SINGAPORE: Presidential hopeful Ng Kok Song underscored his extensive 45-year experience in shaping the past reserves through his public service roles, setting himself apart with distinct advantages compared to other candidates.
He pointedly emphasized that comprehending the intricacies of safeguarding Singapore’s past reserves is “not easy to understand”.
While Ng acknowledged that former Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam is well-versed in the complexities of this task, he expressed his belief that the remaining potential candidates, Entrepreneur George Goh and former CEO of NTUC Income Tan Kin Lian, have yet to exhibit a comprehensive understanding.
“Whoever wants to be the president must be competent, and secondly, that person must be trustworthy in terms of character, ” he asserted.
Drawing from his four and a half decades of actively contributing to reserve management, the 75-year-old former Chief Investment Officer of GIC (Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund) confidently asserted that his rich experience endows him with an insightful grasp of the nuanced nature of reserves.
Although he acknowledged Tharman’s understanding, he stressed the necessity for other candidates to validate their comprehension of the profound responsibilities associated with safeguarding reserves.
“I think Minister Tharman also understands,” he said.
“but it is something which I think other candidates will have to prove that they have a sufficient grasp Of the responsibilities of the job in terms of safeguarding the reserves. ”
Ng addressed a query about what distinguishes him from fellow potential candidates during a dialogue held at the Huang Clan Association in Geylang on Sunday (13 Aug).
Additionally, Mr Ng conveyed to reporters his conviction that his understanding of reserves surpasses that of the other hopefuls.
“If you were to understand about the meaning of safeguarding the reserves, you will see that it is not a simple matter,” he said.
He proceeded to highlight that although the reserves’ definition can be accessed on a government website, there exist numerous intricacies surrounding them that may elude many.
Ng brought attention to the requirement for the elected President to grasp several key points concerning the appropriate quantum of past reserves accessible to the government.
He asserted, “He needs to understand the global economy … why such an amount of money is necessary because of the risky environment that the economy is then facing.”
“I think it does require some financial competence, some understanding and knowledge of how the global economy works, how the Singapore economy is connected to the global economy … we mustn’t assume that it’s an easy thing.”
Netizens remind Ng that the presidency entails responsibilities beyond safeguarding reserves
Boasting an impressive 45-year journey in public service, marked by pivotal roles at GIC and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Ng exuded a palpable confidence in his ability to fathom the “intricacies of reserves.”
While Mr Ng certainly has valid grounds to tout his extensive experience as an advantage in safeguarding Singapore’s reserves, alongside Tharman, public sentiment might diverge.
Others contested Ng’s attempt to distinguish himself primarily through his past experience or by implying that reserves are akin to “rocket science” comprehensible to a select few.
One comment insinuated that labeling it as “rocket science” might be a ploy to discredit others managing substantial funds derived from astute asset management and investments.
The comment elaborated that public sector funds stem from a steady influx of public contributions, questioning the complexity of maintaining an appealing financial facade through concealed taxes versus genuinely generating revenue from willing consumers.
“So in that respect a person who does not know how to earn money is more likely to raid the reserves than a person who does, ” the netizen wrote.
Meanwhile, another comment raised doubts about Ng’s performance by challenging his claim of building reserves.
The netizen cited GIC’s recent underwhelming five-year returns and requested clarification on the losses incurred in the previous financial year.
“Can you tell us how much losses last financial year and you also claimed you know the reserves, can you tell us how much reserves Singapore have?”
Netizens comparing Mr Ng with other potential candidates
However, it’s important to note that there are also netizens who are supportive of Ng’s stance.
For instance, one comment emphasized that certain potential candidates, like George Goh, have consistently focused on their life and business accomplishments from the very beginning but have struggled to connect these experiences with the responsibilities of a president.
There have been observations that in comparison, Ng’s stance might imply that he sees himself as a “second choice” after Tharman, considering Tharman’s role as Chairman of the MAS from 2011 to 2023.
Presidential role “more than solely safeguarding Singapore’s reserves”
Shee Chee Lim, a senior lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, shared her thoughts on a Facebook post, reminding Ng that the role of Singapore’s President encompasses more than solely safeguarding the country’s reserves.
“That is primary but not the sole qualification required. That is why there is no pre-qualification that a person must have managed the reserves before, managed huge sums of money, yes, but not necessarily the national reserves. “
He added that requiring such a qualification would indeed be unreasonable, as the complexities can be explained by advisors.
Lim further adds wisdom, humility, and a love for the country to this list of desired characteristics. These aspects, in her opinion, are the key factors.
A netizen ask Ng to comment on President Halimah’s performance on safeguarding the country’s reserve
Meanwhile, a number of netizens have taken a slightly satirical stance, suggesting that safeguarding Singapore’s reserves might not be as daunting as portrayed.
They pointed out that outgoing President Halimah seems to have managed the task “adequately” over the past six years, despite not having extensive experience working within Singapore’s sovereign fund.
In a specific comment, someone posed a query to Mr Ng, asking whether he believed President Halimah’s performance in this capacity was commendable and even superior to that of George Goh and Tan Kin Lian.