Go with a smile!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The real lesson of the Brompton fiasco

There has been a bit of hoo hah over the use of public money for civil servants. Apparently the first time this happened, people were complaining about the use of public money. There were chairs which cost $1000 each bought for NTU. Now, people are complaining about $2000+ folding bicycles bought for the national parks board employees. Khaw Boon Wan's boilerplate response is attached here for your amusement and viewing pleasure.

Now, there are aspects of this decision which are mitigating factors. First, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to take care of your employees well. You should give them good quality tools which are well designed. It is certainly better than paying ministers or elites a shit load of money: this is money for the rank and file.

Second, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to buy them goods that are going to last. If something costs twice as much but lasts twice as long, it’s also a good thing. Now the only basis I can criticize this spending is the cost, because it’s way too high, and there are cheaper alternatives. And I think they should have done more homework and gone for a second round of tender. A lot of bicycle enthusiasts come out of the woodwork, and then tell you that there are cheaper alternatives. They tell you that the reason why Brompton bicycles cost more is because parts are custom made – and that raises some eyebrows, because the stated reason why you pay more for better bikes is because of the supposedly lower maintenance cost.

OK, pretty straightforward. One side says it’s an honest mistake – yes and no, because the due diligence was not diligent enough. Another side says the civil servants were stupid and I agree. How much money was spent on upgrading Bishan park? One fucking billion dollars? And at the same time you do nothing for the poor of Singapore?

Anyway, that’s not my main point of this post. The main point is: where are our Herman Millers and Bromptons? Aren’t there local companies which manufacture high quality products for peoples’ use? Why aren’t we going down that route? Surely there must be a small market for these products? An SME, a GLC, whatever. Now, I wouldn’t totally mind if the government was taking all this money and pumping it into our own economy. I used to play with Zoids toys when I was a kid and I felt proud when it said that they were “made in Singapore”. Surely we have highly educated people from top wanking universities like NUS and NTU who are dying to actually put their engineering degrees into good use instead of joining an MNC and getting all the grunt work.

Singapore could really consider becoming more bicycle friendly. Yes, it is very hazardous to be biking on main roads in Singapore, and when I see that roads have to be widened by half a lane to accommodate bikes, it does seem rather big use of space. But the main roads within HDB towns aren’t always jammed, and they could be made more bike friendly.

So: step one: create a market for bikes. Is that the hardest thing in the world to do when people are paying through their noses for cars? Step two: build a small local biking industry. There are not a lot of obstacles to this, except that bicycle retail will be expensive. But there are already bike shops in Singapore. Build them in parks. Build them in industrial zones. Deliver the bikes to customers in pickups.

Then, you can sell your bikes to the government for an outrageous rate, I don’t care. Similarly, if there are so many offices in Singapore, why does Singapore not have a Herman Miller? Surely the market for good quality office furniture must exist. And surely we are already buying office furniture from local firms. Why don’t we have a local firm taking that extra step to achieving excellence on the scale of a Herman Miller or a Brompton?

We are always talking about creating value adding jobs that justify paying Singapore level wages in a region where Malaysian or Indonesian wages are the norm. There is a chance here – are we going to take it?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha ...

"top wanking universities like NUS and NTU"

4:12 PM


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