Singaporeans have hardly recovered from the shocking Temasek's colossal loss from its sale of Bank of America shares and are now presented with another no less shocking loss of between 500 million pounds sterling (S$1.2 billion) and 600 million pounds sterling in the sale of its stake in British banking giant Barclays. And a so-called Temasek's spokesman had the cheek to say that they "don't comment on unsourced reports." Such arrogance of Temasek's staff is a sad reflection of the superciliousness of its top management in dealing with the public and the chief executive officer is not without fault. It is amazing that such colonial-minded attitude still exists in Temasek.
Straits Times has performed a chivalrous service to the Singapore public by exposing this gross financial mismanagement by Temasek. By all indications, if not for the Straits Times exposure, Temasek will in all probability be keeping this colossal financial loss under wrap, hoping in this way to escape the wrath of the public. So much for the integrity and transparency of Temasek's honcho. Now that this financial mess is public knowledge, will the public let this pass without any uproar or will it take the Temasek's management to task for this gross financial mismanagement?
There were all kinds of speculations by financial analysts and fund managers on Temasek's sale of its Barclays stake at a colossal loss but not an iota of explanation from the so-called upfront Tamesak about its financial fiasco in Barclays. It has the impudence to suggest that news reports on this sensitive subject do not reflect Temasek's policy and that the public should independently ascertain the veracity of these reports before contemplating any action. Is this all the expanation that Temasek could give and is this its manifestation of transparency? A loss is a loss by whatever name and is a fact in this case arising out of Temasek's injudicious and ill-advised investment.
One thing is certain is that the ebullient Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will, like a knight-errant, come to the rescue of the hubristic Temasek's management with his usual sophistry glossing over the flagrant financial loss and exaggerating the overall profits of Temasek. This is expected of him as a dutiful minister.
In this connection, Singapore can take a leaf out of the book of Japanese culture. The Japanese have such an excellent civil culture, which Singapore leaders try to emulate in certain aspects, that, in such a situation as the Temasek financial fiasco, the chairman or president of the corporation will publicly apologise to the public to seek their forgiveness. In serious cases, the honchos may even perform "hara kiri" (suicide by cutting open the abdomen) to atone for their mistakes. Can one imagine Ms Ho Ching apologising to the public or performing the hara kiri?
From the secretive way Temasek goes about its business, it would not be surprising if the latest financial fiasco may not be the final parting gift of the gracious Ms Ho Ching considering that October 1, the handover date, is still some time away.