Sunday, 23 August 2009

Singapore's Temasek and the Asian Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street journal chose its words carefully on August 20, 2009. There does not seem to be any reason to sue the newspaper this time around!
In an editorial entitled, 'Temasek and Transparency - III' the paper called for greater transparency. The opinion piece quoted extensively from Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's recent statement on the controversy surrounding the appointment of Temasek's new CEO.

During Singapore's move from Third World to First World it has amassed huge foreign exchange reserves

It is true that Singaporean's desire greater disclosure from the organization. No can argue with the following words written by the paper, "Temasek has taken baby steps toward more transparency under Ms. Ho. The questions raised in parliament Tuesday show the Singaporean people support those efforts, and want more."

In fact, it will be nice if other Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) such as from the wealthy Gulf countries and China also reveal more information.
Singapore is not the only culprit in the dock on this matter.
Disclosures by SWF's are a complex matter. It is not only about providing more information to the public. Other factors must be considered.
The information may affect portfolio positioning and strategy. Stale or out of date portfolio information is perhaps less risky to divulge but questions arise about how to define 'out of date' for investors which have a 10 year or longer investment time horizon.
Performance data is different. Making performance data known in a prescribed format is not a portfolio risk. Without adequate performance data reasonable oversight can be problematic.

Singaporean women seeking good fortune by touching a statue of the Laughing Buddha

The real question then is what is the basis of oversight undertaken by the Board? What powers does the Board exercise during this oversight exercise and have they fulfilled their fiduciary obligations by ensuring management is kept on its toes. It may have been due to the new CEO's proposed Board changes that his appointment was rescinded.
In due course, I am sure the details will filter out. In the interim, at least the foreign media is learning how not to ruffle feathers in Singapore!

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