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Is Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew the world’s richest man?

The most indebted countries (Fortune magazine)

The most indebted countries (Fortune magazine)

Tony Tan has been elected as Singapore’s next president. He won by the narrowest of margins, with 744,397 votes—only 7,000 some votes ahead of runner-up Tan Cheng Bock, who garnered 737,128 votes.

This was out of a total of 2,153,040 votes, which means that Tony Tan won only 35% of the votes cast. This is significant as it means that 65% of Singapore’s voters were against Singapore’s entrenched People’s Action Party (PAP)—the party of Lee Kuan Yew.

Interestingly, 37,826 ballots were rejected by the Singapore authorities. What Singapore needs are U.N. inspectors who could have made sure that the ballots were rejected properly.

Tony Tan, who lost billions as head of Singapore’s General Investment Corporation (GIC), and who has been plagued by scandals, will now be the country’s president. GIC is one of the guardians of Singapore’s national reserves, its sovereign wealth.

Maybe only a handful of people know the size of Singapore’s reserves. The amount was and is a closely guarded secret, known only to certain family members of Singapore’s de-facto ruler, Lee Kuan Yew.

Soon after his election to the presidency in 1993, Ong Teng Chong felt it was his duty to know the value of Singapore’s financial reserves.

The Singapore government resisted Ong, saying it would take 56 man-years to produce a dollar-and-cents value of Singapore’s immovable assets (real property) alone. Ong never found out the value of Singapore’s reserves. He completed his term as president in 1999 and died in 2002.

Now we learn from the August 15, 2011 issue of Fortune Magazine that Singapore has no sovereign wealth.

Instead it has a sovereign debt of US$254 billion, which is 95% of Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  This puts Singapore at 8th position as one of the world’s most indebted nations. Singapore is near the bottom of the pile; only seven developed countries are more in debt, in terms of GDP.

By this standard, France, Portugal, and nearly every developed country in the world is doing better than Singapore in terms of debt.

Apparently, Singapore has borrowed heavily from its own Central Provident Fund (CPF) which holds the retirement funds of Singaporeans. This explains why Singapore is not only raising the retirement age, but making it more difficult for Singaporeans to get their retirement funds even when they reach that age.

Like many Americans, it appears that few Singaporeans will ever be able to afford to retire.

The United States borrowed to pay for its continuing wars. That we know. Where, however, did all Singapore’s borrowed money go?
The Singapore government has always had a surplus of tax revenues over expenditures. It has virtually no social entitlements. You become poor in Singapore and all you may have is a cardboard box on the void deck, as the Singapore government will not be there to help you.

Only a few people control Singapore’s national reserves, in secrecy, and only they are in a position to use those reserves as they wish.

Maybe Carlos Slim of Mexico is no longer the world’s richest man.

Is Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew the world’s richest man?

Update May 4, 2014

Lee Kuan Yew’s 792,000 kilogrammes of platinum are worth approximately US$35,640,000,000!!!

Covert Finance, the Parallel Economy & Elite Action s
By David Guyatt

(page 51)

…there are further, less well-known and far more shadowy, aspects about Lee Kuan Yew that the general public is not cognisant of. For some while now I have been in possession of a copy of a Certificate of Deposit for 792,000 kilograms of Platinum that is dated July 2, 1972 and bears the passport sized photograph, thumbprint and name of – yes, you guessed – Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.

The certificate and accompanying documents – which run to several dozen pages – contain some of the usual spelling and typographical mistakes (for example, “Jhonson & Mathew” instead of Johnson & Mathey) that have become the trademark of these “deniable” bullion certificates that bear the names of famous people, heads of state and politicians etc.[75]

Clearly, Lee Kuan Yew has been part of the Black Eagle gold story for the past thirty years and the phenomenal growth of Singapore as a model and powerhouse of new business ventures – and as an enduring Asian success story – may well be predicated on metal plundered during WWII?

Interestingly, some of the bullion and other assets plundered by the Japanese during the war came from Singapore.

