I REFER to the article ‘HK’s investment strategy beats Singapore’s: S&P’ by Daniel Buenas (BT, Oct 1).
Standard and Poor’s estimates that the Singapore Government’s annual returns on its assets averaged between 1.7 and 4 per cent from 1999 to 2003, in contrast to Temasek’s compounded annual rate of return of more than 16 per cent over the past 30 years, and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation’s (GIC) annual returns which have exceeded the targeted 4-5 per cent above inflation, since the agency was formed in 1981. The Economist magazine (issue dated Aug 14-20) said that Temasek’s return was 1.7 per cent, in its article for which it paid $390,000 for defamation on the issue of nepotism.
So, is the return 1.7-4 per cent, 16 per cent, 5.5-6.5 per cent (if inflation was 1.5 per cent), or 1.7 per cent?
I wrote to the press on Aug 12, suggesting that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) change the policy of not disclosing the return on Singapore’s foreign reserves. MAS replied on Aug 14 that ‘our policy of not disclosing the annual rate of return on the reserves is to avoid undue emphasis on year-to-year variations in returns that would detract from MAS’s core objectives’.
Like all Singaporeans, I am very proud of our achievements and reputation, and am dismayed whenever I see organisations like S&P and The Economist poking fun at Singapore’s returns and the issue of non-transparency.
This may affect others’ perception of Singapore globally, and make it harder to attract business and investment into Singapore.
Since the Prime Minister’s National Day Rally speech on Aug 22, many ‘sacred cows’ have been slaughtered, like the five-day week for the civil service and schools.
Perhaps it is time to kill the ‘sacred cow’ of not disclosing the returns, because in a sense every Singapore has a stake in the reserves. This underscores the PM’s call for the need to change and adapt, for the sake of Singapore’s future. Leong Sze Hian Singapore
SPH AsiaOne Ltd.
Leong Sze Hian