19 February 2009

Nathan fluffs his reserves explanation

President Nathan gave a press conference to "explain" how and why he agreed to unlock the reserves for the government's 2009 budget, but even with polite, unchallenging reporters on hand, it was a poor job. Full essay.


yuen said...

>It’s complicated. It’s never been done before. And for the assets of land, I can understand why. Every piece of land, even a stretch of road, is probably subdivided into many lots. There are 50,000 to 60,000 lots and every one has a number. If you want to value them all, it would take a long time. In the past, they have just locked everything up and assumed it is all there. But if I am to protect it, at least I want to know the list.

I find this statement of Ong Teng Cheong curious; he seemed to think "reserves" meant all the assets available to the government, but I doubt that was the meaning of "safeguarding the reserves", which simply meant accumulated budget surpluses during previous government terms

I dont know how long it took for OTC and Nathan to get information on accumulated surpluses, but getting current valuation on "50,000to 60,000 lots" of government land would take rather long

Anonymous said...

Would it be correct to say that the reserves are not even touched? My understanding of the job credit is that the money would go to the employer, then to the employee cpf account, which then goes back to the reserves. The only difference between before and after is how much of the reserves belongs to cpf. But if reserves includes cpf then the overall amount has not changed. I'm I wrong?

Anonymous said...

So many words (in the Explanation) to say so little.
There is a saying that "it's better to stay silent and be thought a scatterbrain than to speak up and be confirmed one".

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

George -

I will need you to provide a reasonable substantiation of your remarks within the next 48 hours, or else I will have to remove them.

I would urge readers not to take them as fact until George can support his case.

MLC said...

First, let's give credit where credit is due. It's great that President Nathan stepped forward to provide some answers at a time when some (or perhaps many) of us think that we will be stonewalled. It's a good first step to a healthy policy debate.

Could it be better, sure, because I don't think the focus of these queries lies in either the timing or urgency, but rather the process and principles. Perhaps the former is easier to distract and the latter is harder to answer.

Since, we have now embarked on the 1st step in opening the door to the reserves, and that the Constitution itself does not prescribe the process, this is a gd time for President Nathan to establish the process and stamped his legacy. I sure hope that the requirement for publishing the President's view do not simply just start and end with this press conference.

By the way, I know we bloggers are a fussy and nosy bunch, if any Presidential staff is minding the internet traffic, would you mind publishing the Secretariat and Secretariat of the CPA list too, with the existing illustrious list of the CPAs (www.istana.gov.sg/AboutIstana/CPA/) since now you have attributed responsibility to these guys for having reviewed through the stuff. Oops and this is totally secondary, but you should update the istana website, Jan2008 seems so ages ago.

Anonymous said...

Since they can for the first time in Singapore history, successfully opening up and use our past reserve, be prepared to see more to come as the pap govt has already lost so much hundreds of billions, they may start using the past reserves to recoup their losses, and this is going to be very serious matter to the singaporeans. Believe me, they will, its a matter of time now.

fish 'n' chips said...

What utter rubbish about past reserves, current surpluses, if not utilised...will be locked away safely as past reserves...blah blah blah...

Need to draw on past reserves? You have to get past the elected President and only when he unlocks the vault with his second key. He has never done it before. Up till now, as I am typing away on my keyboard, I repeat, he has never done it before. The only thing that he has done is to give an in-principle approval for this so-called "draw on the reserves" recently.

But wait...do we really need his approval? Ask ourselves, do we really need his second key? The Constitution was drafted and redrafted to suit the current Government to hold on to power for eternity and to make a comeback if they were to be unexpectedly kicked out.

Not too long back, we read in the press on 16 Oct 2008 that the Government has just declared that all bank deposits would be guaranteed to a tune of S$150 billion. They said the guarantee would take immediate effect and will remain in place until 31 Dec 2010.

The government will "guarantee all Singapore dollar and foreign currency deposits of individual and non-bank customers in banks, finance companies and merchant banks licensed by the MAS," the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the finance ministry said in a joint statement.

BTW, did the Government sound out anything to our elected President prior to this? This is no small matter. This is big business...a cool S$150 billion!!! Was there a need for an in-principle approval? You be the judge.

Then there were the many many times, and I strongly believe that nobody could remember how many times, not even themselves, when they move in and out of the vault that supposedly holds the sacred reserves with wheelbarrows ferrying neatly bundled stacks of our past reserves under the watchful but sleepy and unquestioning eyes of our elected President and his CPA and not forgetting the Secretariat.

Or else where do you think the money came from for investing in all those foreign banks. But then again, check out the Constitution and you'll understand that all these are just a WAYANG after all.

But for this Government to take the peoples' money to return some back to the people who have voted them into power, they have to resort to frowning, shaking their heads in disbelief, shrugging their shoulders and beating their brows as if the problems have nothing to do with them as they are not the cause of the world econnmic crisis.

Then they would play out the role of an enlightened sage who had meditated and came up with a very complex solution to solve the most vexing and difficult problems on Earth. They would continue to demonstrate to you that it is with much anguish and pain that they would have to dig deep into the past reserves, the sacred cow, to tide you over with this problem.

In actual fact, they only wanted the message to get into your heads that it was with much reluctance and difficulty that they have to approach the President, broach the subject, present their case and the most difficult part was to convince the President and finally get his approval.

Just this once and please do not keep on coming for more or we'll go down the slippery road of...

Anonymous said...

> For the first time in the ten years since 1999 when we (had not) elected him to be President, we now have a glimpse of the calibre of the man.

I agree. I would not have voted for him. Even if he was the ONLY candidate, I would have spoilt my vote. He had done nothing throughout his 1st term to show that his worth. IMHO, his unconvincing current explanation only reinforces his lack of independent thought.

That's why I think the nomination for elected president and the vetting of selection criteria must be decoupled from the current executives parliament. Otherwise, "beholden" is a fair description of the behaviour manifested by the current (non-)elected president.