[75] See The Secret Gold Treaty for details of the purposeful typographical mistakes on these certificates – See also Seagrave’s Gold Warriors in which observes the same “deniability” phenomena.

131 comments to Is Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew the world’s richest man?

  • Sons Of Liberty

    CPF, GIC is part of the greatest Ponzi scheme in the world.

  • Gorillacurry

    Call me picky but you realize that the other half of a truth is a lie? So we’re willing to pick the half we want (cos it doesn’t rock our personal boat.. yet) and ignore the lie. Interesting. You may want to consider what may happen to our kids just believing in the truth half of a whole picture.
    I don’t know honestly if what is being discussed is true but I’m amazed that we don’t even consider the implications if it were possible. IMHO, a typical Singapore response. Such is life.

  • Poooolitical SalesMaN

    Dear friend call more of your friend come to to view this article.Or not they will be kept in the dark.LKY will call U people Daft again N again B 4 he kick the bucket

  • dodo

    So much suspicion about Temasek, and TT is the chairperson – does anyone think he will be independent?

    And highlights of Temasek below:

    Significant losses known publically – Suzhou, Micropolis, Shin Corp, Chartered Semi, UBS/Citi/Merrill Lynch/Barclay/BOA, ABC Learning Center, Stuyvescant Town, China Aviation Oil etc etc.

    Temasek changed reporting currency to USD in Apr 2011.

    In 2011 ex-President Nathan has said Singapore reserves were used 27 times – what were these 27 times?

    Job Credit Scheme was luanched in 2009 with the approval of the president to tap into reserves. It paid out about S$5B to employers to cope with the financial crisis – no prizes for guessing who the largest private sector employer in Singapore is (hint Temasek – Singtel, Singapore Technologies group, SIA, NOL, Keppel group, Sembawang group, SBS Transit, Capital Land/Mall etc). Does this look like raiding the public reserves?

    Singapore has AAA credit rating – please also remember these very same credit rating agencies gave CDOs triple A ratings which blew up in 2007. Credit ratings certificates have the same worth as toilet paper.

    The core team of PAP are paid millions – if you are paid S$2M a year and your family is enjoying the wealth, will you dare to rock the boat or will you be aligned to PAP and become another Yes-man?

    The husband is CEO, the wife is CFO (Temasek) – this is a red flag for most auditors. And the CEO to be quit briefly after joining Temasek!!! big red flag?!

    CPF funds lock in – raising withdrawl age, minimum sum, now mandatory annuality scheme purchase, dropping Special Account interest from 4% down to 2.5% in 2011 (but claims Temasek generated returns of 18% compunded annually!).

    National assets sold – 3 power plants etc. Would a cash-rich country need to sell of strategic national assets like power plant to foreigners?Did the seller promise the buyer that they can increase charges whenever they like so that the seller gets a very high price? have you check why household utility bills in Singapore are among the higest in the world?

    If you hide the name Temasek and mention all the facts to any accountant or auditor – they will tell you there is almost 100% probability there is fraud in the company.

    Please does a goole search on all the above point to verify the facts and then form your own opinion.

  • gs2ux

    3 yrs ago,I got out of conscription just to find myself finding air to breathe amidst the many obstacles.job,housing,standard of living,etc.and they’re borrowing my cpf to invest in something I have no idea about,or rather,are not fully transparent about.and gic claims that they can’t be fully transparent as written in the straits times quite some yrs that’s really weird.I don’t get it.facts are there to read,and they are free for all to argue its interpretation.but,why would admin say such things unless it bears truth?(and he has worked for sg govt before and was part of the FT).beats me,but I sure think something’s not right.our people have the right to know MORE about OUR HARD EARNED MONEY.

  • Tatboleh

    Time for transparency from our govt?
    These people who are running OUR LIVES are also STEALING OUR MONEY!

    Not happy with their million dollar salaries, their bonuses,etc…now, investing my money like gambling in Las Vegas!
    I hate them all. This is my hard-working money that I am talking about!

  • Tan SK

    Where’s my MONEY?
    Is it sitting in the Lee Family Trust fund?
    I want to know where my money has gone to?
    i am so angry with this PAP nonsense, of always taking more money!!!
    I work very hard for my old age, and now, I cannot even take out my money all at one time?
    How can you do this to us?

