Presidential candidate Mr Tan Kin Lian maintained that NTUC Income had intended to privatise itself during his tenure as CEO of the cooperative.
He was speaking in response to a press statement released by NTUC Income on 11th August which reiterated that its board “had no intention then and has no intention now to privatise NTUC Income”.
The cooperative’s press statement came shortly after a Sunday Times article reported Mr Tan as saying that he had fought the NTUC Income board on suggestions of privatising the cooperative, and suggested this was the reason he was asked to leave. In the same article, NTUC Income had said that Mr Tan’s departure was linked to its need to “professionalise itself”.
Saying that the statement is ‘not true’, Mr Tan pointed out that NTUC Income’s current Board of Directors had only been in their posts for only about the last five years, and might not have known about previous discussions about privatisation. He furthered added that the Board’s statement was probably referring to NTUC’s activities within the tenure of the current Board, while Mr Tan’s original claim that NTUC Income was privatisation was to be seen in context of the last fifteen years.
“So when NTUC say they never wanted to privatise, they’re probably referring to a shorter period,” he added.
Mr Tan was speaking to The Online Citizen following his walkabout at ABC Brickworks and Food Centre on Sunday.
Mr Tan also said that the NTUC Income should clarify what it means by ‘professionalise’, specifically how much of professionalisation equates to commercialisation or privatisation.
‘Not everything needs to be told to the people’
When asked for his thoughts on reports that the reserves were used to pay for land reclamation and Selective En-block Redevelopment Schemes since 2001 without public knowledge, Mr Tan said he did not see anything wrong with that, as land reclamation was ‘a useful purpose’.
“I would not say that those use of the money was wrong. What has to study carefully whether the intent was with good intent or was it with bad intent,” he added.
At the same time, he felt that ‘it was better to be transparent’ in reporting the use of the reserves, as there had been quite a lot of public distrust due to lack of transparency. Despite this, he said that not everything needs to be told to the people as the public are ‘not really financial experts’. But if elected, Mr Tan said he would ‘improve transparency’.
President should do more than what is required
Mr Tan disagreed with Dr Tony Tan’s recent statement that Presidential candidates ‘should run for the office that exists, not for the one they wish to have’. He felt that Dr Tan ‘looks at a very narrow description of the duties of the President’. While agreeing that the duties of the President ‘must be carried out’, Mr Tan also stated that the President of any country represents the people and should therefore speak up for the people.
“I believe that the President, earning such a big salary, should do more than just a simple job required under the Constitution where it was made clear that most of the decisions are made by the Cabinet,” he said.