Over time, the statutory boards not only became major actors in the economy but also formed subsidiary companies to add flexibility to their own operations. For example, in 1986 the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation formed a subsidiary to produce commercials on a fee-for-service basis. The government entered other areas of the economy that it considered appropriate, exerting leadership, assuming risk, and not hesitating to withdraw its support or close down unprofitable companies.
Numerous state and quasi-state companies were created either directly by ministries or, more often, organized under three wholly owned government holding companies (Temasek Holdings (Private) Limited, MND Holdings, and Sheng-Li Holding Company), which provided a wide range of goods and services. Joint ventures between the government and both domestic and foreign partners produced several industrial products, including steel and refined sugar. In addition, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), which was closely tied to the government, ran many cooperative businesses, including supermarkets, taxis, and a travel agency.
Although these companies collectively contributed significantly to the growth of the economy, neither their total amount of profits nor their rate of return on investment could be documented. In 1983 some 450 such companies, excluding subsidiaries of the statutory boards, employed 58,000 workers, or 5 percent of the labor force. In 1986 there were approximately 500 such companies still active. These different institutional forms permitted versatility.
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