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Guidelines for wealth funds apply to Temasek, says ministry
Bryan Lee
Tue, Apr 01, 2008
The Straits Times

THE Ministry of Finance yesterday said that Temasek Holdings should abide by guidelines for sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) that were unveiled just over a week ago.

It said that as Temasek is wholly owned by the Government, the 'policy principles' it helped craft with counterparts from Abu Dhabi and the United States are relevant for the local investment company.

'There is still no universally accepted definition of SWFs,' said Mr Laurence Lien, the ministry's governance and investment director. 'The policy principles for SWFs are broad guidelines that take into account the diversity of SWFs and the different contexts they operate under,' he said in response to queries from The Straits Times.

His comments come after Temasek said it was not affected by the new guidelines. 'We are not a sovereign wealth fund. Temasek has to sell assets to raise cash for new investments and doesn't require the Government to give approvals,' said a Temasek spokesman.

The guidelines aim to help ease tension between SWFs and the countries receiving their investments. While most SWFs were created to maximise returns on government surpluses, they are viewed with increasing suspicion that their motives may not be purely commercial.

Mr Lien said the aim of the principles is to ensure that concerns over SWFs will not lead to protectionist measures inhibiting cross- border investments.

He added that while transparency is not a goal in itself, it is a means for SWFs to demonstrate and support their commercial orientation.

Mr Lien said SWFs may be narrowly defined as government- owned investment vehicles that are funded only by foreign reserves or central bank assets. But a wider definition could include all state-owned investment vehicles, regardless of their funding.

'Whether Temasek is classified as an SWF, therefore, depends on which definition one uses,' he said. 'Temasek owns and manages its own assets. The Government's relationship with Temasek is that of a sole shareholder.'

By contrast, the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC) does not own its own assets, but manages them on behalf of the Government, he added.

'The Government's relationship with GIC is hence that of a fund owner-fund manager.'

In any case, Mr Lien said Temasek's annual reports already exceed the disclosure standards set out by the policy principles.

He said he hopes that the policy principles will be used as a basis for upcoming SWF rules by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The IMF is putting together a voluntary code of best practices for SWFs, while the OECD is developing guidelines for countries receiving the investments.

bryanlee@sph.com.sg

 

 

 
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