Written by Ng E-Jay
10 Sept 2009

In its letter to the Wall Street Journal “Correcting Temasek Misperceptions” (08 Sept), Temasek Holdings stated that they “do not manage Singapore citizens’ earnings“, and that it is factually wrong (for the WSJ) to imply that Singaporeans have no choice but to keep their money with the fund.

I am appalled by the latest stand Temasek Holdings has taken, which seems to suggest that the assets they manage have nothing to do with the productive work of Singapore citizens and the wealth they have created for the nation over the past 5 decades.

Temasek Holdings was responding to an earlier WSJ editorial “Temasek’s Revised Charter” (31 Aug), which argued that Temasek’s latest charter “skirts the basic conflict of interest between the public interest of protecting citizens’ earnings and the private-market imperative of taking risks to seek returns“.

Temasek’s updated charter now portrays the investment holding firm as operating purely on commercial interests and as being answerable only to its stakeholders, including the Government which holds all the shares in Temasek as well as institutional investors who have purchased Temasek’s bonds.

In contrast, the old charter stated that Temasek manages investments for the long-term benefit of Singapore, and that Temasek would perform nation-building roles like helping to broaden and deepen Singapore’s economic base, and nurturing new industry clusters in Singapore.

The new charter makes no mention at all of Singapore.

I see the latest developments as yet another setback for Singaporeans who have been demanding greater levels of transparency and accountability from Temasek Holdings (as well as GIC).

Firstly, the latest statement by Temasek that they do not manage citizens’ earnings is mind-boggling.

Temasek Holdings is an investment firm created by the Government to manage our past reserves, which is essentially our national savings not utilized by the Government during its present term of office. Where do those assets come from? They come from tax receipts, Government operating surpluses, revenue from land sales, and so on. All these assets rightfully belong to the people as a whole and are the product of the industry of Singapore citizens. The Government is merely the steward, not the ultimate owner, of these assets.

It is therefore right and proper for the people to have a say in how our national savings are managed and to demand that the stewards of those assets are transparent and accountable in their investment decisions.

Secondly, it clear that Temasek has departed from its traditional nation building role of nurturing new industries in Singapore and enhancing our competitiveness through start-up investments in promising companies that may not appeal initially to private investors due to the length of time required for results to bear fruit.

This original role has been discarded, replaced instead by the sole motive of generating returns for stakeholders regardless of the value to Singapore and to citizens as a whole.

Is this the right investment philosophy that should be applied to our national savings?

Shouldn’t our national savings be used for the good of the community and the country, rather than regarded as belonging only to the Government, to be utilized or invested by the Government without any consideration to national goals and priorities?

Rightfully, the role of the Government should be to build value for the nation using all the tools at its disposal, not to manage the nation’s assets for its own private agenda independent of the public interest.

If the Government is now allowing Temasek to forsake its nation building role despite having hundreds of billions of dollars worth of savings under its control, and the Government now wants to use our national assets for its own purposes without any accoutability to the citizens, it is time to ask if this is a Government that is fit to remain in power.


Lui Tuck Yew should take his head out of the sand Should we accord freedom of speech to those who do not embrace it?

  1. What they are essentially trying to say is that Temasek funds belong to some private entity (also known as the rightful stakeholders) and that it has nothing to do with Singaporeans in general. Therefore they don’t have to answer to anybody except these private individuals.

    I just wonder whether any of these individuals are by any chance related to Chen Shui Bian family members ? Or the Marcos family members ? Or even the Li family members ?

  2. Hi

    I posted the following comment on another blog.

    I think there is a popular misunderstanding of the concept of State. When Myrna says Temasek doesn’t deal with citizen’s earnings, she’s right, because people don’t actually pour their money into it, like they do with mutual funds.

    Temasek is merely an arm of the State entrusted with investing the govt’s money, which came/comes from the people, companies, tourists, taxes, etc, etc. If you try to pinpoint the actual source of the funds, you’ll end up nowhere because too many variables are involved.

    This is similar to people assuming public servants are servants of the public and therefore answerable to them. They are not: they report to their superiors, who in turn are chosen by the govt, which is in turn chosen by the people. So, while a MIW is technically answerable to the voting public, a permanent secretary or Brigadier is not.

  3. Hi

    I posted the following comment on another blog.

    I think there is a popular misunderstanding of the concept of State. When Myrna says Temasek doesn’t deal with citizen’s earnings, she’s right, because people don’t actually pour their money into it, like they do with mutual funds.

    Temasek is merely an arm of the State entrusted with investing the govt’s money, which came/comes from the people, companies, tourists, taxes, etc, etc. If you try to pinpoint the actual source of the funds, you’ll end up nowhere because too many variables are involved.

    This is similar to people assuming public servants are servants of the public and therefore answerable to them. They are not: they report to their superiors, who in turn are chosen by the govt, which is in turn chosen by the people. So, while a MIW is technically answerable to the voting public, a permanent secretary or Brigadier is not.

  4. the government is artificially making a distinction between temasek holding as a commercial entity operating on a commercial basis managing funds parked with them by stakeholders of which the government of singapore is just one of them and temasek holding as it was originally constituted , an entity to manage singapore’s reserves and singapore owned.

    the government should not be allowed to get away with such wayang kulit. temasek holdings in whatever outfit manages and will continue to manage the wealth produced by all singaporeans.

    yes you are right e-jay, this is the beginning of a slippery slope to move away from the need to account to singaporeans how temasek holdings manages the reserves of singapore parked in temasek.

    i invite the authorities/government to respond/engage the on-line community in this blog on the various issues raised rather than to remain silent. tell us why and where we are wrong. to remain silent is to admit that the arguments and sentiments expressed here are right and the government have no answers to the arguments raised.

    the people of singapore deserves to be respected and engaged especially with respect to such important issues as how our reserves should be managed, how our wealth generated should be distributed and what direction our economy should take going forward.

    this blog has raised many important issues facing singapore in a sober and sensible manner with intelligent, logical and often well researched arguments. it deserves a proper response from the authorities.

Comments are closed.