“No regrets” for $6.8bn loss?

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.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

5 thoughts on ““No regrets” for $6.8bn loss?”

  1. I cried my heart out when I heard this news.

    What can $6B do for our old folks, cleaning tables in hawker centres, and picking cardboards and used drink cans in rubbish dumps?


  2. 1. Parliament sat on April 13, the Filings showed a balance of zero as at 31 March 2009. Why did the FM not inform members during Parliament the stake was sold? And at what price and the extent of the loss?
    2. Why does it take a news service, Bloomberg to ask such questions and GET an answer? Is Temasek answerable only to the western press (since local press remains silent)? If Bloomberg didn’t ask, Will the People of Singapore who aret he actual owners of the funds even find out?

  3. I’m appalled by this mismanagement and lack of transparency. For a gahmen that never likes to admit mistakes, I think they will just wanna let this all be water that quickly goes under the bridge. They have this habit of practicing, “nothing nice to say, don’t say.” Yah, especially when its abt themselves! I wonder for all investments over all these years, have they ever suffered that big a loss over a similar duration of time? Guess, it might not have been reported back then.

  4. I wonder if someone were to ask FM what happened, why sell now, why take a big loss, what was the actual amount (rumors among banking circles locally put the actual number closer to $3b); I wonder if he might say….well, $xxx compared the our total investment book…well, that’s peanuts….or…maybe walnuts…

    No lor, FM; if indeed its $6b+, or however much, it is sweat and tears of Singaporean labor. Temasek needs to disclose, not just the investments that lose money, but those that gain as well. Mostly what I want to know is how much of OUR money do they pay themselves. How much did Mdm Ho get? Maybe peanuts, more like walnuts, most probably….coconuts.

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