Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has admitted that his team had miscalculated the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) budget.
Speaking at the People's Action Party (PAP) rally in Clementi on Wednesday night, Dr Balakrishnan explained what happened to the YOG budget by relating it to his conversation with Thaddeus Lim, an undergraduate, who asked him about it four days ago on the LRT train at Bukit Panjang.
"We got the initial estimates of the money to be spent on the YOG wrong," Dr Balakrishnan frankly told the 1,000-strong crowd that gathered on the mud-soaked field in Clementi.
He explained that the games exceeded its original budget of S$104 million by three times because it was the first time that such an event was organised and there was no other model for reference.
Furthermore, it took more than a year after the International Olympic Council (IOC) chose Singapore as the venue for the YOG before details could be confirmed.
"We realised there would be all 26 sports and all the athletes were to stay for two weeks, so we did the sums and went to see the PM."
He revealed that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong then asked him if he would have bid for the YOG if he had known it would cost more than S$300 million.
To this, Dr Balakrishnan said that he would still do it, and had no regrets.
"Whatever criticisms, I am proud of the YOG and of the athletes, proud of the 50,000 volunteers who made great sacrifices to be part of a once-in-a-lifetime event," he said, acknowledging that people are entitled to their opinions.
The 50-year-old, who heads the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), insisted that his team "did not overspend or waste or squander" the S$387 million budget allocated to the project. In fact, he proudly declared that they spent much less.
The leader of the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC team reassured Singaporeans that the increased budget did not eat into the other expenses of his ministry.
"The YOG had a separate budget and we did not cut back on the other expenses for MCYS."
He added that 70 per cent of the budget went to paying local companies to provide services for the Games, which would in turn help them gain international recognition.
Further in his speech, Dr Balakrishnan said that the three main concerns for the younger generation this election were respect, a fair and just society and a land of opportunity.
He also said that this election would be about re-establishing the relationship between the people, and the PAP.
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