Singapore’s PM defends Taylor Swift exclusivity deal amid regional grumbles

Lee Hsien Loong says deal to lure pop star not ‘unfriendly’ to other countries in Southeast Asia.

Singapore PM
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong travelled to Melbourne to attend the ASEAN-Australia summit [File: Jaimi Joy/Reuters]

Singapore’s prime minister has defended striking a deal with Taylor Swift to ensure she did not perform in any other Southeast Asian country following complaints from regional neighbours.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday acknowledged for the first time that the city-state had signed an exclusivity deal with the global pop icon but denied that the arrangement was “unfriendly” to other countries in the region.

“Our agencies negotiated an arrangement with her to come to Singapore and perform, and to make Singapore her only stop in Southeast Asia,” Lee told journalists during a news conference at the ASEAN-Australia summit in Melbourne, Australia.

“A deal was reached. And so it has turned out to be a very successful arrangement. I don’t see that as being unfriendly.”

Lee said it was not clear that the pop singer would have performed in other countries in the region if such an arrangement had not been made.

“Maybe, maybe not. These are things that she will decide,” he said.

Lee’s remarks came after claims the city-state lured Swift with a grant worth $2-3m prompted complaints from across the region.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin last month lamented that he would have tried to strike a similar deal if he had known about Singapore’s arrangement.

Philippine legislator Joey Salceda on Wednesday called on Manila to grill Singapore about the grant, saying the city-state’s actions were “not what good neighbours do”.

Singaporean Culture Minister Edwin Tong on Monday told parliament that speculation about the size of the grant was not accurate without elaborating on its terms, including whether it stipulated that Swift not perform elsewhere.

Singapore officials have argued that the cost of attracting Swift is far outweighed by the benefits the pop icon will bring to tourism-related sectors such as accommodation, retail and dining.

Swift, one of the most successful music artists of all time, has sold out six shows in Singapore, the only Asian stop on The Eras Tour apart from Japan.

The shows, which run until March 9, are being attended by some 300,000 people, including fans from Asian neighbours such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies