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Taylor Swift concerts' economic benefits to outweigh grant size, as Singapore considers action over leaked info: Edwin Tong

Minister defends the grant for her Eras Tour concerts in Singapore, citing significant economic gains and broader cultural impact

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong addresses Taylor Swift concert grant controversy in Parliament on Monday (4 March)
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong addresses Taylor Swift concert grant controversy in Parliament on Monday (4 March). (PHOTO: MCI/YouTube)

SINGAPORE — The economic benefits expected from the ongoing Taylor Swift Eras Tour concerts in Singapore outweigh the size of the grant provided to the concert promoter by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong in Parliament on Monday (4 March).

Addressing questions from Members of Parliament on the estimated economic returns and the value of the pop superstar's six concerts at the National Stadium, Tong said the size of the grant was nowhere as high as what was speculated online.

"Due to business confidentiality, we cannot reveal the specific size and conditions of the grant. I can assure members of the House that the economic benefits to Singapore are assessed to be significant and outweigh the size of the grant," he added.

The issue surrounding grants offered to Taylor Swift's concerts has stirred up unhappiness among lawmakers in neighbouring countries like Thailand and the Philippines.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin revealed that the Singapore Government allegedly provided subsidies of up to US$3 million (S$4 million) for each concert on The Eras Tour, contingent upon Swift not performing elsewhere in Southeast Asia during that time.

However, CNA reported that the figure is instead closer to US$2 million to US$3 million in total for all six concerts, not US$3 million for each.

Nominated MP Usha Chandradas asked if there were confidentiality clauses built into the contract with Swift’s team, and if the terms were breached. Tong replied that there is a confidentiality agreement, and the government "will assess the terms and take the appropriate measures under advisement".

MP questions use of taxpayer funds for concerts

Workers' Party MP Gerald Giam questioned the rationale behind using taxpayer-funded grants to lure acts like Swift, when Singapore is already considered an appealing destination.

Tong responded by noting that hosting A-list artists such as Swift goes beyond generating tourism and economic benefits. He emphasised that it positions Singapore as a cultural hub in Southeast Asia, capable of hosting various arts, music, and cultural events, along with major sporting and lifestyle events.

"This helps to brand Singapore as a fun, vibrant destination," he added. "Whether we shape it in one way, give a grant in another way or organise our framework to host the event in a particular way, all that is shaped by the outcomes we want to achieve.”

The minister acknowledged the intense regional competition for such concerts, and stressed the need for ongoing investment in infrastructure and resources to continue attracting entertainment and lifestyle events.

"In this case, we were mindful that if we wanted Singapore to be part of (Swift's) tour stops - and if you look at her past tour history - it's very difficult to be one or two nights alone because of the (scale of the) setup," he said.

"We had to look at that as quite a material consideration for discussing with the Taylor Swift team on how long and for what duration to host her in Singapore. And we also have to judge what’s the demand that we have in the local market."

The Straits Times reported that Tong had personally led a multi-agency team from Singapore on an exploratory trip to the United States in February 2023. This trip ultimately resulted in securing the run of six shows at the National Stadium in the Singapore Sports Hub.

The Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth and the Singapore Tourism Board collaborated directly with concert promoter AEG Presents, provided a grant to facilitate Swift's performances
The Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth and the Singapore Tourism Board collaborated directly with concert promoter AEG Presents, provided a grant to facilitate Swift's performances. (PHOTO: Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

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