Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Temasek's investment portfolio down 31% to S$127b as of 30 Nov 2008
Channelnewsasia 10.2.09

SINGAPORE: Temasek Holdings' portfolio of investments fell 31 per cent to S$127 billion as of 30 November last year, according to latest data revealed in Parliament on Tuesday.

This was down S$58 billion from S$185 billion eight months earlier in light of the global financial crisis.

Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport, Lim Hwee Hua, said: "This is less than the corresponding declines in the MSCI Singapore Index of 44 per cent and the MSCI Asia ex-Japan of 45 per cent both in Singapore dollar terms over the same period."

Despite this, the Singapore government said both Temasek as well as the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC) have the ability and resources to weather the ups and downs over multiple economic and market cycles.

Responding to questions in Parliament, Mrs Lim said both Temasek and the GIC have sufficient liquidity to cope with Singapore's funding needs.

Mrs Lim added that Temasek and GIC are long-term investors, and as such they do not have to divest their investments in market downturns.

She said: "They do not have to sell in panic in a market downturn, and are in fact in an advantageous position to invest in good quality assets at prices that are attractive from a long-term perspective during a downturn. The government is confident that they will continue to deliver good long-term returns within the risk limits set."

Mrs Lim said this is not the first major downturn both soveriegn wealth funds had gone through. She noted that both Temasek and GIC had bounced back from significant reductions in asset values in previous slumps, including the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.

And despite the downturns, the two investment companies had seen credible investment returns over the years.

Mrs Lim said: "In spite of these market gyrations, including the current downturn, for the 20-year period to late 2008, Temasek had achieved annualised returns of about 13 per cent. GIC, which has a diversified and more conservative portfolio, also had credible returns over the 20-year period.

"As at March 2008, the 20-year average return was 5.8 per cent in nominal Singapore dollar terms. The figure for March 2009 would have fallen as a result of the decline in 2008, but would not be sharply down."

Mrs Lim also reiterated that Temasek must continue to operate commercially without government interference. But she does not rule out the possibility of a third investment fund set up to buy into local companies hit by the current downturn. Mrs Lim was addressing suggestions for Temasek to play a role in rescuing local firms that have been affected by the economic crisis.

She said: "If Temasek is asked to undertake a national agenda, it will in fact validate some of the concerns over sovereign wealth funds having political objectives, and may ultimately impede Temasek's ability to participate in investments internationally."

My comments:

Dear Friends,

It was during a lunch break last week- a time when most of us would take a few minutes off from our packed schedules to grab a quick bite in the doctors’ lounge and to exchange views about the salient topics of the day, when someone broached the subject of the resignation of Mdm Ho Ching as Temasek Holding’s CEO and Executive Director. The consensus was that we were unanimous in our gratitude for her selfless sacrifice to the nation and that it was regrettable for her to leave now just when the tree that she had nurtured was about to bear fruit!

Ok, I confess. The above situation is a "tongue-in-cheek" account that did not actually take place and is but a pure figment of my imagination.

I will briefly describe a typical day in my hospital and what actually happened.

We do have daily conversations over lunch. But these leisurely fellowships are characterized by lively discussions and conversations which are not genteel and refined-as depicted above, but passionate and animated. Perhaps in the OTHER private hospital, discourse and deliberations are carried out in hushed tones and half-whispers but in OUR hospital’s lounge, everyone has an opinion and is not afraid to voice it.

On the topic of the resignation of the Madam, most felt that it could not have come a day sooner. The laudatory remarks by the Main Stream Media (MSM) were not universally shared and when the Madam’s name was mentioned certain other names kept coming up and being bandied around. Names like “Micropolis”; “Shin Corp”; “Merrill Lynch” & “ABC Learning Centre” etc.

One particularly cynical guy-who is known to be brutally honest, said out loud that Temasek’s losses must be at least 30B’s! Most of us asked him to keep his opinions to himself as we did not share his pessimism and dismissed his guesstimate as idle talk!

Little did we know that his 30B is a gross underestimate of Temasek’s (albeit paper) losses. Double the 30B is closer to the mark!

58B is the number!

I am Flabbergasted, astounded, stunned, bewildered, and shocked.

And we have not even looked at GIC’s numbers yet!

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Medical Guideline on Fees should be reinstated now


The Straits Times Forum printed my letter on the issue of the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) Guideline On Fees (GOF).

