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Temasek

By Matthew Yglesias on January 14, 2010 at 8:28 am

"Temasek"

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I often here right-of-center people cite Singapore as an appealing social policy model. And I agree that there’s a good amount to admire in Singapore’s approach to a variety of issues, especially health care. That said, I wonder what these same free marketeers would say if anyone attempted anything even remotely resembling Temasek Holdings here in the United States.

Temasek

The company is clearly loathe to describe itself in these terms, but Temasek is basically a sovereign wealth fund—an investment vehicle owned by the government of Singapore. It’s an active investor in companies around the world, but especially focused on Singapore’s region and on Singapore itself. And it’s portfolio of “more than US$120 billion” is giant compared to Singapore’s $240 billion GDP. Imagine we had a public sector entity managing a $7 trillion portfolio of investments in private companies. That would be the end of capitalism as we know it!

It would, frankly, be such a dramatic departure from free market practice that I don’t even know how to go about forming an opinion about it. My suspicion is that the United States would prove quite bad at managing such a fund, but also that Singapore’s success at organizing this sort of thing plays a big role in explaining their success over the past few decades.

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