  • Bornbred Singaporean

    We complain and complain and complain! And what do we do after all the complaining? We walk to the polling booth and we vote for Tony Tan! Just like the last GE, we Singaporeans complain, then vote the incumbents back in and then continue with the complaining after they are back in power and continue to screw us.

    Although the Presidency is supposed to be largely toothless, this would have been the 1st step in dissolving the near total power the PAP are wielding over us. I sometimes wonder what goes through many of my fellow citizens before they cast their votes. Here we had a case of very strong allegations of impropriety on the part of TT when Defence Minister and many unanswered questions about his son’s unique pathway during his national service and this should already be a warning sign especially when Singaporeans are loking at the Presidency as a means to check the powers and abuses of the government.

    We are the ones who made Singapore the success story it is today. LKY was part (albeit leader) of a team but nothing would have been possible without our support. When they asked us to tighten oyr belts during difficult times, we complied. Of course, they ask us to tighten our belts but then go on to give themselves salary increases. We Singaporeans really need to wake up and smell the coffee! This is no different from George Orwell’s Animal Farm! They are reaping the benefits of our success and screwing us in the process!

  • Omnia1

    Maybe a larger picture of Singapore’s reserves would be useful. Singapore’s reserves are held by three entities – MAS, Temasek and GIC.

    (1) MAS – As at June 2011, MAS held total official reserves of US$242 billion, comprising almost entirely of Securities, Currency Deposits and Gold. [The IMF link which I previously gave works when I tried it. If not, go to and choose ‘Singapore’]
    (2) Temasek Holdings – As at March 2011 (FY end), Temasek’s portfolio of investments had a market value of S$193 billion (or about US$161 billion) based on its financial statements as audited by KPMG. [See]
    (3) GIC – This is the only entity where the value of its investment holdings are not publicly disclosed. Many estimate it to be “well above US$100 billion”.

    So assuming we value GIC’s investments at a very conservative US$100b, Singapore’s total reserves would still be US$503b, way in excess of the national debt of US$254b.

    If we are concerned about the liquidity of Temasek/GIC’s investments, fair enough. Let’s take a ridiculous haircut and reduce Temasek’s portfolio value by 90% and assume GIC’s portfolio value is zero since they don’t publish the number. Even in this ridiculous scenario, the total reserves (MAS+Temasek 10%) would still be more than the national debt.

    This is the strength of Singapore’s reserve position.

  • Poooolitial SalesMaN

    Bornbred Singaporean : Do U known how TT get elected.Information source said there is something wrong in Tanjong Pagar GRC votes.Kee Chiu can answer for that!!!Another two or three month U can see he gets promotion.

  • Not Surprised

    The problem is the majority of Singaporeans do not read international journals. When they surf the net, it is more for entertainment. ANd many of them are not financially savvy. When they read all these financial news, they get nervous, and their reaction – leave it to the govt.
    The local media will not let us hear of these publications. I have long ago given up any hope that any govt will take care of its people. They are there to take care of their own families and friends. I have to take care of myself. No point complaining.

    When I am 65 and get the peanuts from my cpf, I will just feed it to the monkeys….

    • Dave

      Problem is you are complaining yourself. Get smart, if the opposition does that if they represent majority of the parliament in the future, what are you going to do? Rage in anger?

  • Ling

    hmm.. I don’t think the rejected votes are an issue though as the counting process involves not only the returning officer but also counting agents from all the political parties and general public. Any unreasonable rejection of votes will definitely be voiced out through various channels but we don’t hear any of them till now, especially through the usually vocal opposition parties and their supporters.

    As with the CPF, totally agree that it’s a scam scheme, to support legal government corruption.

  • Poooolitical SalesMaN

    admin:Don’t see where KPMG is involved. Hard to make guesses.No other allow Organisation accept Gerald will get involved.

