Trump-Kim Summit: Worth the $20m?

Credit: The Straits Times' Facebook Page

On June 10, 2018, The Straits Times posted a video, “Trump-Kim summit will cost about $20m to host: PM Lee,” on Facebook.

A day later, the video garnered over 92,000 views and 500 shares. Out of 1300 reactions, 135 people reacted with an angry emoji.

What explains their outrage?
Credit: The Straits Times' Facebook Page

Some netizens thought that Singapore shouldn’t bear the security costs of this summit since the United States (US) and North Korea (NK) chose to meet in Singapore in the first place.  Thus, Singapore was "forced" to pay.

But Singapore offered to pay, no?

On June 2, 2018, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced that Singapore will bear the security cost of hosting the summit. He said, “It’s a cost we’re willing to bear to play a small part.”

$20m sounds like a huge cost for a "small part".

Another netizen used a plate of chicken rice to describe this situation.
Credit: The Straits Times' Facebook Page

It is equivalent to asking the uncle who sells you a plate of chicken rice to pay with his own money.

Other netizens felt that the $20m spent was unjustified as it didn’t benefit them, while some felt that the money would be better spent on the under-privileged families in Singapore.
Credit: The Straits Times' Facebook Page

Before we judge, let’s see what this $20m could actually mean for Singapore.

1) Broadcast Rights for World Cup 2018
Credit: The Straits Times' Facebook Page

Just like Malaysia, we could have had a free broadcast of World Cup 2018! Instead of spending $20m on the summit, the money could be spent on World Cup.  All we have to do is to top-up $5m!

Sadly, in 2014, Mr. Lawrence Wong, then-Second Minister for Communications and Information, explained that the government was unable to make all matches free-to-air on TV because it meant that a lot more taxpayers’ money would have to be diverted to the World Cup.

No doubt, some taxpayers would rather divert their money to World Cup than the summit.

2) National Day Parade
Credit: If Only Singaporeans Stopped to Think

In 2015, Singapore celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence at Padang. The total cost amounted to $40.5m!

If Singaporeans are willing to spend about $40m on a national day celebration, $20m for “regional stability” does not seem as a “lousy deal” to me.

Surely, Singapore's 100th anniversary is dependent on "regional stability".

3) Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix

Last year, Singapore announced that it will be hosting F1 Grand Prix for another four years, until 2021.

But has anyone wondered how much it cost Singapore to host F1 races each year?
Credit: Grand Prix Events

The overall annual cost is about $150m, and the Singapore government foots 60 per cent of the bill. That means the government pays about $90m each year.

This is almost five times more than what it costs to host the summit!

So, which is a better deal? - $90m to watch Ed Sheeran, Gwen Stefani, and Beyonce perform, or $20m for regional stability.

4) The buy-out of SMRT by Temasek Holdings
Credit: DollarsAndSense

$20m is peanuts when compared to the $1.18b buy-out deal of SMRT made by Temasek Holdings in 2016.

Even if Singapore hosts 59 of such summits, the government still spends lesser than Temasek Holdings in the buy-out! Maybe, $20m is not a huge amount after all.

Lastly, this is not Singapore's first attempt at hosting a significant event.

5) 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games (YOG)
Credit: Singapore Sailing Federation

Singapore initially set aside $107m to host YOG, but the actual cost ballooned to $387m.

That's almost 4 times the initial budget! And almost 20 times more than what was spent on the summit!

But what's the value gained from hosting this costly event?

According to Vivian Balakrishnan, then-Minister for Community Development, Youth, and Sports, “Singapore will always be remembered as the country that hosted the world’s first-ever Youth Olympic Games." 

This sounds pretty similar to the reason for hosting the summit. Both events are rare opportunities that should be seized.
Credit: Channel NewsAsia


Trump-Kim Summit presents a watershed moment for Singapore. After decades of tension, the US and NK, which have never seen eye to eye, finally met face to face at Singapore.

Being the host for this historic summit shows that Singapore enjoys the trust of US and NK. They have faith in Singapore that it can be a neutral and impartial moderator.

When compared to its past spending on 2010 YOG and F1 Grand Prix, $20m may actually be a small amount for its big contribution to world peace.

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