The Straits Times (ST) published a rosy picture of the Tianjin Eco-City (TEC) today (26 Jun), which the Singapore govt has heavily invested in for nearly a decade.
“Nearly nine years after construction began for Tianjin Eco-City (TEC), saltpans and barren land inhospitable to both cultivation and industry have been transformed into a city of high rises and green spaces,” ST said.
“The eco-city project – a collaboration between the Singapore and Chinese governments – has today reached ‘an inflection point’ where demand for homes now exceeds supply,” DPM Tharman told reporters in Tianjin.
BG Tay Lim Hen, the current CEO and the 4th one who oversees the development of TEC, even boasted to reporters saying that predictions that TEC would end up as one of a growing number of ghost cities, have been proven wrong.
Today, the 30 sq km township has a 70,000-strong population, and over 27,000, or 90 per cent, of its apartments have been sold, he proudly proclaimed.
BG Tay used to be 6th Division Commander and Assistant Chief of General Staff (Operations) fo SAF.
Only 20% target population reached
However, the fact of the matter is, when TEC was launched 10 years ago in 2007, it was planned to support a population of 350,000 in its investment plan. At 70,000, only 20% of the target population has been achieved thus far.
It was also projected to cost about S$9.7 billion and targeted for completion between 2018 and 2023.
No doubt, BG Tay would probably argue that the completion date has yet to be reached.
However, most intriguing was a report last year by Le Monde, a French newspaper, quoting Chinese officials in TEC saying that there has been massive cost overruns in TEC.
“The cost of the project, on the other hand, has greatly exceeded expectations. Between 80 and 100 billion yuan (11 to 14 billion euros) have already been spent, for a final bill that should climb to 230 billion yuan (32 billion euros), according to the managers,” reported Le Monde.
Massive cost overruns
In other words, if these quoted figures are correct, some S$16 to 20 billion have already been spent on TEC and the final bill, to Singaporeans, would be S$46 billion!
It’s no secret that financing of the project comes from Singapore in this joint venture with Tianjin. This far exceeds the S$9.7 billion in the original TEC investment plan.
Le Monde also revealed that one of the main reasons the apartments were able to sell is because of housing subsidies. Le Monde reported, “Zhang Meijie, along with her husband and two children, are among those who opted for Tianjin… But the real decider, for Zhang Meijie, is that housing was subsidized. As such they were able to get their apartment below market cost. Too bad for her husband, who has to commute an hour to work each way.”
Le Monde added that interest from the business community has also been “less than hoped for”.
In other cities in China, they have become a “ghost city” simply because many of the city govts or developers ran out of money in developing them. In the case of TEC, the Singapore government continues to “invest” Singapore’s public monies into it.
Constructions will continue, no doubt. Buildings will not be left unfinished and no massive debts are incurred, unlike the situation in other Chinese “ghost” cities- all because of the deep pockets of the Singapore Government filled with taxpayers’ money.