Is the CPF savings a pension fund? The money is contributed by the employers and employees but it stops there. There is no financial intermediary to invest the fund on behalf of the company and employees to generate a stable growth over the long term and to provide pensions for the employees. There are agencies taking the funds directly or indirectly to invest for their own interests, to make profits for themselves, and the returns to the owners of the fund are incidental or secondary. The primary objectives of agencies utilizing the CPF funds for investment is for their own benefits, without the approval of the owner of the CPF savings, without any agreement that they are investing their savings for their benefits. Only the CPF Board has a small role in this direction, by buying govt bonds and to return the proceeds to the owners of the CPF savings. That is far from managing and investing a pension fund.
Chris Kuan has made some comments on Roy Ngerng’s article on the CPF fund. This is what he said.
‘The “funnelling of CPF funds” thingy inferred by Roy is no different from any first world country in the way pension funds invests in government bonds and then how the proceeds move around in the government.
Typically public and private pension funds are required to hold a certain percentage of their assets in government bonds either because it is a regulatory requirement or because it is the prevailing asset allocation strategy. On a regular basis, the government will issue government bonds and a variety of investors buy them including pension funds. The debt proceeds from the issuance of the bonds are then for the government to use at its sole discretion. In most cases, the proceeds are used to cover the shortfall of revenues over expenditures, i.e. used for spending.
However nobody in the first world countries will say that the monies spent are “pension” monies in the same way we should not be calling the monies the Singapore government has given to Temasek or for GIC to manage are “CPF monies”.
So this “funnelling” is not exceptional. The exception is the design of the Special Singapore Government Securities (SSGS) issued to Central Provident Fund (CPF) and maybe the coercive nature of the relationship between CPF and the government but even the latter may not be so exceptional if we think CPF as more akin to a first world national social insurance fund than a pension fund.’
What is wrong with Chris Kuan’s analogy that our CPF fund is similar to other pension funds? In the first place, our CPF savings has never been called a pension fund. The second point is that there is no direct relationship between GIC and Temasek as the fund managers of the CPF savings. For a long time, both funds even denied investing the CPF funds until quite recently when they admitted to have used the funds indirectly to invest. But there is no agreement or commitment by Temasek or GIC that they are the fund managers of CPF funds and whatever commitments to invest and to return the profits to the owners of the CPF funds. How then can these two funds be recognized as the fund managers of CPF funds?
This is definitely very exceptional for anyone to say that GIC and Temasek are the fund managers of the CPF funds and the CPF is a pension fund managed by these fund managers. They are not. They exist for their own agenda and mission, and have no direct relationship or link with the CPF fund.
What do you think of Fund managers managing the CPF fund without an official agreement and commitments, without any terms of reference as to how the funds will be invested, and how the profits should be returned to the owners of the fund? I really cannot remember reading any such agreements that the GIC and Temasek are the official fund managers of the CPF fund and have a direct fiduciary duty to the owners of the CPF fund.
Please correct me if I am wrong. Can we assume that the GIC and Temasek are the fund managers of our CPF fund? Where is the agreement? CPF savings is far from an international fund in the West as described by Chris Kuan. There is no active investment strategies by the CPF Board to maximize profits for the CPF savers other than the rudimentary buying of govt bonds.