Monday, July 16, 2012

The Minister Who Can Say No

Finally, a minister with balls. Bernie Ecclestone had insisted that negotiations for the Singapore Grand Prix were concluded and all that is left to do is for the government to decide when to announce the new deal. Instead, Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran announced that Singapore will only decide by June next year whether to extend the  Formula 1 night race held here for another 5 years. This means Singapore will serve out a 2-year notice period, and the 2014 night race could be the last.

Iswaran confirmed that for the country to continue the support for the night race, "the terms must be economically viable." The potential deal breaker hinged on the licensing fee,  which Formula One Management (FOM) is sticking to a figure similar to last year's US$44 million. The cost of staging the race is estimated at $150 million, but each event is now said to bring in only about $160 million in tourism dollars. Subtract the loss in retail business in the cordoned off Marina area, and it's not difficult to imagine the red ink bled since day one.

Compare the numbers to the $195 million in casino entry levies collected by the government last year. In the first 6 months of this year alone, $93 million has already been pocketed. Minister of State for Finance Josephine Teo said the casino entry levies collected by the Singapore Totalisator Board (Tote Board) are used for social and charitable purposes. Since 2009, she claimed the government has more than doubled its expenditure on containing gambling ills, from $3.8 million in FY09 to $9 million in FY11. Now, that's a real money maker there, without the high decibel noise and inconveniences imposed. And if the government is serious about addressing the social ills of gambling, they could raise the levy to $200 as proposed by some. That translates into another extra $195 million (based on last year's bonanza) in the kitty. Heck, even if they spend another $10 million to "contain gambling ills", the economic model is just too juicy to ignore.

To think it all started because Lee Kuan Yew once told a dinner gathering of CitiBank staff that he was stupid not to realise money could be made by watching cars go round and round a circuit. Channel NewsAsia (CNA) changed the word to "dim-witted" in their report to tone down the personal assessment of his business acumen - same way they changed "fix the opposition" gaffe to "counter the opposition" - but it looks like the ugly truth is finally out. Don't shed tears for Bernie.  He's the guy who admires Adolf Hitler because "he gets things done."


  1. Why did they say 'yes' in the first place when our malaysian circuit neighbors paid only half of what we pay? Coz we are a 'any-price-taker"??!
    Or our leaders are just feeling flushed rich with reserves and cash that only ferraris and the bromptons are deserving for Singapore roads.

  2. When dealing with foreigners, Singapore government is a sucker who tends to over-pay. It compensates this by making the people to be suckers to finance their poor judgment investments/decisions.

    Really not sure how much Singapore benefits from this economically. The barricades that are placed along the racing route are very ugly. The people sitting behind to watch the race look more like prisoners than spectators to me.

    It's very obvious to see who is the winner and who is the loser in this deal!

  3. the willingness to Over-pay for goods and services, especially for items associated with being rich and which make it clear you are flush with cash, is a trait of the New Rich. hence, those who have come into the money like to announce their status with Big houses, Flashy cars, Name-brand clothes and accessories...

    you may recall that lee kuan yew was not bothered that supply lines for food, gas and such may be cut, and this country may one day have a problem catering for its growing number of residents.

    as far as he is concenred, if it comes to the crunch, and prices soar, spore has the moolah to pay any price asked.

    it seems that no one has considered what happens when even willingness to pay those exorbitant prices may not persuade the provider to sell. a country may need to keep its goods, like food, for its own citizens, friendship be damned.

  4. //Since 2009, she claimed the government has more than doubled its expenditure on containing gambling ills, from $3.8 million in FY09 to $9 million in FY11.//

    That's barely 5% of its annual $195m revenue collected.
    Very quick in reporting the "economic" benefits but very absence when it comes to reporting the 'social costs' to the society.
    70% of newly created jobs went to FTs is a fact.

    What else exactly is "containing" gambling ills mean here?
    Loan-sharks & gangs, drugs, extortion, prostitution etc crimes control, keeping offenders in prisons?
    Families divorces, abuse, neglects, breakups, bankruptcies, suicides - are these measured?
    Productivity lost, embezzlement, money -laundering, prostitution?

    Surely, somebody is putting metrics and $/cents to these 'benefits' yes?
    Or are we getting ahead of ourselves for the $288m we are 'reaping' or 'tripping' over?

