17 September, 2015

Confusing Numbers: Singapore & Our Sovereign Wealth Funds

The following are some points about Singapore and our Sovereign Wealth Funds.  The numbers are estimates and rounded off.  They are taken from whatever is available online at the respective sites.

The official balance sheet of the government of Singapore, as at 31st March 2015, has a total income at $150 billion, and net surplus at $111 billion.  Our cash and cash assets are at $256 billion out of our total assets of $1.366 trillion.  Temasek Holdings assets as of this date is $256 billion.  It has since been claimed at $266 billion as of the current date.  Given the cash holdings and the stated portfolio of Temasek Holdings, that would add up to $512 billion.

The outstanding Singapore government borrowing since 31st March 2015, which is the latest I could get, is $396 billion.  It is undoubtedly larger now.  But taking that as the outstanding debt, if Singapore were a giant corporation, which is arguable, then our shareholder equity is $970 billion.

In the 20 years since 1975, our debt has risen by almost $350 billion.  And the IMF has given our operational surplus as $280 billion.  Temasek Holdings have claimed a return of 17% in that time, and 19% this year alone.  GIC itself has claimed a 5% rate of return in that same 20 year period.

If we count backwards, based on these claimed returns, how is it that as of 31st March 2015, our total assets are only $1.366 trillion?  That would mean that in 20 years, our actual return was less than 1%.  The numbers released by the MoF and MAS on one hand, and Temasek Holdings and the GIC on the other hand, are incongruent.  And what we can get from the IMF only makes things more confusing.

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