askST: What kind of 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 answered.

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

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

On the asset side, you will 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 our domestic debt market as well as the Special Singapore Government Securities (SSGS) which is issued to the CPF Board.

Currently, the Government's assets are mainly managed by GIC Private Ltd. This is a professional fund management organisation which 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 it manages - only that it is well in excess of US$100 billion.

In addition, the Government also 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.

A MAS spokesman said: "About three-quarters of the OFR are denominated in the G4 currencies (US dollar, euro, Japanese yen and sterling). Within the G4 currencies, the US dollar forms the bulk. Diversification across markets, assets and currencies help to enhance the resilience of MAS' portfolio across various market conditions."

As at March 31, 2016, the OFR stood at S$332 billion.

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

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

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

If you want to read more about how our reserves are managed, you may want to refer to this website

More askST stories here.