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George Goh 'made a mistake' about role of the CIO in investment management businesses: Ng Kok Song

Former GIC chief investment officer Ng Kok Song was responding to comments made by fellow presidential hopeful George Goh that appeared to be directed at him.

Presidential hopeful Ng Kok Song visits hawkers at Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre on Aug 5, 2023. (Photo: CNA/Ang Hwee Min)
Presidential hopeful Ng Kok Song visits hawkers at Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre on Aug 5, 2023. (Photo: CNA/Ang Hwee Min)

SINGAPORE: Mr Ng Kok Song has said that his fellow presidential hopeful George Goh is mistaken about the role of the CIO in an investment management company.

"I think Mr Goh made a mistake. He thinks that CIO is chief information officer. CIO at GIC is not chief information officer, it is chief investment officer. And that's a very big difference," he said.

The 75-year-old former GIC investment officer, who was visiting Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre on Saturday (Aug 5), was responding to journalists' queries about comments made by Mr Goh that appeared to be directed at him.

Mr Goh had said at a press conference the day before: "If I’m the CIO in my organisation in the private sector, please don’t come forward because the CIO most likely ranks number five or number six in the organisation."

But Mr Ng countered that the chief investment officer is as important, if not more important than the CEO in an investment management company.

The chairman is ranked first followed by the deputy chairman, chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief operating officer then the CIO, he said.

He added that he would like to meet Mr Goh - the founder of Harvey Norman Ossia - to learn from his knowledge about business and share his own knowledge about investment management businesses.

Mr Ng retired from GIC, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, in 2013 after 27 years with the organisation. He was appointed GIC's first group chief investment officer in 2007 and held the post until his retirement.


Mr Ng also said on Saturday that he empathised with Singaporeans who are feeling the pain of the higher cost of living.

"But we are very fortunate in Singapore, that we can keep down the cost of living... It's because we have a strong Singapore dollar," he added.

The strength of the Singapore dollar is related to the country's financial reserves, he said. "Because our financial reserves is strong, we are able to command the confidence of investors, and they like to invest in the Singapore dollar."

The President has an important role to play in safeguarding Singapore's reserves, he added.

"I want to become the President so that I can look after our reserves."

When asked by a journalist if his and Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam's careers were similar, having both served in GIC and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Mr Ng stressed that he served as a public service officer, not a political leader or minister.

"So we both had different roles to play. You might say that Mr Tharman was a policymaker ... But as the chief investment officer of GIC, I helped to make the recommendations that go to the board, and then the board approves the policies.

"Mr Tharman was the policymaker, I was the money maker."

Mr Ng, who submitted his application for a certificate of eligibility via the public sector deliberative track on Wednesday, said he has already gathered his proposer, seconder and eight assenters.

He previously confirmed that he had listed former Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo as one of his three character references in his eligibility papers.

On when he plans to announce the identities of his assenters, he said "the right time" would be on Nomination Day.

Electoral rules require each presidential candidate’s nomination papers to be signed by a proposer, a seconder and at least four other people who are registered voters. Mr Tharman announced his proposer, seconder and eight assenters on Jul 26.

"I'm very fortunate that I already have the full list of assenters, together with some reserves. We need some reserves because all of the assenters have to be physically present in Singapore, so in case they are travelling, I need reserves," said Mr Ng.

"I have the list of assenters, but I think it's too early because I have not even gotten the certificate of eligibility."


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