview with reporters yesterday, Mr Yeo said: "When I was asked to stand for elections in 1984, the chairman of my company asked me how long I expected to stay in politics. I said maybe eight to 12 years."

So in 1996, after successfully organising the World Trade Organization ministerial conference as Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Yeo first raised the issue of his political retirement to former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. "Mr Goh told me there was no way I was going to leave," recalled Mr Yeo with a laugh.

The 59-year-old father of three daughters — whom he said have practically "grown up without him" — had broached his political retirement a few times since then.

"I've always desired to return to the private sector so I'm happy that now, Prime Minister Lee (Hsien Loong) has agreed to let me go, even though he asked me to still stand as an MP. Coming from the PM, it's hard to say no," said Mr Yeo, who is the MP for Hong Kah GRC.

As for how active a backbencher he will be, Mr Yeo said: "I'll cross that bridge when it comes ... where the issues are relevant I'll definitely speak up."

While it would be "unfair" to make transport issues his pet topic, he added that he would be happy to support his successor — Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Raymond Lim — when he has to explain any policies that were implemented since he took office as Transport Minister in 2001.

Noting that transport fares have risen by one cent a year for the past 20 years on average, Mr Yeo said that such a situation was unique to Singapore.

"Our fares are very reasonable," he said. "We have to be fair to commuters and the public transport service providers. If they can't make a reasonable profit, they won't invest in upgrading and our transport system will degrade."

He also defended the public listing of the public transport companies: SMRT Corp and ComfortDelGro Corp.

"Allowing operations by private companies forces them to be more efficient. That's why we've been able to enjoy bus fares that increase by one cent a year without any Government subsidy," he said.

One thing that Mr Yeo cites as a "definite" regret in his stewardship of the transport industry is the failure to clinch an Open Skies Agreement with Australia that would allow Singapore Airlines to fly the lucrative Sydney-Los Angeles route.
He said that "expectations" were high that Singapore would finally be granted the air rights and a bilateral commitment to a "road map" towards open skies in 2004.

"I was disappointed when the decision was made and told through the (Australian) press," said Mr Yeo, adding that he has yet to receive an official response from the Australian government.

Still, Mr Yeo will be visiting Australia in the next few months — this time for pleasure, not business. A mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Western Australia in Perth, Mr Yeo plans to visit his friends there, as well as China and Europe with his wife.

"I'll be taking a few months off to travel. I've been working virtually non-stop since 1972!" he quipped.Mr Yeo's career began in the Economic Development Board from 1972 to 1975. He then joined LeBlond Makino Asia as a staff engineer and was managing director by the time he left in 1984 to enter politics.

"I hope people will remember me as someone who tried his best to work for his country," he said. -- CNA


It is indeed surprising that Mr Yeo Cheow Tong is being so flippant and irresponsible about his duties as an elected Member of Parliament. Although he is no longer a Minister, surely he is accountable to the residents of his constituency, those of whom he was elected to serve?

The PAP mentioned that the Opposition's idea of having full-time MPs is not necessarily a good thing, because their experiences in the private sector would lend them certain insights, and enable them to solve their constituents' problems more effectively. So, are we to take it that Mr Yeo's lengthy sojourn in Australia ("for pleasure", no less) will also similarly render him more insightful and more able to serve his constituents?

We certainly hope so!


dave said...

Give him a break, will you? He is just taking a holiday..don't we all?? And what he said is just plain honesty on how he sees his new role - don't see any problem with that. Are we trying to get at any PAP person irregardless of whether he/she is contributing? I see Yeo as a nice guy who is just doing the best in his job - and thats a long time he committed to the nation. I think he deserves a rest & privacy.

Anonymous said...

Yah, give him a break.

Be critical but dun be over critical on small things. Singabloodypore can be anti PAP but dun have personal attack like PAP does.

the murderous children said...

i agree with the two folks above. relax! :)

Anonymous said...

he deserves a medal. the work he has done for singapore is second to nun. bring him back as mini lee's replacement.

rench00 said...

second to nun? which nun? who's this nun by the way? and what has Yeo Cheow Tong got to do with this nun?

john said...

Yeo was voted only once (I think) into office in his 22 years in politics..

Anonymous said...

second to nun? second to monk?

Calvin aka Yamada Shun 山田駿 said...

*Zap Zap*
*Zap Zap*
S$3 zapped into air..

Matilah_Singapura said...

Those useless overpaid tax-funded wankers in parliament should all be fired.

Parliament House sold to a private buyer—it'll make a great restaurant or a lovely lo-rise condo. Nice area, nice location (near Boat quay and Clarke Quay)—prime real estate wasted on the govt when it could be owned PRIVATELY.

Small govt, more freedom. The govt ought to be small enough so it can be overthrown easily.

In the free market, a customer can "fire" a business immediately—just don't buy. In the private sector anyone can be fired it they're not doing a good job—even senior management and CEO's.

Govt's ought to be subjest to the same treatement. Instead, voters have to wait 5 years to make a choice...unless if one is in Italy where they frequently sack their leaders.

Anonymous said...

and why did they have to wait till after the elections then they decide this guy can go? why not before?
as for taking a break, don't tell me as minister he didn't go for any yearly break. gimme a break woncha?
BTW, did any of you visit a lovely website in his honour? if i'm not wrong, it's:
then you'll see...

Anonymous said...

What a ridiculous article and comment. Complete bollocks. So I presume you've worked for 20 consecutive years?

Anonymous said...

by the way he answer, i cant help thinking his heart is not in public work and serving the people .... to him its doing singapore a big favour. we dont need such public servant .. he should have stayed in private sector and save us the indignity. he did not mentioned about the millions he is drawing and the penion he is getting after leaving. crap system!!

Anonymous said...

he is still getting $13,500 monthly salary for being an MP. and he goes on "A FEW MONTHS" holiday? if he goes on maybe two to three weeks holiday, we would understand. but a few months?

so what about his constituents who elected him?? does he just abandon them like that?

Anonymous said...

is he following thaksin's style??

Anonymous said...

Haha some rather ill-advised comments from MP Yeo, perhaps truly reflective of his i'm-going-to-retire-from-politics mood.

But that doesn't mean that he will not be an effective MP.

Why not, give him a few months (not just to holiday of course) because laying down criticism?

After all, we are all pro-choice here right? The least we can do is respect the choice of those who voted him in.

- Impassioned Singaporean

(And I see matilah is on to his usual ranting, as I am. Don't we have better things to do?)

lee hsien tau said...

Yeo Cheow Tong said "5% unemployment no big deal". The 5% are overjoyed to have Yeo Cheow Tong boost membership. Now he has more time to work on producing that elusive Y chromosome. After that Yeo Cheow Tong dreams of returning to the private sector (MRT cleaning detail).