Sometimes I wonder why Parliamentarians and political commentators even bother to debate government expenditure. To paraphrase a senior statesman, perhaps we all have “no sense of proportion”.
Temasek’s realised loss after selling its Bank of America (BoA) stake could be as high as S$6.8 billion, according to figures published by the pro-government Straits Times. That’s more than the Singapore government’s 2009 budget for healthcare, community development, social services, and manpower development combined!
And the secretive Temasek thought it could keep it hush hush when it sold its stake before the end of March. It was only discovered when a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that Temasek no longer held BoA or Merrill Lynch shares.
Why did Temasek divest its shares when they were at rock bottom? Did they expect BoA to go under? Surely not, given the fact that the Obama administration has shown it is prepared to bail out banks like Citibank. If they had just held on for a year or two, or even a few months, the share prices would have had no where to go but up. This is not 20-20 hindsight. It is common sense.
While I believe Singaporeans accept that in all investments there will be ups and downs, Temasek and the government cannot hide behind this flimsy excuse for realising as large a loss as this. This is a national scandal!
Where is the accountability? None whatsoever, it seems. The CEO of the company is allowed to retire gracefully, saying she has “no regrets”. So what will cause you to leave with regrets, Ms Ho Ching? A $10 billion, or a $100 billion loss of our future generations’ money?
Since Temasek is a wholly owned company of the Ministry of Finance, I don’t think they can just claim they are a private company that is accountable only internally.
The Minister of Finance must answer to Parliament and to the people for this staggering loss of Singapore’s reserves. The government needs to be reminded that the reserves belong not to them, but to the people of Singapore, and more importantly, our children and future generations.