Sunday, May 17, 2009

A parting bonus from a gracious Ms Ho Ching

The colossal loss of between US$ 2.3 billion (S$3.4 billion) and US$4.6 billion by the much-vaunted Temasek Holdings in its sale of all its Bank of America (BoA) shares is indeed a gracious parting gift from an equally gracious Ms Ho Ching, Temasek's chief executive officer, to the people of Singapore. Or is this going to be her last parting gift since there are still some months to go before October 1st when she hands over her CEO's post to her successor. Is this not a valid reason why she should not have been removed earlier?

Ms Ho Ching cannot be blamed if she thinks that the people of Singapore are moronic for her to be able to weather this and all her past miscalculation of Temasek's investments with alacrity and impunity. Is her enjoyment of impunity because of her position as the wife of the Prime Minister? One is free to draw his or her conclusion.

You get an extraordinary situation in Singapore where the CEO of a state-owned investment company does not have to account for bad investment losses, in this case probably because of the CEO's political connection. In the case of a renowned multi-national corporation, the CEO will not only be given a short shrift but will probably be made liable for the losses through bad or negligent judgement.

One strange phenomenon is that this colossal financial loss by Temasek does not seem to evoke much public wrath which may give a false sense of security to Ms Ho Ching. One reason may be that freedom of the press here is something of an illusion. The Straits Times Press is under the control of an overbearing Singapore Press Holdings and has to heed its master's voice. one would not find any one of its chicken-hearted staff brave enough to publish anything frowned upon by the government. So even if one is gallant enough to pen something to the press to take the government to task over this issue, his or her chances of getting his or her letter aired are almost nil.

The two opposition Members Of Parliament are silently articulate, to use an oxymoron. They appeared to be overawed, if not mortified, and, quite understandably, could not be expected to be as efficacious. They lack the eloquence and audacity of maverick Dr. Chee Soon Juan, the so-called madcap general secretary of the Singapore Democratic Party who could render an eminent orator and debater like the Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew speechless in cross-examination of the latter in the HighCourt. If Dr. Chee Soon Juan can manage to enter Parliament, it is certain that the House will be livelier.

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