Tuesday, 26 September 2023

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Should Tharman still qualify for PE2023 after MAS reported a massive loss of S$30 billion?

by Joseph Nathan

A month ago, People’s Action Party (PAP)’s veteran politician Tharman Shanmugaratnam made a move akin to a well-orchestrated chess game. He announced his decision to step down as Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to run for the upcoming Presidential Election 2023.

This comes after President Halimah Yacob announced that she would not be contesting in the election, foreseeing a challenging vote since the election will be open to all races. As such, she appears to be retreating from Istana to avoid potential defeat.

By doing so, Halimah has shown that she is not only the most controversial president but validated the Hard Truth as to how controversial the qualifying criteria and its mechanism for our Presidential Election have become – she is qualified to contest by way of her political affiliation, and yet, she is deemed to be too incompetent and lacks the integrity to win the trust and votes of the people.

Everyone knows that Tharman is also “anointed” by the PAP-led government for PE2023 to retain absolute control of every aspect of power in Singapore. But will he be just as controversial as Halimah?

Why the glaring discrepancy?

Just last week, MAS reported a massive loss of S$30.8 billion for FY2023, and for its previous financial year, it also suffered another massive loss of S$7.4 billion.

Since the prevailing qualifying criteria for the “Certificate of Eligibility” to contest in the Presidential Election states that individuals from the private sector must demonstrate that their companies are firstly profitable for the past three years and must also have a shareholders’ equity of more than S$500-million, shouldn’t the Presidential Election Committee (PEC) also hold Tharman to the same stringency of its qualifying criteria and not allow him a free pass to contest based solely on just ministerial appointment?

If all candidates from the private sector are expected to demonstrate their financial competency as required under the prevailing qualifying criteria for the Presidential Election, which is dictated by the PAP-led government, then why is Tharman exempted from this criterion of the PAP?

If a Chairman or CEO from the private sector can be denied a certificate of eligibility to contest if their organization is not profitable for the past three years, regardless of their other achievements, then shouldn’t the same be exacted on the public sector too, and without exception?

How Honest Has Tharman Been About The Massive Losses Incurred By MAS?

MAS has attributed its latest massive losses to “the strengthening of the Singapore dollar, exacerbated by weak investment gains as both bond and equity markets performed poorly” and also to “the effects of tightening monetary policy to bring inflation down”.

What this means is that the PAP-led government has not been diligently strategizing our economic growth to develop real economic values that are strategically sustainable and able to offer us strong comparative and competitive advantages over the competition.

That is why our economy has become so weak and is vulnerable to every external shock, and in turn, our Sing Dollar is so badly weakened that it needed to be “artificially” strengthened by costly monetary injections to keep inflation in check and also defend the parity of the Sing Dollar against a basket of foreign currencies used to “peg” our currency, and this has resulted in massive forex losses.

As the parity of our currency has become weaker than the mean parity of the “basket of foreign currencies”, this means that most foreign investors will have to adjust for serious forex losses to keep their capital investments in Singapore or continue to invest in our equity or bond markets.

Some may be forced to cash out their investments that are more liquid to redirect their funds elsewhere, and this, in turn, will further weaken our currency.

Just think—if our economy is as well-strategized and strong as what the MAS and the PAP-led government want us to believe, then how can our Sing Dollar be so weak?

How can our cost-of-living be so badly affected by runaway inflation if our government has been diligently planning for our food, energy and water security?

Domestically, if we can now buy much less things with a S$50 note than before, just think about the deflationary effect that all these economic mismanagements have on our savings, assets and stock-holdings.

This is further evident by the massive S$7.3 billion losses suffered by Temasek in FY2023, and if we are to include all the losses suffered by our GLCs and GIC, then the aggregated loss may be much higher.

As MAS has to generate operating profit, no one knows exactly as to how much forex losses MAS has actually incurred as it is should be much more than the reported S$30.8 billion, no?

Economically speaking, Singapore is technically haemorrhaging itself to death while the people are getting poorer as the real values of our homes, savings, assets and stock-holdings get deflated.

As such, we can now see that Tharman has not been very honest in explaining these economic discrepancies and weaknesses that have been savagely plaguing our economy.

He has also not been very proactive as a minister to correct or rebuke his cadres in the PAP-cabinet for not planning strategically but has been lazily growing our economy by only knowing how to increase taxes and prices of essentials, like our electricity, water, transportation, public housing and its mortgages, cost of living and also the lack of security planning against the vital import of water, energy, food and medical supplies.

Yes, the massive S$30.8-billion loss suffered by MAS is a troubling reflection of a symptomatic abnormality that is underpinning the weaknesses and incompetency of the 4G PAP government to sustain our economic growth and plan for our security against external factors and influences.

To get a sense of just how much was lost, let us take the S$30.8 billion and if we are to share it equally among the 3.55 million Singapore citizens, then each Singapore citizen could have benefitted from a dividend payout of S$8,676, and that surely can help many families who are struggling to just put food on their tables.

Yes, that is just how massive the loss that MAS suffered when Tharman was its Chairman.

So given the massive economic and security failures of the PAP-led government, is the PEC still going to ignore the massive losses suffered by MAS, or will they still grant Tharman or any other PAP minister a free pass to contest in PE2023 despite their colossal economic and security failures?

Isn’t the role of the Elected President to prevent a rogue or incompetent government from squandering away our reserves and economic incomes generated by our national assets instead of working hard to improve our economic prosperity?

With so many scandals and the recent high-profile corruption investigation involving the Transport Minister, one is thus warned of how the political use of money politics might ultimately destroy every moral fibre of our once-successful society.

If so, how can Tharman profess to be a person of good character when he is just as complicit as those PAP cabinet ministers?

We already know that Tharman is a man without even an iota of courage to stand up for himself, much less for others or the country, as evident when he was told off by PM Lee that Singapore is not ready for an Indian Prime Minister.

But to finally see just how deviously complicit he has actually been as a PAP minister all these years, I wonder how on earth he can, if elected as the president, rebuke any of his former PAP cadres when his hands are as stained as theirs.

In this aspect, I personally think Heng Swee Keat has shown himself to have more moral courage than Tharman and also the good conscience to dare to do what is right by the people, even if it cost him the chance to become the successor of Lee, no?

So for the sake of our country and the future of our children, let us think objectively as “one united people” and not allow PE2023 to become another missed opportunity to do what is right and good for our country.

One Country, Two Systems?

Or is it really true that under the PAP-led government, Singapore is already being governed under a one country, two systems rule, where an exacting rule is being enforced mercilessly upon the people while the elite and those who are politically connected get to indulge and be entitled to “do as they like”, without the need for even an iota of accountability?

That is why If the PEC is to allow Tharman to contest in PE2023, then the integrity of our Presidential Election will definitely be drawn into question, adding to the already many sagas, scandals and fiascos that are plaguing the PAP-led government.

Or will Singaporeans be forced into “civil disobedience” as the only option forward?

As such, PE2023 may well become the ultimate litmus test on the integrity of the 4G PAP-led government, and if so, may well be the beginning of the end for the “men in white” if more Singaporeans are to perceive that the PAP has failed us economically and has to resort to deliberately creating ambiguities within the qualifying mechanism and its criteria to deprive worthy Singaporeans of their chance to become our Elected President.

For the sake of our children’s future, we must all start to think pragmatically and use our vote for PE2023 much more wisely if we still believe that Singapore deserves better…

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