Presidential Race Intensifies with Potential Bid from Ng Kok Song, Inspired by Lee Kuan Yew's Leadership

SINGAPORE — Late Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew left an indelible mark on the nation and profoundly impacted former GIC’s chief investment officer Ng Kok Song during his successful stint at the sovereign wealth fund.

In a heartfelt interview with SPH Razor in March 2015, Ng Kok Song expressed his admiration for Lee’s role in building the nation’s economy and reserves. Today, as Ng considers contesting the upcoming presidential election, it is important to understand the profound impact the former prime minister has had on his career and aspirations.

 

When reflecting on his career at the GIC, Ng Kok Song attributed it to the foundation Lee and his colleagues laid in building Singapore’s economy and reserves. As the chief investment officer, Ng Kok Song was responsible for managing Singapore’s financial reserves, which would not have existed without Lee’s and the Singapore government’s meticulous work. 

“Because of the work that Mr Lee did in building up Singapore, building up the reserves I had this job. As a chief investment officer and I’ve just retired after 42 years of service having to look after our reserves,” said Ng Kok Song in a 2015 interview with SPH Razor.

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“There would be no reserves to speak about if Mr Lee had not done his work of building up the Singapore economy. So you know, all my work at the GIC was made possible because of the foundation of what he and his colleagues have done in the past. Not only grow the economy but build up the reserves.”

Ng Kok Song admired Lee’s high standards and dedication to achieving excellence and described Minister Mentor as a demanding taskmaster who did not tolerate shoddy performance. 

“We’re not going to waste our time working for somebody who lacks integrity. He sets a very high standard of what we want to achieve. He is not going to tolerate a shoddy performance. He is a very demanding taskmaster but also somebody who is willing to learn and able to explain to you why he disagrees with you. And helping you like he did with me to craft you, maybe a better solution to a problem. So a tremendous satisfaction and inspiration,” explained Ng.

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As Ng Kok Song contemplates his potential bid for the presidency, his admiration for Lee and the values he instilled serve as a testament to the lasting impact of visionary leadership. Beyond economic prosperity, Lee’s dedication to integrity and excellence continues to inspire future generations of public servants and leaders.

Ng Kok Song joined the GIC in 1986 as head of the equities and bonds department. In 2007, he was named GIC’s first group chief investment officer until his retirement in 2013.

Since he departed from GIC, Ng has been the executive chairman of investment firm Avanda Investment Management. Local media reported that Avanda had achieved profitability in the last three financial years, from 2020 to 2023, and the company has maintained an average of about $73 million in shareholder equity during these three years.

While Avanda’s shareholder equity may not meet the prescribed criteria of having at least $500 million in shareholders’ equity, his expertise in managing and investing Singapore’s reserves, acquired during his tenure as the chief investment officer of GIC, sets the stage for his potential bid for the upcoming presidential election.

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Former Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and George Goh have thrown their name into the presidential race. Goh is an entrepreneur and a former non-resident ambassador to Morocco. Ex-NTUC Income CEO Tan Kin Lan has recently expressed his interest in contesting the presidential election again. He previously ran in 2011 but could not surpass the threshold required to retain his electoral deposit, receiving only 4.91% of the vote in a four-corner contest.

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