Here's a look inside the S'pore government's secret gold vault


Daniel Seow | August 19, 2023, 01:06 PM

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It's no secret that the Singapore government's reserves are extensive.

The country has a gold vault that forms just one part of the official foreign reserves managed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), also known as Singapore's central bank.

What is a secret though, is the location of the vault.

While access to the storage facilities has been highly restricted, viewers were recently able to get a glimpse into the vault, and the stacks of bullion ensconced inside, through CNA's Aug. 17 documentary titled "Singapore Reserves Revealed".

The vault

CNA said its reporters were blindfolded before being brought to the vault, and any devices that had GPS-tracking capabilities, such as mobile phones, had to be surrendered beforehand.

This was to ensure they couldn't reveal the location of the vault afterwards.

Subsequent footage of the vault's interior showed trays containing gold bars, neatly stacked in columns.

Image from CNA on YouTube.

Each tray holds up to 20 gold bars, and each of these bars is worth close to US$800,000 (S$1.08 million).

The particular vault CNA reporters visited contains some of the gold that Singapore has accumulated since the nation first started buying gold in 1968.

CNA said it could not disclose the size of the room, for security reasons.

Image from CNA on YouTube.

Based on MAS statistics, the state has stockpiled some 222 tonnes of gold in total, as part of its official foreign reserves.

How much is it worth?

Luke Chua, CEO of BullionStar, a Singapore gold dealer, shared more on the value of a gold bar.

Here's one tonne of gold stacked on some pallets.

Image from CNA on YouTube.

Chua admitted that it might seem like an underwhelming amount to layman viewers.

However, he said that since gold is very dense, it's actually quite a hefty chunk of the metal.

It's also extremely valuable.

Just one kilogram of gold, Chua explained, is enough to buy a second-hand car in Singapore.

Image from CNA on YouTube.

A 400 ounce gold bar (about 12.4kg) is enough for one to comfortably purchase two five-room HDB flats in Singapore.

Image from CNA on YouTube.

Chua added that gold has proven to be a "good store of value" over the centuries.

"Gold's true value really shines during times of uncertainty and in times of crisis," Chua said. This is because the value of other reserve assets tend to fall in such times.

Furthermore, state-owned gold has appreciated in value over the decades, Chua pointed out.

For instance, Singapore bought its first 100 tonnes of gold at US$40 per ounce, and it is now priced at US$2,000 per ounce.

As of July 2023, the total value of the gold in Singapore's foreign reserves is over S$442 billion, based on MAS statistics.

What else makes up Singapore's reserves?

While the gold is definitely an eye-catching way to illustrate Singapore's wealth that is held in reserve, it only makes up a fraction of our country's foreign reserves.

Terence Ho, an economist from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, explained in the documentary that the reserves would also include a large amount of foreign currency.

These are used to repay international loans and pay for imports, which Singapore is heavily reliant on, as it imports over 90 per cent of its food.

Ho believes the bulk of state-owned foreign currency is in the US dollar, which is commonly used to settle payments in international trade

Other currencies that might be in the basket include the Euro, Japanese yen, Chinese yuan and the British pound.

Financial assets under MAS, Temasek Holdings, GIC, CPF — cash, shares, bonds, private equity, financial instruments and companies, as well as land assets under JTC and HDB — also make up Singapore's reserves.

Reserves should not be viewed as a 'pot of gold': PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted in an earlier interview with CNA, that the nation's reserves should be carefully safeguarded so that they can be tapped on in times of crisis.

"It is not a pot of gold. It is something which has been built up over many generations, which helps see us through rainy days," he said.

You can watch the full video here.



Top image via CNA on YouTube.