F1, the haze and the way forward

September 22, 2011
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

A Reuters headline read “Singapore offers help as Indonesia again fails on fires“. Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishan said: “We have a team on standby to help with putting out fires or even with cloud seeding, as well as technical assistance. But really it depends on whether the Indonesians request or require our assistance.”

It was a commendable proactive measure on the part of the Minister to keep the haze away from Singapore.

Until you read further. The initiative was undertaken because the smoke from the forest fires threatened to cast a pall over the F1 race scheduled to take place this weekend.

The operation to send planes over to help fight the Sumatran fires would have cost millions of dollars. Unfortunately it wasn’t to ensure that the air that Singaporeans breathe would be cleaner but that those enjoying the F1 would have a better view of the race cars that speed by.

(Ironically, are not the fumes of the burning of the high-octane fuels and the roar of the engines contributing to the pollution of the environment?)

This latest incident is but a window to Government’s mindset which is that the PAP will do almost anything – including sacrificing the interests of Singaporeans – for that extra buck.

Think about it. Who really watches the race? Or rather, who can afford to buy the tickets? Each ticket costs between a few hundred to even thousands of dollars. The millionaires watching the race, majority of whom are Europeans, are the ones who flock to such events. For most Singaporeans, the F1 remains out of reach.

In the meantime, we have to put up with the traffic snarls on our highways leading to the race venue because of the road closures that are effected several days, if not weeks, in the lead up to the event.

Retail businesses within the fenced off areas are already reporting a 20 percent dip in sales. The Singapore Retailers Association evinced that the evidence is that “F1 did not bring with it the increase in business for the retail sector.”

The three-day racing extravaganza costs about $120 million to stage. The Government committed us to paying 60% of this bill. “The only person who walked away from the race with a smile was Bernie Ecclestone,” a foreign correspondent said. “It’s just not a money-making enterprise for anyone except its owner.”

So why is the PAP so intent of staging this event year in and year out. The only reason that we can see is that it has embarked on its misguided plan to turn Singapore into a hub of glamour to rival places like Monaco, a playground for the rich.

This is also the reason why it turned Singapore into a gambling centre despite serious social problems that have arisen as a result. The F1 season records a spike in social escort activity in our city. It is also the motivation for styling ourselves into a tax haven where billions of dollars, much if it from questionable sources, continue to pour into our banks.

The name of the game is money, and the quickest way to get it, lots of it, is vice.

The worship of Mammon by this Government is the driving force behind this growth-at-all-cost approach. It is crass, it makes money for the elite rather than for the locals and it has a huge negative social impact on our society. Most important, it is unsustainable.

What we need is a balanced approach to how we make our money, one where ordinary people come first. We need an alternative program and it lies here and here.