Saturday, September 29, 2012

S'pore GP: Full disclosure, please

I AM dismayed that Singapore has committed itself to a further five years of Formula One ("Five more years for S'pore race", Sunday; and "F1 'to bring bigger benefits' in next lap", Tuesday).

I am unconvinced by its purported benefits and worry about the ethical implications from the promotion of the event.
The only certainty about F1 is the financial outlay for each race, amounting to about $150 million, with the Government co-funding 60 per cent of approved costs.
It is widely acknowledged that Singapore paid a hefty premium for the first deal, and there were expectations that the Government would negotiate better terms for a second contract.
It is disappointing that there has been no disclosure of the actual financial terms of a deal involving millions of dollars of public funds. Instead, Singaporeans are asked to place their faith in "consultants" who claim favourable international publicity generated by the F1 glitz.
I am sceptical that any for-profit company would pooh-pooh such a trophy event and risk incurring the wrath of its clients.
Even assuming the survey results are representative, there is no certainty that favourable impressions translate into actual benefits for Singapore and the average Singaporean.
At any rate, $150 million is a princely sum for a three-day "marketing campaign".
I am also curious how the "incremental tourism receipts" of $560 million, from 2008 to last year, were attributed to F1, or how the fantastical "billions" in revenue projected by the consultants were arrived at.
Is every tourist asked upon arrival at Changi Airport if they came specifically because of F1, and if so, were their wallets tagged and monitored?
How were the losses suffered by Marina Bay area businesses and commuter inconvenience accounted for?
I believe I am not alone in noticing that there have been many more "super-cars" on our roads since the introduction of F1.
On our Little Red Dot, the allure of super-cars probably lies in their bragging rights, driven home by deliberate loud revving and speeding (if only for 10m).
While it may be a stretch to blame F1 for the anti-social behaviour of some drivers, the marketing thrust of F1 - fast cars, grid girls, extravagant parties and "bling-bling" - is nothing short of crass consumption, with its corrosive effect on social values.
Hosting F1 in Singapore will appear much less triumphal once its true economic and social costs are weighed against a realistic assessment of "incremental receipts".
Anna Quek (Ms)