Now that Chip Goodyear’s tenure as CEO of Temasek is a non-starter, a great many questions would be flooding Singaporean minds about the non-answers provided in the official statements of Temasek.
Strategic differences? What were they? Why did they not surface earlier during the courting process? Why were they not noticed by the astute custodians of Temasek? Perhaps, the differences involved some corporate governance issues? Perhaps they involved issues of transparency? We will never know.
But, in politics, speculations are just as bad as damaging revelations. How would the average Singaporean voter react to Goodyear’s departure and the return of Ho Ching? Given the losses churned out by Temasek and the complete silence on the accountability front, it is tempting to assume that the latest news of Goodyear’s departure would broaden discontent amongst the electorate. I am not so sure.
One type of Singaporean is a hardcore oppositionist. Everything negative involving the powers that be is reflective of PAP’s failure. Temasek, headed by the PM’s wife, having its portfolio decimated by the meltdown in the financial system is just another ammunition to hurl at the PAP; just another issue to hate the PAP for.
Then there is the hardcore PAP supporter. This this type of voter the PAP can do no wrong. Official explanations are the gospel. There is nothing fishy about even the fishiest explanation provided by any person or body remotely associated with the state. The person inhabiting this fairy tale la la land is not going to be moved by the Temasek saga at all. To this person Temasek did not lose $58 billion but made a gain of $56 billion from 2003.
There are voters who would normally vote for the PAP who either don’t like the PAP’s style of government (but don’t hate them) or are not too interested one way or another about politics. The question is whether this grouo of voters would be swayed by the Temasek winds. My guess is that they would not.
Temasek is investing peoples’ money. The $58 billion can be seen as gambling away the electorate’s fund. But, the hard fact is that the retrenched Singaporean worker or the recession hit small business ownwer or any other Singaporean making ends meet or failing to do so does not see the relationship between Temasek and the food at his own dinner table. If that link is not drawn, Temasek would not be an emotional spark. Temasek to many a voter would be a side show. A useful distraction. A piece of entertainment for us to mock the powers that be. Beyond that, Temasek’s debacle would be of no significance.
There are some narratives firmly engraved onto the consciousness of the average Singaporean that it would take more than a shaky Temasek to cause the electoral winds to change course. As office talk and coffee shop talk would have it, Temasek is a joke. It is not yet a source of anger.
Is it a bad year for PAP to call for elections? No.