Do not focus on profits, Temasek CEO Ho Ching told a forum last Friday.
Urging businesses to look beyond profits and financial returns, and do more to make lives better, she said: “For businesses, profits are just a shorthand notation for financial strength and viability. Businesses can thrive only if they succeed in meeting the needs of their customers as their primary mission, but that alone is not enough for longevity.”
The wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was delivering a message that appeared much more suited for Singapore’s public service agencies and Temasek linked companies.
The Online Citizen has previously reported that national water agency Public Utilities Board could have made accumulated profits of up to $1.1 billion in the years 2011-2017. And yet we have been seeing steep increases in water prices.
It’s the same story with electricity. Ironically, it is only with the recent opening up of the retail electricity market that consumers end up paying less.
As for transport, the likes of ComfortDelgro, SBS Transit and SMRT have been reporting healthy profits. Yet Singaporeans have been saddled with hefty hikes in public transport fares after complaints of declining profits from the transport companies due to increase of infrastructure investment, maintenance expenses and staffing cost.
Even Medishield Life reeks of being profit-driven. How else do we account for the fact that while premiums go up, we end up with the ridiculous situation of an 82-year-old who was shockingly paid a measly $4.50 for a massive hospital bill for surgery. His case is in the spotlight. How many more go unnoticed?
The one that takes the cake must be the bribery scandal surrounding Temasek linked conglomerate Keppel Corporation and its subsidiaries. For giving bribes of more than US$50 million over 13 years to officials in Brazil in exchange for business deals, Keppel Offshore & Marine was slapped with a staggering US$422 million fine.
As can be seen, the goal is to drive profits higher and higher. If that means making consumers pay more and more, or even resorting to illegal means, so be it.
Ho Ching is better off directing her message of looking beyond profits and doing more to make lives better to the government and its agencies, and most certainly to Temasek linked companies.