Risk of crisis if US loses AAA rating: GIC
04:46 AM May 10, 2011
by Chris Howells
SINGAPORE - A major crisis could erupt if the United States loses its triple-A credit rating, according to Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC) deputy chairman and executive director Tony Tan.
"We face the possibility of another major financial and economic crisis if the world's risk-free asset, hitherto US bonds, loses its AAA credit rating in a disorderly manner," Dr Tan said at a 30th anniversary conference of GIC yesterday.
Speaking at the same event, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is also a deputy chairman of GIC, said: "The US has had its credit rating put on negative watch. It hasn't affected bond rates so far. But whether or not the rating agencies' views affect the market, the reality of the unsolved problem is that this fiscal challenge is looming and growing. That must eventually affect the confidence in the economy and the ability of Americans to continue to finance their debt, and, ultimately, with international implications, the value of the US dollar."
The comments come after Standard & Poor's last month cut its long-term outlook on US sovereign debt to negative, from stable, while keeping its triple-A rating. The ratings agency cited political gridlock in Washington over plans to cut government deficits as a key reason for the downgrade.First, a small digression. Some of you are still misguidedly mourning the defeat of foreign affairs minister George Yeo in the recent General Elections. For you believe that this means that Singapore has lost the services of a very talented, capable man.
But look carefully at the article above. See that name Tony Tan? Yes, that's our former Deputy Prime Minister (who was also our ex-Defence Minister, ex-Education Minister, ex-Home Affairs Minister etc).
Tony Tan retired from politics in 2005. But as you can see, he didn't end up as a quiet old man passing his days away by doing taichi and growing orchids in his garden. Today, Tony continues to hold a variety of important appointments. Among other things, he is the Deputy Chairman of GIC; and the Chairman of Singapore Press Holdings.
Ex-PAP ministers never really die, until they are really dead. They just get recycled into other lucrative roles, whereby they still get to control your CPF money, your mainstream media and various other aspects of your life. Sure, their public profile ceases to be so high, but they're not going to give up on the money so easily.
So members of the George Yeo Fan Club need not fear. Hsien Loong is probably identifying job vacancies for George now. If there isn't any existing vacancy, Hsien Loong will probably just create a new job for George.
Back to the TODAY article. I think that the title is misleading. Tony did not say that there is a risk of a crisis if the US loses its AAA rating. Tony said that there is a risk of a crisis, if the US loses its AAA rating in a disorderly manner. There's a difference.
Personally, I do not think that the S&P decision to place the US on negative watch was a surprise to anybody. Since the financial crisis, no one really cares that much about S&P ratings anyway, since they are no longer considered that reliable - remember how AAA-rated CDOs collapsed almost overnight into less than junk?
Relative to Asian currencies, the US dollar has been steadily declining for a long time, and the decline will just go on and on, quite irrespective of anything that S&P has got to say about it. My own financial adviser has told me to stay out of US dollar assets, unless they are one of those funds which also use USD/SGD hedges. And the main reason why gold and silver prices had been going crazy is that investors worldwide have been getting out of the US dollar and needing somewhere else to jump into, eg precious metals.