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Kuek steps down as CEO after making at least $10M from SMRT

It has been reported that SMRT Chief Desmond Kuek is stepping down after 5.5 years at the helm. Another ex-Chief of Defence Force Neo Kian Hong is taking over him.

When Kuek was appointed CEO of SMRT in Oct 2012 to replace former CEO Saw Phaik Hwa, then Chairman Koh Yong Guan said, “After an extensive search and selection process, we are pleased that we have someone of Desmond’s background and calibre joining SMRT as the new CEO. SMRT is undergoing considerable change, not just in the way we operate transport services and serve our customers, but also how we will continue to grow as a company. Desmond has the attributes and proven qualities to lead SMRT through these challenges.”

Kuek had stepped down from his position as Chief of Defence Force in 2010 and took up the appointment as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources from 2010 to 2012 prior his appointment as SMRT CEO.

However, under Kuek’s leadership, the operator continued to face many breakdowns which is likely to be a result of his predecessor’s choice of cutting down maintenance and upgrading work. In July 2015, the North-South and East-West line experienced a broke down during evening peak hour, affecting nearly half a million commuters.

Other than breakdowns, accidents also took place. A horrific incident, involving two trainees who got killed during maintenance along Pasir Ris railway, also happened during his tenure. By the end of last year, train tunnels in Bishan were flooded due to non-maintenance of water pumps and, shortly after the incident, there was a train collision at Joo Koon collision due to the signalling upgrading project, injuring more than 30 people.

Straits Times reported that under Kuek, SMRT train system was twice as reliable last year as it was in 2012. But of course, it didn’t say that compared to Taipei Metro which averages 1,000,000 km between delays (exceeding five minutes), SMRT could barely make the 400,000 km mark.

Kuek well rewarded

According to SMRT annual reports, Kuek appears to be very well rewarded for his role as SMRT Chief. The followings were his reported remunerations:

  • FY2013 (ended Mar 2013) – $611,000
  • FY2014 (ended Mar 2014) – $1,750,000 to $1,999,999 band
  • FY2015 (ended Mar 2015) – $2,311,023
  • FY2016 (ended Mar 2016) – $1,871,714
  • FY2017 (ended Mar 2017) – [no longer reported as SMRT was privatised]
  • FY2018 (ended Mar 2018) – [no longer reported as SMRT was privatised]

However, since FY2017, his annual remuneration was no longer reported since SMRT was privatised in late 2016.

Still, if we were to take the lower annual figure of $1,750,000 in FY2014 as a minimum projection of what he probably earned in FY2017 and FY2018, in total, he would be earning at least $10 million in his 5.5 years stint in SMRT.

Would LG Neo be making that kind of money from SMRT as the new Chief of SMRT? Only time will tell.

In any case, while Kuek must be glad that he is finally getting out of SMRT with at least $10 million in earnings, as problems with the network remain unsolved for commuters. Just yesterday (17 Apr), it was reported that train service was disrupted along the East West Line (EWL) followed by the North-South Line (NSL),  and again, without any official information given on its media platforms by SMRT. There is little the suffering commuters could do except to keep complaining on social media.