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Trading Outage Damages Singapore Stock Exchange Reputation.

I have repeatedly pointed out over the last five years that lack of competition and monopoly in political life has the same dire consequences that it has in business. Today Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) was closed due to a ” trading outage”. This outage is the fourth since 2014 according to the WSJ article penned by Jake Maxwell Watts  Yet any paper you open or post you read on social media will constantly push the propaganda that Singapore is an advanced technological smart city. Smart City Smart nation  indeed.

In fact a lot of Singaporeans thought I was disloyal when I penned the article “Disneyland with the Death Penalty Revisited” for Wired back in 2012. But that article was a  20 year retrospective. So Wired had commissioned me to write an article 20 years after Gibson’s first visit to Singapore when he wrote about the island with technological progress but no soul.  My piece was a direct response to the propaganda of that time. Singapore had just released the IT2000 plan and been the subject of a BBC documentary called “The Intelligent Island”.  We were going to be  the world leading smart nation of that time. we were not then and we are not now as the young man who discovered he cannot play Pokemon Go here discovered.

SGX got a new CEO Loh Boon Chye after the three outages in 2014. But new name same problems and of course he is very much establishment, having started his career at MAS and currently a director of GIC.  To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, two outages could be put down to bad luck but another two smacks of carelessness. The WSJ quoted Carmen Lee, the SGX analyst at OCBC, as saying:

“This is quite major, especially for a center keen to be a major Asia trading gateway,” “We do not know what the final investigation or outcome will be at this early stage, but after the incidents of 2014, this is unlikely to be taken lightly by the authorities.”

In the past week we have seen the benefits of a free press. We would never have known that 35 of our new MRT trains were sent back to the manufacturer,  CSR Sifang, because of cracks and structural defects. If they were aware of the defects, our state media were quiet, presumably because they were told that revealing the defects would cause “undue panic” At least that is the reason given by the Transport Minister, Khaw Boon Wan (KBW), as to why the Government tried to hush things up.

The outage at SGX follows swiftly on from the unmasking of another Government attempt to hush up evidence of its own incompetence or worse.They would have succeeded too if it had not been for the Hong Kong news agency, Factwire.  Factwire in an open letter to KBW rightly said that “As a news agency committed to serving the public, when public officials are riled by our reporting, it is merely proof that we are doing the right thing.” 

Without a free press we would never hear of anything that puts the Government in a bad light because they would simply say that it was not in the national interest for Singaporeans to know. Just as the ex-Finance Minister, Tharman, did when he was questioned about how much he paid Chip Goodyear, who was briefly in the running to take over from Ho Ching at Temasek, to go away and keep quiet about why he was leaving. Similarly the Prime Minister refuses to tell us how much he pays his wife as CEO of Temasek or the size of the assets controlled by himself and his family and whether there are any conflicts of interest. The public in a democracy have a right to know these things. But we are not a democracy of course. A free press, oversight, accountability, transparency,  separation of powers, freedom of expression. a right to information, we have none of these things. Embarrassingly even Hong Kong does.

Unfortunately in Singapore there is no way that the public will find out anything unless a foreign organisation leaks it. The few non-state news blogs we have have been effectively neutered with the prosecution and jailing of the editors of the now-defunct The Real Singapore for the archaic offence of sedition. ( other blogs are just political platforms with a clear bias masquerading as neutral) Add to this  draconian powers held by the Minister for Communications to order the takedown of any articles which disturb racial or religious harmony or are simply judged to be against the national interest. The Minister’s powers are backed up by the requirement that any news site deposit $25,000 which can be forfeited if they breach the rules.

Let’s face it, would we have known that our public transport stinks if Anton Casey had not told us? ( OK that’s a joke!)




  1. There is no coherence in your piece. Full of non-sequiters and rambling. What has the outage at SGX to do with the smart nation boast? You seem to see this episode as another instance of a cover-up as in the train debacle. Then you go on with the government’s pursuit of bloggers.I would have expected you to eviscerate the Minister’s stupid explanation for the cover-up in a detailed manner instead. For instance, why were the trains in covers when being shipped back to China?, etc.


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