There's an Asian truism that says the first generation earns the money, the second invests it, and the third fritters it away. The multi-millions vaporised for an ego trip by Vivian Balakrishnan may be a hard act to follow, but did someone just upped the ante?
The land swap with Najib Razak netted Malaysia two plots of prime estate in Marina South and Oprhir-Rochor, worth as much as $5 billion and $2 billion respectively, according to property analyst Nicholas Mark. Earlier, Straits Times quoted lower numbers of $2.2 billion and $950 million. In return, Singapore inherits the awkward footprint at Tanjong Pagar and odd scraps at Kranji , Woodlands and Bukit Timah. What Credo Real Estate says of the elongated sites: "On its own, it is almost impossible to develop..." The rail land along Upper Bukit Timah has a valuation only of $500 mllion. Time to stop laughing at the Red Indians who sold Manhattan Island for "beads, buttons, and other trinkets".
What is billed as the "Final chapter in a long arrangement" is far from concluded. The hard driving Malaysian negotiating team is steadfastly refusing to pay the development charge, an outlay which Singapore developers are so used to accepting without the slightest murmur of protest. Even with legislative powerhouse Law Minister K Shanmugam at the table, legal technicalities were not accorded due respect. So it's back to the ugly scenes reminiscent of the contentious arbitration over Pulau Tekong reclamation and Pedra Blanca dispute, back to the Permanent Court of Arbitration. On Pedra Blanca, Malaysia had written to Singapore asking for copies of the November 1844 letters that Governor Butterworth wrote to the Sultan and Temenggung of Johor regarding the construction of the Pedra Blanca lighthouse, because if the letters still existed they were probably in Singapore's archives in a file entitled "Letters to Native Rulers". However, Singapore has never replied.
The good news about the "argy bargy" is that Singaporeans will no longer be incongruously run over by a Malaysian train while standing on Singapore soil.