  • Thorsten

    The source and means of producing this graphic is quite unclear. It is not possible to project a debt if the asset base is unknown, and while the rest of the world has been slashing jobs, struggling to pay civil servants, and increasing debt ceilings; Singapore has been able to prevent most of these consequences. It amazes how the masses want to create an enemy ie PAP when the real problem lies in divided politics ie US. Imagine decisions can not be made through unity but instead result in delays ie lifting debt ceilings, bailing out Greece, only to result in downgrading, riots and turmoil.

    And for those open to evaluating public consensus (as opposed to IMF which is is still a money making corporation, dont forget), Singapore does not do poorly at all as a 1st world developed country in its international debt

    • admin

      In the case of Singapore, I would rather go with Fortune Magazine instead of what some guy put in Wikipedia. I think you as a PAP person knows this very well. So, you throw out a RED HERRING, a completely false number. No surprise – that is how the PAP operates.

      The Wikipedia figures state “est” for “estimated” after most counties, including Singapore. With Wikipedia, anyone can alter the figures freely. If you look at the update tab, you will understand this.

      Yes, the divided politics in the US is a problem – so is the undivided dictatorship in Singapore.

      Anyone can see through your argument. Please don’t waste our time with such comments.

  • V

    We should march to istana and give them a day to remember.
    remember, remember, the fifth of November.

    • Dave

      You don’t make any sense, does the government rule by fear such as countries like china, Russia or North Korea?

  • Name

    I want to add further that the group of investors recently bought CCB shares from BofA fire sale is Temasek, if the report is true (google it).

    If then this is true, then you the daft Singaporeans continue to think they are ‘helping’ you to invest for a better future. They are not. Recently, Temasek sold part of CCB shares in July at a discount cited that they would like to reduce risk exposure in the financial sector. Just less than two months later, they are buying back the shares from their continued beloved engagement with BofA (whatever BofA does, Temasek continued to be interested even they lost billions of YOUR money).

    Good luck and remember who you are voting for come 2016.

  • anonym

    Where is your link for Fortune Magazine?

  • Johnsmith

    Government is ONLY in DOMESTIC debt as it uses its people’s money (CPF), and investors in its bonds, treasury bill etc, to invest elsewhere in the world. It does not have any debt with other countries. Its assets clearly outweigh its debt with surplus. Please get your facts right and do your research John. Because the government uses such money to invest, it becomes accountable for that money used and needs to return it. The Government did not physically borrow any money from other countries for the purposes of spending and therefore i dont think it is justifies your question on where the money went or how the government used the money on Singapore. This article by the Accountant-General Chambers for July 2011 may help readers understand –

    • admin

      Same for the USA. Only about 38% of the debt is borrowed from foreign countries. Much is borrowed by the US from its own Social Security system. Similarly, Singapore has borrowed heavily from CPF which is why the CPF withdrawal rules are changing so rapidly. However, to whomever it is owed, debt is debt.

  • Johnsmith

    The Singapore Govt has borrowed heavily from the CPF, that is a fact, but then, the fact also remains that the Singapore Govt has used the money for development within the country. Unlike the USA, which is using the money for its conflicts with the Middle East. The money used for the development within the country should not be seen as debt, given the government’s ability to service its debts when the need arises. The truth is, debt is debt, and that cannot be argued. The fact is that there are always good debts (liquid assets can also be considered good debts) and bad debts, so you would have to have hard facts to ensure that the Singapore Government’s debts are actually not liquid before making any comments.

    • admin

      I assume your statement, “(liquid assets can also be considered good debts),” is a typo as assets are not debts.

      Your following statement, that I would “have to have hard facts to ensure that the Singapore Government’s debts are actually not liquid before making any comments,” is muddled, and has no bearing on the matter. Maybe your statement was not a typo but a misunderstanding of basic accounting.

      What are “liquid debts?” Debts are debts, regardless of their nature.

      It is not my job to be Singapore’s auditor – nor is it possible due to Singapore’s secrecy. I seriously doubt that you (or anybody outside of a select few) can possibly have any idea about the “liquidity” of Singapore’s debts. As a matter of fact, all debts at the governmental level are quite liquid.

