Who is minding the Store?

Who is minding the store?

We haven’t heard of the 1 Malaysia Development Fund nowadays. Yes, I am referring to the RM5 billion that is managed by the 1 Malaysia Development Board 1MDB. Yes, it’s that Fund formerly known as Terengganu Sovereign Wealth Fund. Just who came up with the idea is uncertain. Rumors have it, that it was a young man called Mr. Low from Penang. Mr Joe Low.

Creative ideas are most welcome. PM Najib has said that creativity will be a main element in his coming economic model. Anyway, the Fund started with RM 1 billion. It later became RM 5 billion obtained through the issue of bonds guaranteed by the government. Normally an entity is allowed to issue bonds if it is rated highly by some credit evaluating bodies. Like Moody’s Investor Services for example. The accreditation body is satisfied the bond issuing entity can repay the bonds when they mature.

There are cases too, when the bond issue is underwritten by GOD- government of the day. Governments of course can never go bankrupt. The 1 Malaysia Development Fund- just call it the 1 Malaysia Fund will get additional RM 6 billion when the oil royalties due to Terengganu will also be directed into it. This means it will have RM 11 billion war chest to play around with.

Just who are controlling the 1 Malaysia Fund? We know it reports directly to the PM. Although 1MDB reports directly to the Prime Minister, the sovereign fund will still have an eight-member board of advisors and a five-member board of directors: 8 + 5 = 13 members.

But will they be given a free hand to manage the fund? Or are they there just to grace the window? These people are drawn mainly from statutory bodies such as LTAT, Tabung Haji, FELDA etc. I have been informed some have already resigned from the board because they cannot stand excessive meddling.

But you retort- why should we tell you what we are doing? Especially to busy bodies like you people? Then we answer you- because we have been dismayed so many times when public money is treated as a private property. We have PKFZ which is the subject of intensive forensic investigation now and has become a public scandal. We are also disturbed by the customary practice of keeping everything very quiet until it becomes bad and blows off the lid. Most importantly we believed that public disclosure is the best form of accountability. Let it out in the raw and let the people judge. Some of the busybodies out there are pretty smart and perceptive.

The sovereign fund is said to be thought of by a character called Low. He is known among financial circles as Joe Low. He comes from Penang. He takes over where Patrick Lim left. I can imagine him say over a glass of Martini- hi, my name is Low. Joe Low. I prefer my drink shaken, not stirred.

He brought the idea of creating a sovereign wealth fund. It was probably meant as a solution to prevent the dissipation of Terengganu’s Oil Royalties.

Now, this is another issue. Why did the TSWF- Terengganu Sovereign Wealth Fund suddenly become 1Malaysia Fund? HM The King seemed to have given his consent to the renamed entity. This federal wealth fund now takes over the money raised by KTIA headed by Shahrol Halmi. HM The King was very much interested when the TSWF was set up as he was royally chagrined over the usage of oil royalties due to Terengganu.