SINGAPORE: Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS Group Holdings Ltd., Singapore’s premier bank, emphasized the need for Singapore to utilize its vast reserves and enhance its regional investments at the “Reinventing Destiny” conference.
This event commemorated the 100th birth anniversary of the late founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, on Monday.
Gupta indicated that Singapore has not entirely recognized its standing as a prosperous country. He highlighted the importance of tapping into the city-state’s significant capital resources to gain a competitive advantage.
The Government had previously disclosed a total of S$1.4 trillion in financial assets in the Government Financial Statements Report for the financial year ending 31 March 2021. This report, published by the Ministry of Finance. The reserve, over a trillion, was referenced by Gupta in his Monday address.
Historically, the People’s Action Party government has been cautious about utilizing these extensive reserves, especially concerning welfare disbursements.
Gupta proposed that the administration should contemplate deploying these reserves to address societal issues, expand Singapore’s foothold in new sectors, and cultivate stronger relationships with neighboring nations.
Drawing a parallel with Japan’s sustained investment strategy in regional countries, Gupta suggested that Singapore could adopt a similar approach to reshape current perceptions. “Our neighbors perceive us as a self-centered nation,” he remarked.
Having led DBS for over ten years, Gupta is no stranger to expressing opinions on pressing economic issues. He has, in the past, touched upon the possibility of increasing taxes on Singapore’s affluent segment and has praised China’s drive towards shared prosperity.
During the same conference, Gupta raised concerns about Singapore’s growing aversion to risks, particularly in light of the high stakes associated with potential setbacks.
Former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, participating remotely, shared his thoughts on how trailblazers like Elon Musk or Steve Jobs might fare within Singapore’s present ecosystem. Summers suggested that a vibrant, innovative society should accommodate a certain degree of rule-bending.
PAP Govt refuses to reveal or confirm reserves
Revealing the size of Singapore’s reserves would be akin to laying bare the country’s defense plan, diminishing the value of the reserves as a strategic defence, said former Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat during the Budget debate of 2021.
In response to Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (MP) Hazel Poa’s call for more transparency regarding the size of Singapore’s reserves in her Budget speech on 24 February 2021, Mr Heng, who was then the Finance Minister, remarked that disclosing its size was not in Singapore’s national interest.
“No responsible leader would do so,” he stated at the conclusion of a three-day debate on the Budget.
In the previous year, a question about Singapore’s financial assets was raised during a parliamentary session. Mr Leong Mun Wai, a Non-Constituency Member from the Progress Singapore Party, inquired if the Government had declared total financial assets of S$1.4 trillion as of 31 March 2021.
Responding, the Second Minister for Finance, Ms Indranee Rajah, refrained from directly confirming the figure. She instead inquired about the source of the data, saying, “if the data is already available to the public, then I don’t need to confirm it.”
Later, in a Facebook post, Mr Leong expressed his dissatisfaction, stating, “It’s disheartening that the Second Finance Minister, Ms Indranee Rajah, repeatedly avoided confirming the $1.4 trillion figure. Nevertheless, she conceded that if such a figure was released by a government agency, it should be accurate.”
Mr Leong’s intention was to highlight the extensive reserves under the government’s purview, which continuously yield significant revenue.
He underscored these reserves’ potential in supporting future healthcare expenses and urged Singaporeans to recognize the growth of these reserves and the untapped revenues they offer.