Temasek's $40m fund for S'pore crises

SINGAPORE - Temasek Holdings is kickstarting events to mark its 40th year by setting up a $40 million fund to help Singapore prepare for and deal with difficult situations, such as emergencies.

The Temasek Emergency Preparedness fund will give money to programmes that support people in crises, including environmental disasters such as haze, or trauma from accidents.

"At Temasek, we believe that, if you want to do well, you have to be prepared all the time," Temasek Holdings chairman Lim Boon Heng said at a media briefing on Friday.

"So, as we reflect on how we should celebrate our 40th anniversary, we thought that this is an area we should be looking at."

Recalling the Sars epidemic that hit Singapore in 2003 and the haze that engulfed the country last year, Mr Lim said these episodes have underscored the need for Singapore and Singaporeans to be ready to react to emergencies.

"These kinds of experiences tell us that being prepared is one way of mitigating the consequences of unexpected events," he said.

Some uses for the fund could include the buying and distribution of masks in the event of haze, or putting together a pack of supplies to be used in emergencies, Mr Lim suggested.

The specific initiatives to be funded under this endowment will be announced later.

Mr Benjamin William, secretary-general of the Singapore Red Cross, said that the Red Cross had been involved in discussions with Temasek on the fund.

"It is imperative that the wider public engages actively in risk-reduction activities, so as to prepare for and reduce the effects of possible disasters," he said.

"Learning to respond to and cope with the consequences of disasters has a more lasting impact than relief in the aftermath. This new fund will be a significant boost to such efforts."

The fund will be administered by Temasek Cares, one of seven non-profit philanthropic organisations under Temasek's umbrella. Temasek Trust, which administers the funds to these organisations, has set aside about $1.5 billion in endowment funds for various causes since 2003.

Temasek staff themselves are prepared for emergencies, said Mr Lim, who was a Cabinet minister from 2001 to 2011.

All of its more than 450 staff members globally have undergone training for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and how to use the automated external defibrillator. Next up is for all staff to learn first aid.

"We encourage our Temasek portfolio companies to do likewise, and I hope that other companies would do so as well, because these are basic skills which are useful at work or at home," Mr Lim said.

He said that Temasek "cannot work in a silo" and sees itself as part of a broader community in which it "learns, earns and returns".

"We learn by doing, with some occasional missteps; we earn by taking a long-term view; and we return to our shareholders and to the community.

"So, as a company, we pay taxes like other companies, we pay a dividend to our shareholder, the Government, and we provide funds to help the community."

The underlying principle of Temasek's support of the community is to build the capability of organisations and support programmes that "help people help themselves", he added.

Mr Lim said Temasek's survival for 40 years is "testimony to the hard work, commitment and ability of the people who have worked for this organisation".

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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