The recent Auditor General's audit thrashing of the MDA (Media Development Authority) and today's report on the MAS's (Monetary Authority of Singapore) management of the financial institutions re-awoke that niggling feeling in me that there is something not quite right about the way our regulatory agencies are structured.
You see, most of our regulatory agencies serve at least two masters - one that is promoting the industry and the other protecting the public. Some agencies are more of one than the other. This duality of mission creates an immediate conflict of interest within the agency's decision making process. If it single-mindedly protects the public, it may over-restrict the activities of the industry, and possibly destroy it. On the other hand if it is over-friendly to industry, it will clearly compromise its role in protecting public interests.
One common refrain heard is that Singapore is very small and we have limited expertise, and therefore often the same bigwigs sit on committees serving regulatory as well as promotional roles.
The question therefore is how do we ensure that public interests are actually being looked after, and not held to ransom by big industrial interests.
In MAS's situation, how does the agency balance public interest against the interests of the the big financial insitutions? How does MDA balance the consumer needs with the mission to please the industry? How does the AVA protect us with respect to industrial poisons, without compromising big business' interests and possibly losing industrial investors?
Closer to home, how does the HSA protect medical consumers without losing big pharma investments for our biomedical initiatives?
In short, what has never been very clear is if the decision making processes in our regulatory agencies are adequately china-walled against all these conflicts of interests?
5 years ago