Citizen-centric productivity thoughts from abroad

By Douglas Chow, Empower Advisory Pte Ltd

As a former team leader with the Ministry of Trade and Industry tasked with cutting business red tape in Singapore, I have great passion in making things better and easier, always keeping in mind a way to strike a meaningful balance between the interests of all stakeholders.

Our government has been urgently encouraging small medium enterprises (SMEs) to roll up their sleeves and invest in productivity measures to cope with the higher cost of doing business here.  There are grants available for SMEs to invest in productivity.  This is further helped by tax incentives and cash rebate provided an SME fulfill certain criteria.

But what about productivity measures that affect ordinary citizens who are not running businesses? How can productivity measures actually improve the lives of ordinary Singaporeans without causing a strain on resources? And that is what I would like to share with you based on some observations on my trip.

1) Public Buses





a) In France, it is common for public buses to have 3 doors.  This makes it very productive as it greatly improves commuter flow up and down the bus.  Commuters do not have to crowd near the door like in Singapore because they are within easy reach of an exit door no matter where they stand.

b) The floor is flat throughout so that it minimizes the risk of someone tripping over.

c) There is an even distribution of sitting and standing space.

d) The information display inside is superb as it is large and clear and tells you what the stops are. Check out also the onboard camera to nail that pesky molester!

Makes you wonder why we don’t see such public buses on our roads yet.  Will we see them soon? If we announce to the world that Singapore is world class, then we should be transporting our commuters in smart, productive buses such as this.

2) Trains


a) In Paris, there are double decker subway underground trains that connect you to the outskirts.  They are comfortable and can handle peak traffic easily.  Who would have thought it practical to have double decker trains? Maybe too expensive, even.

b) But someone had the foresight to create the infrastructure to allow for such double decker trains.  Opened in 1900 and upgraded and expanded continuously, the city’s subway system, the Paris Métro, serves about 5.2 million passengers daily. SMRT in comparison, serves about 1.9 million passengers daily

3) Ticketing machines


Some ticket machines in France have a button for the visually impaired to press and receive audio instructions how to navigate the interface and buy tickets independently.  This is what an inclusive society should provide. And isn’t it productive that you do not need a staff to standby to help?

4) Public toliet



It is a free public toilet that self clean the interior automatically after each use.  Amazing? Absolutely. And because it does not stink, there is an information map so one can check his bearings without smelling someone’s business.


There are more examples but I do not want to turn this post into a novel.  These examples just show us what is possible in Singapore.  Singapore is a small city-state.  We have no excuse to be complacent but every reason to emulate or adapt good practices already implemented in other countries.  How can we make lives better for Singaporeans who are generally reasonable citizens.  How can we make Singapore a more inclusive society, going beyond slogans and campaigns.

For those who have not been to our public outreach, welcome to the upcoming one on 29thJun (Sun) 2014.  See ya there at our brand new venue 20 floors up in the sky!

This was first published in Empower Advisory’s blog. We thank Mr Douglas Chow for allowing us to reproduce the article here.