A ST forum writer, Francis Cheng wrote on the Straits Times forum dated 30 December 2017, saying that the Government should not penalise Singapore companies that play by industry rules in countries where corruption is rampant and no clean company can survive.
He stated that Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M) and ST Marine were not the only ones who bribed people.
"Bribery in international business transactions is a function not only of demand for such bribes, but also of supply or willingness by multinational corporations (MNCs) to provide bribes to avoid losing out to others prepared to give," he said.
"It is easy to say it is all about ethics, but at what price ethics? Keppel O&M and ST Marine are public-listed companies answerable to shareholders and boards of directors in terms of profits, sales and dividends," Mr Cheng added.
He stated that the core question facing any company with global operations is whether to go along with a demand for illegal payments if it wants to win business or, at least, to maintain its position.
Paying bribes abroad is sometimes viewed as an almost unavoidable cost of doing business, he said, adding that Singaporeans should not allow our MNCs to suffer from an uneven playing field because foreign competitors are happily paying bribes.
He added that an area that presents a particular challenge is the practice of giving gifts, something ingrained in many cultures, noting, "If only life were so simple that lines can be easily drawn between the ethically correct and morally problematic."
"The fight against foreign bribery has gained significant momentum in the past year. While this fight reflects a commendable ambition to set up a model of governance on an international scale, issues remain to be addressed to make the process fair for all stakeholders involved," Mr Francis said.
Some people commented on this letter, rebutting the position that the letter writer was making which seems to be justifying for the bribery scandal.
Chris Kuan wrote, "You can always count on the usual suspects in the ST Forum to strike a blow for Singapore in the name of business. Steal other people's lunch or in this case pay someone to steal other people's lunch. Incredibly dumbfark to write this letter and dumbfark of the ST to publish it under the present circumstances."
Hamdan Selamat wrote, "By that logic, if other multinational companies practice slavery, it’s “okay-ish” for our GLCs to practice it too? What price a competitive edge? Are we that willing to pay that price? And at what other expense?"
Dave Tan wrote, "Wth! The Straits Times is saying corruption is acceptable?? Zero tolerance for corruption has been mentioned not only once by the PM and ex-PM. If GLC failed to set an example, and the Government refused to act upon them, then the Singapore Goverment is slapping theis own face really hard! It has tarnished the clean image of Singapore Government."
Boswell Cuthbert Vincent wrote, "This is Singapore. Does two wrongs make a right?"
Adrian Kuah wrote, "Oooh, late nominee for dumbshit letter of 2017. But hey, we've got till midnight. Honestly (hah!), you can mount the world-weary "whither ethics" defence all you want. Fact is, Keppel got caught. And so they are corrupt AND inept. As the Traveling Wilburys song goes, "In Jersey anything's legal as long as you don't get caught." Plus, the apologists would not be singing this tune if the shoe was on the other foot."
Muhammad Rais Ismali wrote, "Unbelievable. See what they are "saying" now. What a farce."