Mah Bow Tan, who has been a Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC since 1988, announced on Friday that he would be retiring from politics and therefore not contesting in the upcoming general election.
Both a Colombo Plan Scholar and President’s Scholar, Mah was praised by former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 2000 for being “competent and effective.” He has served as Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Environment and Minister for National Development, leaving him to make tough decisions in areas of transport and housing.
While Minister for Communications from 1991 to 1999, Mah oversaw the implementation of both the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) and Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) schemes. Justified as a way to regulate car ownership and congestion in the city, the COE was particularly criticised for favouring the wealthy with its bidding system, with the cost of the certificate occasionally exceeding the price of the car itself. The effectiveness of the ERP scheme has also been questioned, with observers pointing out that the gantries simply lead to congestion elsewhere, whereupon more ERP gantries are erected.
He stepped down from Cabinet following the 2011 general election, after receiving flak for soaring public housing prices during his term at the Ministry of National Development. Some critics said that he had reacted too slowly to the increase in demand for housing, causing prices to go up. Mah’s team won 57.2% of the vote in 2011, a dismal result in a contest against relative unknowns from the National Solidarity Party.
In a message posted on Facebook, Mah thanked his constituents for their support, saying: “It is time for me to step aside and make way for the next generation. My work here is done.”
Mah is currently a Non-Executive Chairman & Independent Director of Global Yellow Pages.