This was what I wrote in 2019 about the F1: “What have we become? Playground for the super wealthy? Singapore is NOT Monte Carlo. There are real people living and making a living here. They and their surroundings are not props for others to gawk at. The F1 has already achieved its purpose of upgrading our profile and showing the world our skyline and tourist attractions. Enough is enough. Unless the government is getting addicted to the F1 event which can be made into an incentive for those who join the winning team. It may not be about money but accessibility to a certain lifestyle, including rubbing shoulders with world celebrities.”
Re those last two sentences: It’s happening already.
Whatever the outcome of investigations involving Transport Minister S Iswaran and businessman Ong Beng Seng, the man who brought F1 to Singapore, the government will have to look more closely at F1 and decide what to do with it. If it is to carry on, specifically what must be done to minimise or totally prevent problematic situations. At the same time, do not ignore all the local businesses which had been and will be affected by the closures, route diversions and other inconveniences.
From another Sense and Nonsense comment (this time in 2020): “The F1 has had near-zero support from most locals. Their routine is disrupted. Businesses suffer in the city area where the race is held – in the lead-up to and during the race. Their frustration has seldom been acknowledged; it is simply brushed aside like it does not matter.
Think of ways to compensate for the inconvenience and loss of business, if it is not already being done. Even predictable, yearly disruption means loss of income which should be redirected back from the gains of holding the F1.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry and Singapore Tourism Board fund 60 per cent of the $135 million to $150 million in race costs each year, with the Singapore GP footing the rest, according to The Straits Times. Since its debut in 2008, the F1 race in Singapore has generated more than S$1.5 billion in incremental tourism receipts, a Today Online article reported in 2022.
Next, make it clear to F1 organisers and participants that Singaporeans welcome them but they have to know our rules.
From here on, these rules must be made clear to everyone – government officials and their family members and friends. Tighten them where necessary.
Finally, the issue of local support.
From my 2019 comment:
“The F1 has had near-zero support from most locals. Their routine is disrupted. Businesses suffer in the city area where the race is held – in the lead-up to and during the race. Their frustration has seldom been acknowledged, it is simply brushed aside like it does not matter.
“What about the fabulous shows? What about them? Do the FairPrice and Giant crowds have the moolah to pay for those $400-$500 tickets? Do they even know who Gwen Stefani, Swedish House Mafia and The Killers are?
“ ‘But I’ve seen locals at these shows.’ Corporate sponsors’ tickets brought them there. On their own, some might well be at places like the Padang where they pay $100 to catch a glimpse of celebrities a galaxy or two away.
“For most Singaporeans, the F1 has had nothing to do with them. They do not relate in any way whatsoever to the event.”
If the F1 is here to stay even for a while, try and make it more accessible to ordinary Singaporeans.
The danger of widening the gap between the disgust on the ground and an ever-growing sense of entitlement at the top is that the irritation will return to bite the happy conversationalists party one day.
Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.Sg, is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also the managing editor of a magazine publishing company. /TISG
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