Phillip Ang: Almost 50% of Temasek’s top management are foreigners – what hope do Singapore PMETs have?

Phillip Ang: Almost 50% of Temasek’s top management are foreigners – what hope do Singapore PMETs have?

Regular blogger, Phillip Ang, shared an image of Temasek Holding’s management team on his Facebook page on Sunday (16 August) while highlighting the composition between local and foreign talents.

Specifically, the image shows 29 members of the company’s management team as listed on its website. The image noted that 14 of them are foreigners, or 48%. It questions, “Do Singaporean PMETs have any hope when Temasek is managed by 48% foreigners?”

Mr Ang, in his caption, also asked, “Temasek says Ho Ching is not among the top 5 highest paid in Temasek but are there others paid above $100 million? Why is Temasek afraid to disclose total management cost and salary breakdown?”

Image from Phillip Ang / Facebook

The question of Temasek CEO Mdm Ho’s salary often crops up in public debate. In April, a Taiwan news site even claimed that she earns about S$99 million a year or S$300,000 a day as the incumbent Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Temasek Holdings.

Though it rarely ever addresses the matter of remuneration of its top management, this time Temasek addressed the claims of Mdm Ho’s salary directly, merely saying that the claim is “false”. Temasek also noted that her annual compensation is not the highest within the firm nor is she among the top five highest paid executives.

Now, another issue that is especially pertinent during these trying times, is the country’s dependence of foreign labour. It was one of the major issues of the recent general election, but was already being debated as the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many people losing their jobs and being retrenched.

The question of securing jobs for Singaporeans and ensuring that Singaporeans are protected from retrenchments has been argued by political parties on all sides as well as activists and experts.

Looking at Temasek specifically, though, we wanted to know how the composition of its team has changed over the years.

In 2011, according to the annual Temasek Review, senior management of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund consisted of 43 people which included managing directors of different departments and regions. Of those, 10 were foreigners. That’s roughly only 23% of all senior management.

Compare this to nine years later in 2020, it’s clear that the composition has tipped towards more foreigners in senior management positions. Now, almost half of Temasek’s top executives are not Singaporeans.

As Mr Ang asked in his Facebook post, “Do Singaporean PMETs have any hope when Temasek is managed by 48% foreigners?”

In early April when Singapore was just starting to feel the pinch of the economic impact caused by the global pandemic, a redditor highlighted how his company retrenched six out of 11 Singaporeans, including himself. The other 33 staff, all foreigners, were retained.

More recently in early August, aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney announced that it had retrenched 20 per cent of its workforce in Singapore. One of the companies called Eagle Services Asia is a joint venture between Pratt & Whitney and SIA Engineering. Eagle Services had initially wanted to retrench 144 workers, with 56 per cent of them being Singaporeans, according to the Managing Director of Eagle Services Asia, Yip Ying Kiong.

Following a legal strike and a renegotiation with the aviation unions, the retrenchment process was “corrected”, leading to the final list consisting of 144 workers still, with 44 per cent being Singaporeans.

Given the way things are turning out, Singapore’s major business chamber, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), has come forward to urge employers to only opt for retrenchment as a last resort. It added that if that is the path they choose, the company should then ensure that the exercise does not erode the its proportion of local staff.

SBF chairman Lim Ming Yan said, “If companies need to retrench, they should have in place fair criteria that protect their Singaporean core and yet retain talent necessary for growth.”

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