GE2015: SDP chief Chee Soon Juan wants GIC & Temasek to 'open up' their books

Dr Chee speaking during a lunchtime rally at UOB Plaza Promenade on Sept 7, 2015.
Dr Chee speaking during a lunchtime rally at UOB Plaza Promenade on Sept 7, 2015.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan on Tuesday (Sept 8) repeated his call for Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC and investment company Temasek Holdings to "open up their books".

Dr Chee, who is contesting Holland-Bulit Timah GRC at the Sept 11 polls, had first raised the issue at a lunchtime rally on Monday, hitting out at decisions by GIC and Temasek to invest in Citigroup, UBS, Merrill Lynch and Barclays during the 2008 global financial crisis.

He said the move then had resulted in both GIC and Temasek recording significant losses of several billions in investments.

Speaking at a walkabout on Tuesday with his four-member GRC team, Dr Chee again questioned why GIC and Temasek had taken the decisions to make the investments. He added that it was only through "a stroke of good fortune" that they were able to recover from the investments as they had benefitted from a decision by the United States government at the time to launch a bank bailout to stem the impact of the financial crisis.

"Why despite all the warnings coming out, why did (Temasek and GIC) invest in Barclays, Citigroup, UBS and Merrill Lynch? They've said that they've bounced back... but that was not because of anything that they did," he said.

Dr Chee wants both Temasek and GIC to "open up its books", claiming that the amount that Temasek said it "makes in its returns and the amount in its books just don't match at all".

"When you say you make so much money, open up your books for experts to come in and inspect. This is not a private company we're taking about... This is a public corporation owned by Singaporeans. If we are all going to be shareholders, then we have every right to know whether what they're telling us is accurate or not," he said.

The Finance Ministry has repeatedly said that the Government plays no role in decisions on individual investments made by GIC and Temasek.

However, Temasek chief executive Ho Ching had on Monday put up a statement on Facebook explaining how the state investment company manages its reserves and allocates a portion of its earnings and returns on investments.

She had written that some of Singapore's reserves are set aside for the future, while a portion of the earnings and returns generated are spent on the present generation. This, she said, was a way of ensuring fair sharing between generations and has helped Singapore maintain its position among the world's few triple-A credit rated countries.

Writing in another post on Tuesday, Ms Ho also explained how sovereign wealth funds worked. In the post, she also elaborated on Net Investment Income (NII) contributions.

"Put simply NII is Net Investment Income - this includes actual dividends received, such as from Temasek, and also interest and dividends received by Singov from investing its reserves through GIC in bonds, shares and other opportunities. This is real cashflow into the government kitty," she wrote.

Meanwhile, Dr Chee's Holland-Bukit Timah GRC teammate Paul Tambyah, who was also canvassing for votes with Dr Chee on Tuesday, clarified remarks he made at Monday's lunchtime rally where he said that there were many in the opposition parties who believed that Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam would make a good Prime Minister.

He said that many of them also hoped that Mr Tharman would have a falling out with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and move to lead a grand coalition of opposition parties.

"There was no intention to sow discord... That was actually a fantasy on the part of the opposition parties," he said. "Everyone thinks that if we get DPM Tharman, then everything will change for the opposition but of course the chances of that happening are slim to none."

idayus@sph.com.sg