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Abstract: In July 2016, Singapore’s Minister for Transport announced that Singapore Mass Rapid Transit Ltd (SMRT) had agreed to sell its trains, tracks, and other operating assets to the government for $1 billion. SMRT would continue to operate and maintain MRT services but as an “asset light” company with the government responsible for financing the assets needed and leasing them to the company. Five months later, Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, purchased the remaining shares of SMRT and delisted the company from the Singapore stock exchange. The two 2016 reforms were just the latest developments in a several decades-long debate about how best to provide high-quality and affordable MRT services in Singapore. The current round had begun several years earlier when SMRT suffered a series of breakdowns that left hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded, in some cases waiting hours in darkened tunnels until they were evacuated. A Commission of Inquiry blamed inadequate maintenance by SMRT, but the key questions were what were the underlying forces that led to the poor maintenance and breakdowns and would the creation of an asset-light, government-owned company help address them?
Learning Objective: This case is intended for use in an executive program or graduate level course on public-private partnerships or public sector procurement. It can also be used in courses on transportation or infrastructure policy. The case raises four issues: scope and duration of the PPP, the challenge of regulating tariffs, open access in infrastructure, and forms of public enterprise.