Temasek and Transparency

The Wall Street Journal

“We hired the best,” Singapore founder Lee Kuan Yew said last month, referring to the incoming head of state-owned investment firm Temasek, Chip Goodyear. Yesterday, Temasek released a statement saying Mr. Goodyear wouldn’t be taking the job after all. Given that Temasek manages about $84 billion in taxpayer monies, Singaporeans deserve to know what happened.

Mr. Goodyear’s appointment was a step toward more transparency and professionalism. He was the first non-Singaporean to be named as CEO and had experience running companies in Australia and U.S. Current CEO Ho Ching, the wife of the prime minister, spent her professional career in Singapore and has presided over a huge fall in the company’s portfolio value amid the recent financial crisis.

Temasek said in a statement yesterday that the parting of ways was mutual and cited “differences regarding certain strategic issues that could not be resolved.” Ms. Ho was quoted as saying she hopes “to complete the initiatives” Mr. Goodyear started. In a statement emailed to us yesterday, Chairman Suppiah Dhanabalan said those initiatives include “policies, work processes and systems.” But a spokesman declined to comment when we asked if more transparency was also on the agenda.

Temasek took a step in the right direction in 2004 under Ms. Ho’s tenure when it released its first annual report—30 years after its founding. Much more could be done. Temasek, which is wholly owned by the Ministry of Finance, releases only consolidated results, limited historical financial data and scant details on how it evaluates and compensates its executives.

Under Singapore law, Temasek isn’t obligated to release any financial data at all. But if Ms. Ho wants to send a message to taxpayers that Temasek is still on a reform path, she’ll assure them that Mr. Goodyear’s appointment wasn’t merely an aberration from opacity as usual.

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