Sounds of chatter and laughter fill the air as the crowd mingled at The Langham, situated in the heart of Xintiandi, Shanghai. Words such as “lah” and “lor”, pierced through the din; an audio indication that Singaporeans are in the house. It was the seventh installment of the Distinguished Business Leaders (DBL) Series in Shanghai and the Singaporean community gathered to listen to the speaker for the evening, Mr Lim Siong Guan, Group President of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) Private Limited.
Operating the GIC- A Mammoth Ship
An esteemed figure in the public sector and corporate world, Mr Lim’s past positions included being the Head of the Civil Service and Chairman of the Economic Development Board. As the Group President of the GIC, the asset manager for the Government of Singapore, Mr Lim is no stranger to dealing with heavy economics of national importance. Mr Lim shared about the governance of GIC, its investment approach which was influenced by GIC’s governance system, and operations of GIC. Behind the details of the technicalities of steering GIC, what was of primary importance was the belief system and purpose guiding this mammoth ship. Mr Lim said that the investment gains for GIC were always seen in the long-term horizon and not intended to be spent in the immediate future. There would be trade-offs in every decision made. Mr Lim cautioned against focusing on mediocre gains in exchange for long-term returns.
The Heart of Hard Economics
Returns, investments, assets - these were hard economic terms that surfaced in Mr Lim’s sharing. Looking into the heart of these terms, however, Mr Lim confronted a real and vulnerable need to ensure Singapore’s financial security and to “build what we can pass on to the next generation as their inheritance”. Financial security is a locomotive for the progress of Singapore and a better future for Singaporeans now, and the generations after. Back to the big picture, the funds which GIC had been entrusted with by the Government of Singapore, was part of the plan to ensure that Singapore was able and “in control of our own destiny”. When the nation is able to determine its own future, at the micro-level, the people would then be able to decide their own individual destinies.
Shaping Our Future
Currently, Singapore’s population policies are being examined with the aim of releasing a policy paper at the end of the year. Singaporeans at the DBL Series in Shanghai were encouraged to participate in this exercise and to provide their feedback on population issues at www.population.sg. As a Singaporean overseas, you may be miles away from home. However, your view counts toward shaping the nation’s future, and intrinsically connected, your own as well.
The night ended off with a standing buffet dinner and Mr Lim interacting with attendees. Despite having had a long day of meetings prior to the DBL Series, Mr Lim’s spritely demeanor hardly betrayed any sign of fatigue, if there was. Indeed it is not the ship but the captain that provides the perspective and driving force to chart the journey ahead.
By Magdeline Lee