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What assets make up Singapore's reserves?

Reader Stanley Ong wrote in to askST about Singapore's reserves.

He is curious to know what these reserves are: "Do they take the form of bank deposits, or are they made up of assets such as stocks, bonds and unit trusts?"

Senior correspondent Goh Eng Yeow answers:

Like a listed company, the Government has a balance sheet made up of assets and liabilities.

In a nutshell, these reserves that you have asked about would be the total assets minus the liabilities on the Government's balance sheet.

On the asset side, you would find buildings and land owned by the Government, as well as financial assets such as cash, securities and bonds.

However, the Government also has liabilities.

These include bonds, known as the Singapore Government Securities (SGS), which it sells to investors to help develop the country's domestic debt market, as well as the Special Singapore Government Securities (SSGS), which are issued to the CPF Board.

Currently, the Government's assets are mainly managed by GIC Private Ltd. This is a professional fund-management organisation that aims to achieve a "good long-term return to preserve and enhance the international purchasing power of the reserves".

Most of its investments are in the international public markets, but some funds are also ploughed into alternative investments such as private equity and real estate.

GIC does not reveal the size of the portfolio that it manages - only that the sum is well in excess of US$100 billion (S$139.5 billion).

In addition, the Government places deposits with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), which manages the Official Foreign Reserves (OFR).

As the central bank, MAS invests the OFR conservatively in a well-diversified portfolio of cash, bonds and equities.

An MAS spokesman said: "About three-quarters of the OFR are denominated in the G-4 currencies (United States dollar, euro, yen and sterling). Within the G-4 currencies, the US dollar forms the bulk. Diversification across markets, assets and currencies helps to enhance the resilience of MAS' portfolio across various market conditions."

As at March 31 this year, the OFR stood at $332 billion.

The Government is also the only shareholder of Temasek Holdings, whose investments include significant stakes in some of Singapore's largest companies, such as Singtel, DBS Group Holdings, CapitaLand and Keppel Corp.

Since 2002, Temasek has taken active steps to invest abroad as well. Its investments include household names such as Britain's Standard Chartered Bank, China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and Hong Kong's A.S. Watson Holdings.

For the financial year ended March 31, Temasek's net portfolio value was $242 billion.

If you want to read more about how Singapore's reserves are managed, you might want to refer to this link: http://www.mof.gov.sg/ Policies/Our-Nations-Reserves/ Section-I-What-comprises-the- reserves-and-who-manages-them

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2016, with the headline 'What assets make up Singapore's reserves?'. Print Edition | Subscribe