      It is agreed that the USA squandered its treasure, estimated at $4 trillion in misguided Middle East wars.

      In a prior article on this site, “Has Al-Qaeda Defeated the United States?,” I point out that the US debt crises was called by these wars. Al-Qaeda accounts for 28% of the United States national debt-and counting.

      I state, “Al-Qaeda’s imposing of a $4 trillion debt on the United States begs an important question: Has Al-Qaeda defeated the United States?”

      I am sure that Singapore has used money for development within the country. The question is – how much and for what? Given the rise to Singaporeans of the cost of electricity, and Singapore’s dependence on Arab oil, and Malaysian water, one would think that an educated country like Singapore would have developed nuclear power long ago.

      • Johnsmith

        I can see your point. However, the base fact remains that the government has the present ability to fully repay all its debts owed to the people if the need ever arises. Its market value of all assets owned, combined with hard cash on hand, would repay every cent of money owed to the people with surplus remaining. As to where the ‘borrowed’ money has gone, its portfolio on the respective GIC and T.H website will explain all in detail.

        Unlike most other countries, we use our people’s money to generate more money so as to keep the country financially stable at all times and especially during ‘rainy seasons’. How else is the country, with no natural resources at all, supposed to fend itself when a financial crisis arises?

  • dontthinkoutofurass

    Without LKY and PAP we would be part of malaysia. And look at malaysia now all of you ungratefull bast**ds

  • dontthinkoutofurass

    you guys are seriously so narrow minded. Can’t think of the bigger picture. Should PAP remain in power? YES Should idiot opposition parties rule singapore? NO cause they think out of their ass and have no experience, one or two of them should be there to check what PAP is doing? Without LKY’s leadership, will Singapore be where it is today? NO. Is the general population in singapore doing well? YES Is singapore one of the most sought after place in the world? yes LKY earns singaporeans earn everyones happy. but no singaporeans can only complain with their pea sized brain. pathetic. temasek made a loss? so which company doesnt have bad times? did u congratulate it when it was making money for the past 50years? i agree tony tan should not be the president, cause he’s one dumb cunt. But dishing the entire PAP and LKY? really? how ungrateful of you all. We could have ended up like malaysia. See when everything is rosy people always think the grass is greener on the other side and complain. But they dont see from where we have come from and what could have happened if he didnt “save” us. Money is only a small compensation for his dedication to Singapore his entire life. At least of you idiots here complaining have a roof to live under. People who dont, dont pity them, LKY, PAP, Singapore gave them the oppurtunity to study work hard and make something out of themselves, they didn’t so serve them right. Kids like you guys who want to live alone and not take care of your parents, that’s why u see old men and women out there working as grabage cleaners in order to support themselves. kids who left them. the singapore youth is getting dumber by the day. seriously walking in the streets i feel sorry for singapore’s future. and it has nothing to do with LKY or PAP.
    just a heartfelt response,
    from a student who has traveled alot and thinks singapore leaders deserve to be respected.

    • dodo

      It pays to look, listen and ask yourself the right questions because the world is never what it seems.

      You give too much credit to PAP for the success of Singapore, looking at the flips side of cause and effect:
      – Singapore success grew of shipping and trading
      – total control of media to align population to policies (can be misused too, like in recent GE, PE),
      – making population (human resource) work hard by removing all social safety nets, increasing educational standards to stressful levels (maybe some say nothing wrong)
      – borrowing money (capital resource) generated by population into temasek investment (some win, but seems many losses)
      – aligning to USA (economic and military)

      Ask yourself if most of the current PAP ministers are capable? there are a few with sharp mind but all the ministers are support by a team of capable staff (called stealing recognition), and not forgetting the economic success of Singapore was due to dedicated first batch of ministers like goh keng swee and economic advisors like Albert Winsemius and Michael Porter. There are many online forum where they quote current PAP ministers saying utterly stupid statements/policies.

