What to make sense of Leong Mun Wai’s cry over the termination of partnership between SportsSG and SHPL

Singapore, Sport, Partnership, Government, Leong, Mun, Wai

Back in the 1970s when Paya Lebar could no longer cope with growing traffic, the Singapore Government invested S$800 million to expand Paya Lebar and build a second runway. Works had already begun but Mr Lee Kuan Yew felt that Paya Lebar had inherent disadvantages.  It was located near the city centre.  Expansion would be limited.  Worse, noise and air pollution would become worse with flight path footprint over the city centre. 

Mr Lee made a bold decision to move the airport to Changi. The S$800 million already pumped into Paya Lebar was lost and the cost of relocating the airport was S$1.5 billion. In total, S$2.3 billion. That was a lot, a lot of money in the 1970s when Singapore was a poor country with very little reserves to speak of. 

The change of decision turns out to be the best for Singapore, a decision no one regrets and hailed by all in retrospect. 

If Leong Mun Wai was present in those days with a voice in Parliament, he would be crying: another hole for taxpayers to fill.  His supporters would be calling for the PAP Government to be voted out. 

This year, the Singapore Government announced that it would take back ownership and management of the Singapore Sports Hub from Dec 9. 

The public-private partnership between Sport Singapore (SportSG) and SportsHub Pte Ltd (SHPL) was terminated without penalty. A confluence of factors led to the decision but ultimately, SportsSG said it wants to unlock Sports Hub’s full potential for Singapore. 

Despite good intentions, when a partnership fails to work out as planned, it is better to terminate it than allow it to continue. 

Taking back ownership and management of the Singapore Sports Hub to make it more accessible to the broader community for sports, lifestyle, entertainment and social activities will bring it in line with plans to turn the Kallang Alive precinct into into a destination for sports and world-class entertainment.  

The public-private partnership between SportSG and SHPL is not the first such partnership in Singapore. There are others and they have worked well. 

TradeXchange, an IT project between Singapore Customs and Crimsonlogic is a public-private partnership that concluded in December 2005.

The 10-year partnership allowed for the creation of a “one-stop integrated logistics information port” where Crimsonlogic developed the software, maintained it and operated the system. 

After the partnership expired in 2017, it was replaced by the Networked Trade Platform, which the Singapore Government had developed.

Other success stories include ITE College West, Keppel Seghers Tuas Waste-to-Energy Plant and SembCorp Changi NEWater Plant.

Ideally speaking, everyone wants all partnerships to succeed. But in reality, some partnerships may not meet all expectations. A government must then have the courage to say, ‘No, we change course!’ 

When Leong Mun Wai cries about the ‘hole for taxpayers to fill’, he is of course just doing what an opposition member will do – find fault at every opportunity, focus on the dollars and cents but not on the outcomes to be achieved.

‘For country, for people’? Nah, that’s just political slogan. ‘For PSP’, not ‘for country’. 

About Sport Singapore (SportSG)

A statutory board of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, SportSG’s core purpose is to inspire the Singapore spirit and transform Singapore through sport. Through innovative, fun and meaningful sporting experiences, our mission is to reach out and serve communities across Singapore with passion and pride. With 2030 – Singapore’s sports master plan, our mandate goes beyond winning medals. Sport Singapore uses sport to create greater sporting and access, more inclusivity and integration as well as broader development of capabilities.

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