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Former banker questions narratives put forth by politicians on Singapore reserves in CNA documentary series

Chris Kuan, a former banker, critically analyzes the “Singapore Reserves Revealed” documentary. He challenges PAP’s longstanding emphasis on reserves growth and calls for greater transparency in Singapore’s economic strategies.



Produced over a meticulous span of six months, Channel News Asia’s documentary series, “Singapore Reserves Revealed,” offers an unprecedented look into one of Singapore’s most tightly guarded secrets: its reserves.

This comprehensive exposé is timely, coming just before the upcoming presidential election on 1 September, which may result in a contest if multiple candidates come forward.

The series has attracted significant attention, not least because it features exclusive interviews with the nation’s leading figures, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong.

During his interview, PM Lee observed that while Singapore’s current reserves are “sufficient for most circumstances,” it would be a grave mistake to assume this status quo will persist indefinitely. He pointed out that the nation’s expenditures are now outpacing its revenue.

However, when pressed for specific figures regarding Singapore’s reserves, the Prime Minister remained reticent. He underscored that the reserves significantly bolster Singapore’s annual budget, contributing to government revenues.

DPM Wong, who also stopped short of revealing exact figures, stressed that, abundant as the nation’s reserves might seem, increased withdrawals from the Net Investment Returns Contribution (NIRC) would not be prudent.

He emphasized that the reserves should not be perceived solely as an emergency buffer but also as an essential endowment addressing the nation’s current needs.

Positioned to succeed PM Lee, DPM Wong echoed the government’s long-standing stance, contending that reinvesting returns into the national reserves is vital for Singapore’s financial longevity.

“If we don’t reinvest, the value of the reserves will diminish over time,” he cautioned.

Despite the insights shared in the CNA series, Chris Kuan, a former Singaporean banker now based in Japan, feels it left many stones unturned.

In his pointed critique, Kuan contended that the documentary primarily echoed the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) – the ruling party since Singapore’s independence – emphasis on consistently augmenting the reserves.

Kuan posed several critical questions, shedding light on potential gaps in the documentary’s narrative:

  • Why should Singapore’s reserves grow in tandem with GDP when the wage component of GDP stands at a mere 40%?
  • With the anticipated decline in Singapore’s citizenry*, would the nation witness reduced fiscal commitments, nullifying the need to amass reserves at the existing rate?
  • And could an unrelenting focus on inflating reserves inadvertently drive up real estate prices, thereby escalating costs and depleting savings?

    Kuan wrote, “Through the feedback loop of using CPF for housing, is this not akin to chasing our own tails – higher real estate prices = higher reserves = higher costs = less savings = higher state spending = higher real estate prices = higher reserves =………?”

Concluding his analysis, Kuan argued that the documentary, rather than clarifying matters, perpetuated a narrative shrouded in secrecy. “You are told, but really you are not,” he remarked, underscoring the imperative for greater transparency and a diversified perspective on Singapore’s economic path.

On a related note, addressing DPM Wong’s concerns about diminishing reserves, Workers’ Party Member of Parliament Louis Chua, in his 2022 Budget speech and the debate over the GST amendment bill, pointed out that even after the drawdown of $43 billion from Singapore’s reserves for COVID-19 relief packages, the reserves are still more substantial than they were five years prior.

Intriguingly, when presented with this observation in parliament, DPM Wong did not refute Mr Chua’s point.

*According to data released by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), the number of live births dropped by 7.9%, from 38,672 in 2021 to 35,605 in 2022.

Simultaneously, the country registered a total of 26,891 deaths, marking a 10.7% increase from 2021 and the highest annual death count in over six decades.

At the same time, Singapore granted around 23,100 new citizenships last year, with 1,300 going to children born overseas to Singaporean parents. Additionally, approximately 34,500 new permanent residencies were granted.

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U still believe in PAPee’;s “stinking GUTSEEFART”????

Everyone understands the need of National Reserve! I am sure every country on planet Earth has it. Other countries need huge reserve for natural calamities, and its citizens knew how much and how it was used. Some citizen even knew how much is in the reserve. In Singapore, its citizen know nothing on the reserve, how much was taken and for what purpose! How the president was supposed to protect it? Singapore citizen only know how many time the reserve was used when the President reveal it at the end of his/her team. ” … even after the drawdown of… Read more »

Yes, no need all the people, just 60% will do.

I am relaxed. Singapore has enough money. Unless there is a War with another Asean nation, the reserves will not be used up. Covid lockdowns will neve be repeated. It led to a global downturn that will turn into a recession possibly in 2024. So, the world will not lock down again even if another pandemic arises. I relax…Singapore is safe, clean, green and simply a great place to live.

“Channel News Asia’s documentary series, “Singapore Reserves Revealed,” offers an unprecedented look into one of Singapore’s most tightly guarded secrets: its reserves.”

After this so called “reveal”; What you know about the reserves now, any wiser?

I am only interested in the Reserve is, it is “empty”? With so many vanity projects going on, how’s the reserve was used!

Why the need to increase GST?

Looks like the title of the documentary “Singapore Reserves Revealed” reflects the reality we live in – it is all simply a lie. Were the actual Reserves figures revealed? That is why I do not bother to watch the documentary because I know, despite the title, the PAP government WILL NEVER reveal the actual figures. The documentary is just another platform for the PAP government to justify how it handles the Reserves. And the G also takes pain to warn that the “nation’s expenditures are now outpacing its revenue”. To this, I say “then Temasek, GIC and MAS should be… Read more »

Can there be 2 accounting books given the secretcy?
Parallel universe?

State Machinery used by g. What an privilege to enjoy. Opposition not have such privilege. Unlevel playing field. Without this unlevel field, what’s left of them?

Reserves “REVEALED” but Not Revealed. Another case of Ridout?
Self defined “perceived conflict of interest”? Arbiter of Truth?
Is Revealed defined as Not Revealed? Also can right if we play with the balls of Technicalities of words for oral masturbation?

Last edited 10 months ago by Oligarchlee the KOK

Full of Elephants in the room size of the Istana : 1. Every “Justification” desperately used by State Machinery to make people believe in the g only makes us perceive how desperate they are which raises the red flags even higher. 2. Unsustainable to Eternally keep the reserves a secret. A future gov (safer way to say it) if lose say 100 billions, can HIDE THIS HEAVY LOSS from the people citing this excuse , citing national Interest. 3. Parliamentarians have not explained what is the official answer to whether a elected president automatically can know all the Reserves data?… Read more »

Last edited 10 months ago by Oligarchlee the KOK