Lee Hsien Loong has yet to identify a clear successor – but what about Ho Ching?

While the lack of an identifiable successor for next Premiership has concerned Singaporeans, another critical entity – Temasek Holdings – also seems to face a lack of a successor.

According to the Government, the national investment entity manages $198 billion of our reserves. The weight of this organization was also emphasized by former Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who said in Parliament that the government has a clear interest in Temasek continuing to have strong leadership, so that it can deliver good returns over the long term”.

Yet, there appears to be no successor for Ho Ching who has been Temasek’s CEO since 2002. While we have no details as to when the search for her successor started, some reference can be made to a Parliamentary response which stated that Temasek’s Board and the current CEO Ho Ching has “set about the process of CEO succession review since 2005”.

For such a large organization that is of considerable public interest, it is befuddling why the succession plans are not known or when the new successor is expected to take over.

Wikileaks: Former CEO left due to Ho Ching’s Micromanagement

Back In 2009, Temasek had appointed the CEO at at mining company BHP Billiton – Charles ‘Chip’ Goodyear – to take over Ho Ching. However, Goodyear had left after six months due to “certain strategic issues that could not be resolved”.

Needless to say, his departure had raised considerable questions from international observers and the media alike. Reuters had described Goodyear’s departure as a “shock exit”. According to another article by The Guardian, Ho Ching “had no plan to leave her post, and her stance was supported by the government”.

This promoted Low Thia Khiang – one of two opposition MPs then – to ask the reasons behind Goodyear’s departure.

However, this had no effect as the then Finance Minister Tharman responded that it “would not be appropriate for the Government to add to the statement, bearing in mind that the Government had no role in the decision by the Board and Mr Goodyear not to continue with the CEO transition”.

Later in 2015, a WikiLeaks cable from the U.S. Embassy in Singapore shed some light into why Goodyear left:

“Goodyear left Temasek after his proposed changes to senior management did not go down well with the Board. Also, Goodyear’s reputedly hard questioning of existing investment decisions and plans earned him some rancor among the Temasek investment team, few of whom are reportedly sad to see him depart.

Another local economist suggested to Emboff a slightly more sinister reason: that Madam Ho had continued to micro-manage Temasek despite her planned departure, interfering with Goodyear’s transition to the top spot.”

The cable added that “Temasek’s handling of Goodyear’s departure generated renewed attention to the fund’s lack of transparency”.

His departure has also gained negative criticism from the international community. Sovereign Wealth Fund co-founder Institute Carl Linaburg said “Ho Ching had been widely criticized for Temasek’s major losses in financials. Chip’s departure makes people wonder why Temasek can’t seem to make firm decisions with sound judgment, which is essential for managing the assets of a country.”

In Parliament: Temasek Board reviews and tracks a list of candidates annually

As Ho Ching is already 65 years of age, the question of who will take over as Temasek Holdings is again of concern.

Last March, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera from the Worker’s Party asked in Parliament about how the CEO succession at Temasek Holdings.

The then Senior Minister of State for Finance Indranee Rajah that the Temasek Board “reviews and tracks a list of candidates annually”. She added that “these candidates come from “from outside Temasek, both in Singapore and abroad.” There was again no identifiable successor that has been made known to the public.

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