A week ago in the Sunday Times Senior Correspondent Christopher Tan write a nice article about the recent SMRT wayang and the LTA, raising the issue of a regulatory capture occurring between the transport regulator LTA and the transport industry.
The concept of regulatory capture is very much assocated with Economics Nobel Laureate George Stigler. It refers to the type of government failure when a public sector regulator has a cosy cosy relationship with the regulated service provider, to the extent that the regulator becomes a promoter of the regulated rather than a protector of the public needs.
Is the LTA a victim.... or are we, the public, victims of the regulatory capture between LTA and the transport industry.
This is actually not an isolated problem affecting the LTA, but can be seen to exist in many of Singapore's regulators.
The HSA (Health Sciences Authority) for example may be in such a predicament. Formed in the past from all the disparate MOH subunits in the Ministry of Health that the MOH wanted to decant from the Ministry, the functions of the various parts of the HSA range all the way from service provision, regulatory and promotional. Regulatory capture?...certainly many opportunities for this to develop in the HSA. Successive Board Chairmen and CEs have not made any attempt to deconflict all these functions, choosing instead to keep the easy and cosy relationships which made their work easier. However, unless this regulatory captures are dismantled, one has to question to what extent public needs are sacrificed to meed the needs of the industry.
By the way, George Stigler was also well known in medical circles for his attempt to optimize the daily recommended diet. Like all economic solutions, the result was totally unpalatable.
7 years ago