“Again without transparency we have no breakdown of how much government saving in the form of surpluses has contributed to both Temasek and GIC’s growth over the years. But we do know that the cumulative budget surplus over the last thirty years has been considerable.
Where have these budget surpluses come from in the first place. Well we all know how to save money. We cut back on expenditures. When a country cuts back on the absolute basics such as free education for its children then it creates a budget surplus. Let’s make no mistake here. No other First World Nation only has compulsory education up to the end of Primary school and even that only for a very short day. Even our very minimal compulsory education is not even free (although heavily subsidised).
I am not advocating a full welfare state but to put it bluntly, Singaporeans have helped to pay for our enormous overseas investments by going without the brights and benefits that citizens in a democracy demand. So Singaporeans go without free universal education to secondary level, a national health insurance system and other elements of a social safety net which are characteristic of most countries at Singapore’s level of development. By making you go without the PAP builds up a huge surplus for investment overseas.
SO, the budget surplus, has been taken from the pockets of Singaporeans and represents money that you not only could have but should have. It could and should, be returned to the citizens of Singapore in the form of lower taxes, fees and charges. It could have also been used to finance much higher domestic investment in education or in health and welfare.
As we all know, calls on the government for accountability and transparency in its sovereign wealth funds is not new. However; I would go one step further! Many of you know that I gave a speech at the Foreign Correspondents Association lunch on the 2 July 2009. In answer to a question put to me after the lunch I went on record as saying that Singaporeans should be given a direct stake in our SWFs. One way to do this is through the privatization and listing of Temasek and the issuance of shares to Singapore citizens. Another way is through the explicit linkage of part of the value of these assets to the welfare of Singaporeans, as is done in Norway through the Pension Fund.
In conclusion whilst I will not stop any time soon on calling on our government for greater transparency and accountability into how it manages our money, I would urge us to look at credible new proposals such as mine.”