According to news reports, wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and director of Temasek Holdings (Temasek) Ho Ching (Ho) has taken number 17 in this year's Forebes' list of 100 most powerful women. Another Singaporean who has made the list is Jenny Lee who is the managing partner of global venture capital firm GGV Capital. Ho Ching has apparently improved her place on the rankings by moving up 11 places this year. She has been featured on this list every year since 2004.
While I am proud that Singaporeans have been featured on this global list, it is important to note that Ho started to be featured on this international list the year she became CEO of Temasek. From this, we can deduce that Temasek is a powerful entity with world recognition and Ho's level of power derives arguably in part from her position as CEO of Temasek. She only joined Temasek in 2002. This would mean that she took the helm of Temasek within just two years of joining the fold. Being the chief of Temasek is no small undertaking. Forbes clearly recognises the power behind the brand as well. With such power, how was Ho selected for the role?
I am not the first person to have asked this question. Nor will I be the last. While Ho has had an illustrious career at the Ministry of Defense and at Singapore Technologies, do these translate to the management of billions in a hybrid private/public entity such as Temasek? She is also the wife of the current Prime Minister of Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee) and a member of the powerful Lee family. Is there a conflict of interest?
Ho is credited for helping Temasek's portfolio grow to over $235 billion. However there are also reports of Temasek having made decisions that led to colossal losses. Also, one has to note that the Singapore government invest its budget surplus back into its two investment entities, Temasek, MAS reserves and GIC. So just to what extent has it been Ho that contributed to Temasek's growth?
Does her power stakes stem solely from her role at Temasek or is it intrinsically linked to her marriage to the most powerful man in Singapore? I don't have the answers to those questions but it is a fact that her name only appeared on the Forbes list after becoming CEO of Temasek. It is also a fact that she is married to PM Lee and therefore aligned with the powerful Lee clan.
Forbes does not differentiate between power derived from the private sector or power derived from the public sector. To Forbes, power is power. However, to Singaporeans - what are our views on this? Do we think this is transparent or fair?