    So, don't just sell me the cool-aid, show me the band-aid, will you MCYS?

    1. Yup. Will declare him a Minister with Balls when he shows us the full damage report card of $288m 'supposed gain'.

    2. In that case, let's tentatively call him Minister with one ball.


    "These people are in for the money, solely for the money".

    Are our politicians slyer than Bernie bloodsucking teams?
    There are already words that Russia Moscow might do a night race in 2014. So that uniqueness ain't gonna cut anymore for Singapore. Let them have their cake and eat it. We already got our taste of crumbs.

    1. I say we get things over with!

  6. Court Jester7/16/2012 4:49 PM

    "..he was stupid not to realise money could be made by watching cars go round and round a circuit."

    How come nobody dare to certify him 'mentally unsound' huh?

    1. Stupid does not disqualify you from being a Minister.

      Mentally unsound does.

    2. u're funny =P

  7. You should take note that the 160 million is unsubstantiated. The Straits Time used the phrase "it is believed", but never state the source for the figures. Highly irresponsible.

  8. I second the notion that we have, at last a minister who can say no to what is clearly a lousy deal for Singapore.

    We have been taken for many rides round the track, no?

  9. Wayang only. In the end it is still a yes; and pay their price and at their terms. We are rich and our brag is we can afford to pay. After all the net cost is still way way lower than YOG.

  10. Either we have a Minister who can say no.
    We have a Minister who finally understands the new normal of Singapore politics.
    And knows the new way to wayang.

    The other Minister who finally got it was VB.
    He scolded PUB for calling it "ponding" instead of flooding.
    VB was the same guy who gave us a slight budget over-run of a few hundred million dollars for the YOG.

  11. No Trickle-down, just Tricks7/16/2012 11:30 PM

    Have you seen the latest Tourist brochure that says 'you have been to a garden, but have you been to a garden that was built to the tune of $1billion? " along that line.

    Well, a very sorry state of bragging position I would say. When you say your pledge on the marina bay river come Aug 9, just look across the striking Louise Vuitton complex and remember when you pledge out loud for "prosperity, happiness and progress" what it really mean for the rulers, elites and rich brats here.

    1. To sweeten the deal for MBS, Garden by the Bay was build, propable for stressed 'tourist' loosening up walking the tree top (else they can lie on ground floor). The walkway linkage was aready in place before GbB was starting to construct. GDP goes up..

  12. Is it not kind of downright outrageous that our Govt charges any Singaporean very high entrance fees just to enter & watch F1 when in reality our very own taxpayers' monies are being used to pay Bernie for the right to hold the F1 show ?

    Is it any wonder that the old man says we must all be daft (to vote PAP ?).

  13. We should not be too swayed by all this talk by Iswaran. He is just a puppet. Please remember that the boss of the the Singapore GP is Ong Beng Seng. Although still a malaysian he is LKY's and family esp Ho Ching close confidant Has a very close personal relationship with the entire Lee family.It was because of OBS persistence that the GP came to Singapore with lobbying direct to LKY. Like the Brompton bike story, OBS was the only "bidder" and guess who gave the greenlight? Is Iswaran can talk all he wants but if he gets a call from LKY and OBS the GP is extended. Believe me it will be. OBS would have told Bernie, "Hey don't worry about tok cock Iswaran., The deal is in the bag but have to wayang a bit" You think Bernie dare to make a public declaration if the deal was not a done deal??

  14. I wouldn't put any store into what Iswaran says. Big deal in saying no to renewing the F1 - and it's not a done decision. Anyway discontinuing the F1 means the government saves a lot of money, so there's nothing altruistic in it.

    I would aplaud Iswaran if he says no to further influx of foreigners, to more spending on healthcare and other social services. If he says cut the defence expenditures, raise the marginal tax rate for high income earners, raise corporate tax rates, repeal the ISA, reinstitute estate duties, reduce ministerial salaries, remove the GRC system. And more.

    Every PAP is toeing LKY's line and political philosophy. See below hard truths to keep Singapore going:

  15. Finally a wake up by the guys who are so used to tell foreigners-"Everything you want,can lah."to it is now -"May be we should get something slightly better.can Sir?"
    But not really such a big deal,in my humble opinion.

  16. This is just wayang. They need time to build up their case with massaged figures to support the continuation of F1. Plus some deal sweetener under the table.