18 August 2011
Now that the race for the presidency is on, it is important to assess the candidates and their backgrounds as they vie for the post that was created to safeguard our financial reserves.
Dr Tony Tan has curiously sought to position himself as the safest and most experienced candidate to handle our reserves should the world economy come to grief, thereby impacting the economic situation in Singapore.
He cited his extensive experience in the GIC and that he is the candidate with the track record of taking Singapore forward. Since he has decided to campaign on his record, let us examine it and see how he stacks up.
Dr Tony Tan was the vice-chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) right up until he announced his intenetion to run for the presidency. He was entrenched within a system that kept the people at arms length from the GIC’s handling of the reserves – our reserves.
Make no mistake, the funds handled by the GIC belong to CPF savings of each and every Singaporean. Yet the GIC acts as if it is some private entity accountable only unto itself. It refuses to let us know the amount of funds it handles, how they are used and how much is made or lost in the investments.
The Ministry of Finance tells us that “It is not in our national interest to publish the full size of our reserves. If we do so, it will make it easier for markets to mount speculative attacks on the Singapore dollar during periods of vulnerability.”
If this is the case then every sovereign wealth fund (SWF) would come under a similar threat and all would have to be as secretive. The SDP has shown here that this is not the case. Norway’s Government Pension Fund – Global (GPFG) runs the biggest SWF in the world and is a model of transparency and accountability. And it has not come under any speculative financial attack since its inception in 1996.
In fact, it has been registering healthy profits from its investments. It posted solid gains over the years with a 26 percent surge in returns in 2009 and another 10 percent in 2010.
Its operations have been monitiored not only by the Norwegian parliament but also by the people. There is even the Council of Ethics that prohibits the GPFG from investing in businesses that are considered unethical such as entities that violate human rights, that deal in arms trade and that are involved in tobacco products.
Telling us that we cannot know what is being done with our money because to do so would threaten the integrity of our funds is completely disingenuous. If the Norwegian government can tell Norwegians what it is doing with their funds, we expect no less from our Government.
Back to Tony Tan. Dr Tan was the vice-chairman of the GIC and was part of the setup that is keeping us at arms length from our money. It is a system that treats Singaporeans with contemptuous arrogance.
He now wants our votes to make him president so that he can safeguard our reserves. Does this sound even remotely sensible? A President Tony Tan would all but ensure that the GIC remains as secretive and unaccountable as it has always been.
In an age where transparency is the cornerstone of good governance, the GIC’s secretive nature must not be allowed to continue.
Based on this reason, and this reason alone, the people – for your own sakes – must disqualify this candidate. The SDP makes this absolutely clear – Dr Tony Tan is the problem, not the solution.
We will give Singaporeans more reasons why voting for Dr Tan will have serious consequences for Singapore’s economy and your well-being in Part 2.