Transfer of reserves: Singaporeans in real trouble

26 April 2004

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Singapore Democrats

The SDP has learned that Parliament has amended the Constitution to allow the transfer of reserves from the Government to statutory boards and government-linked companies.

If true, this step has ominous implications for Singaporeans and our future. The Government must come clean and unambiguously explain to the people what it is trying to do with this latest change of the Constitution.

The fact that the ruling party continues to amend the Constitution at will (four other amendments were apparently passed at the sitting) to suit its own needs is troubling enough. But the present amendment to allow the transfer of our nations reserves to government bodies and businesses is in a category all on its own, and signals a dangerous level into which the state-management of Singapore's economy has descended.

With a system that is as non-transparent and unaccountable as the PAP's, this opening up of the vault to our reserves may yet be the latest sign of the desperate financial situation the government organizations have found themselves in. Without proper accounting and a transparent system where the opposition, civil society, and media can probe the propriety of these financial transactions, how can the people be assured that the reserves, which include the life savings of Singaporeans, will not be misused and abused?

It is equally vexing, but unsurprising, that the issue has received so little publicity in the media. Apparently, news of this constitutional amendment was buried in the 15th paragraph of a report entitled More foreign-born kids to get citizenship in the Straits Times.

And yet questions abound: How much is allowed to be transferred to any one company? Who will determine/approve the transactions? Under what criteria will the transfers be deemed necessary? Will it be guaranteed that the money will not be lost through ventures, business of otherwise, conducted by the statutory boards and GLCs? Most important, do Singaporeans agree for the Government to make these transfers in the first place?

As usual, the PAP as manipulated politics to the point where it can do anything and everything it wants. Nothing and no one in Singapore can prevent the Government from abusing the system.

Some may say that, given the deteriorating political and economic situation in the country, Singaporeans will send a message to the PAP and vote for the opposition at the next elections. Singaporeans must realize that at the present rate we are going under the present system, hell will freeze over first before the PAP allows Singaporeans to hold it accountable through elections.

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General
Singapore Democratic Party