I have blogged on this matter in 2007 (here).

Recently the topic is on the radar screen again - I think because it was resurrected by Prof. Lee Wei Ling. If you do not already know, she is the daughter of MM Lee Kuan Yew.

Dr. Huang Shoou Chyuan

NB: (11.2.09) The CCS has replied and I attach it below.
The CCS mentioned that SMA paid $5000 as an application fees in Feb 5 (2009) and is insinuating that my figures are inflated. It is a matter of public record that the President, SMA quoted in a national newspaper the figure of $200,000 in 2007! So who is right? Anyway, bureaucrats will always get their last word in!

The forum letter:

Reinstate guidelines for docs

Feb 7, 2009

I REFER to the report 'Fee guidelines for docs: Yes or no?'.

I feel that the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) has itself been poorly advised as its stand had led the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) to scrap its Guidelines On Fees (GOF) for fear of being branded anti-competitive.

The 47th SMA Council dropped the bombshell announcement at its annual general meeting on April 1, 2007, and it became clear later that it had no choice as it would cost the SMA at least $200,000 - that is, $20,000 for guidance from CCS to file paperwork; $30,000 for a decision; $150,000 for legal fees - to get a formal decision from the commission on the guidelines.

All most of us wanted was to ensure that Singapore's reputation as a centre of medical excellence - which was painstakingly built by previous generations of doctors - would not be ruined by the black sheep in our profession, who think nothing of charging many times what another doctor would for the exact same procedure.

For example, how would any patient know that procedure X is charged $2,000 by most doctors rather than the $20,000 quoted?

The GOF was mooted in the early 1980s when the Ministry of Health, the SMA and the Association of Private Medical Practitioners of Singapore felt a need to publish a fee schedule to provide greater transparency for patients. Much work was put in collaboratively by general practitioners as well as by doctors of different sub-specialities, and by the time it was scrapped, there were already four editions.

Contrary to the commission's fears, the medical community is not a cartel and the GOF was never a tool for price-fixing.

In fact, the editor of the fourth edition wrote: 'Practitioners who wish to charge outside this guideline should inform their patients accordingly...' and 'practitioners are encouraged to continue their practice of reducing or waiving fees for patients who cannot afford to pay the usual fees'.

The doctor-patient relationship is a very unequal one. The doctor holds all the cards as he has knowledge that the patient requires. The patient often does not have the time and resource to seek many medical opinions before deciding on treatment. This is especially true for foreign patients.

If we leave the patients without any guidance, patients may be 'fleeced' and Singapore's reputation in the medical field would be short-lived.

The Competition Commission should admit its mistake and advise the SMA to reinstate the guidelines immediately. It should not take six months to 'look at how the medical sector is structured and its practices here and in other countries'.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

CCS's reply in the ST Forum (11.2.09)

I REFER to last Saturday's letter, 'Reinstate guidelines for docs'. Competition issues are often complex and have significant economic impact on many segments of the public. It is, therefore, necessary that the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) undertakes a thorough analysis before it concludes whether any practice is anti-competitive. It is not appropriate for CCS to provide specific advice on any competition case without doing so.
Price transparency to consumers should be encouraged. In this regard, CCS supports the practice of service providers clearly publishing and explaining their respective pricing information to consumers. A price recommendation by an association of service providers, on the other hand, entails the association recommending what the industry as a whole should charge. CCS notes that price recommendations are generally held by many competition authorities worldwide not to be in the public interest.

CCS has initiated a detailed study of the issue of fee guidelines in the medical services sector, in view of recent public interest in this subject. The study will examine the local market for medical services to see if there are special circumstances that justify any form of fee guidelines. We will also consider any alternative measures that may improve price information to the consumer. In conducting the study, CCS welcomes all input and views from the medical community and the public.

The writer may wish to note that on Feb 5, the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) submitted a formal application to CCS for a decision on whether its Guidelines on Fees are excluded from the Competition Act's prohibition against anti-competitive agreements. This is the first time that SMA has applied to CCS for a decision. To correct any misperception that the writer may have about the fees to be paid, SMA paid $5,000 to CCS for this application. CCS will respond to the application after completing its evaluation.

Chin Yen Yen (Ms)
Deputy Director,
Corporate Communications Competition Commission of Singapore