      If we believe motherhood statements like “all investments will involve some losses” then becareful of “some greatest disasters started with the best intentions”. Greece govt hide their debts with off-balance sheet financing, Investment banks sold MBOs and CDOs using triple AAA credit rating, investment funds hide losses with mark-to-model pricing of their investments etc there is a long list of fraud schemes so the only way to prevent is to have open and transparent management. When you have a country claiming/appearing triple A credit rating but borrowing 100% of GDP (very highly leveraged), locking in cpf funds, desperately raising cash by asset sales, father/son/wife-in-law holding key positions, CEO Temasek tries to resign (Jan 2009), and then CEO-to-be Charles Goodyear resigning within months (and never heard of again)… the last time HC resigns from Chartered Semiconductor the share price went from S$16 down to 17cents. Ask yourself if the company they run could be in deep financial trouble. Remember all the CEOs who said their company financial status is fine that went bankrupt 1 week later (Lehmen, AIG, Fannie/Freddie, Enron etc).

      This forum should be for exchange of view, not personal flaming or attacks. Expecially those who bring up opposing views against PAP, they run the risk of being identified and sued (or imprisoned under ISD) so there is little to gain, maybe the time will be better spend resting, with the family or making money, but they come forward to share their views with die hard pap supporters.

  • boyan619


  • Aquarius Rising

    You are contradicting yourself, JohnSmith. You said earlier that Singapore government is borrowing from its people to invest in bonds, etc in other countries. And yet you quote later that Singapore government is borrowing from its people for development within its own country. You have to be consistent with your points to stay relevant in this thread.

  • shrimperson

    and what would he use all that money for? It’s not like LKY is Gaddafi, he doesn’t have a gilded statue of his daughter as a mermaid in his living room. he doesn’t go for long extended holidays in Martha’s Vineyard or the ski slopes of the Swiss Alps. he doesn’t have a secret fleet of limited edition ferraris. in fact, he’s notoriously frugal. I think your mind, sir, is stuck in a rut, applying the stereotype of ‘dictator’to anyone who doesn’t behave exactly according to the American way of doing things, without bothering to do your research and look at the context. You just WANT him to be a dictator.. and if reality doesn’t provide you with the facts, you just cook some up in your kitchen.

  • suebe36d

    Average Sporean must pay LKY & CO lions’ share. They keep worse hedonists from keeping us barefoot & pregnant. They keep us healthy & educated to better support them as they battle without rest genius predators like death merchants & bank breaking speculators.

  • Poooolitical SalesMaN

    Aquarius Rising, Singapore was kick out from Malaysia due to LKY arrogant ideas,Sabah & Sarawak is too small to him, so he want a bigger piece.Didn’t know that Tengku Abdul Rahman was a big gambler, After obtain these two small state, LKY was kick out.Come back N cry in the Media.Daft Singaporean taught that LKY is a great man, struggling for U Daft people.Till today he dare not set foot on this two state, the Iban tribe will spear him thru the throat.

  • John – thanks for posting this.

    You know, I think a lot of Singaporeans suspect but can never prove and therefore won’t mention the possibility that Mr Lee has more money than than most.

    Thanks for plucking out the figure on our debt….I think the key is to look at CPF. The reality is that CPF is debt owed to the citizens by the government. Yet, if you talk to enough Singaporeans, they don’t realise that the government is living on borrowed money – theirs.

    The Lee’s are actually very wealthy family. The ones outside politics are heavily involved in property speculation and are making good money.

  • Aquarius rising

    Political Salesman

    You are quite right there. Singapore was kicked out of Malaysia because of the arrogance of LKY. However, that is only part of the reason. The underlying reason was to avoid racial tension and riots. It was during this period when the PAP set up the DAP in Malaysia to campaign for a “Malaysian Malaysia” (as opposed to bumiputera Malaysia) that caused racial riots in 1965. With Singapore’s entry into the Federation, it had tilted the Malay majority a little because of Singapore’s predominantly Chinese population.

    One can go on imagining whether it had been a blessing to Singapore, or perhaps a misfortune for Malaysia. We will never know. But based on politics as have been played out in Malaysia since, I would say thank heavens Singapore got out of there for surely racial tensions and disharmony would definitely have become the order of the day.

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