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Changi Beached

By SGCM_editorial on 13 Sep 2014 in Other blogs, ST Opinion

Attached Image Failures on a national level are relatively uncommon in Singapore. But there have been at least three failed attempts to build a motor racing circuit here.
 
Back in the late 1980s, a site of the present Laguna National Golf & Country Club was earmarked for a Formula One circuit. But NatSteel, the iron and steel mill that secured the site in a tender, decided to build a golf course instead. In 2007, the Republic announced plans for a circuit that can host races other than F1. The project was to be up by the end of 2010, but it crashed and burned in December 2011 when the consortium picked to build it ran out of money amidst accusations of corruption.
 
In 2012, another attempt was made at inviting the private sector to build such a facility. But in June this year, the Singapore Sports Council (SSC), the body tasked with getting the project off the ground six years ago, said it will not go ahead with a second tender.
 
Why did the endeavours fail? Well, there were several factors at play, but the biggest one must have been the failure to realise the magnitude, complexity and uniqueness of the project. For one, racing circuits are not commercially viable on their own. Most, if not all, incur losses consistently. So, for them to exist there has to be some form of public subsidy.
 
To expect the private sector to fully finance, build and operate such a facility is unrealistic. Some form of public private partnership would have been the preferred way. That is, if the country viewed a motorsports venue as a bona fi de sports facility (like Kallang’s Singapore Sports Hub) in the first place.
 
That doesn’t appear to be the case with the Changi racetrack project. While some quarters in Government view it as an endeavour of some value, others see it as little more than a playground for the rich. If this had been the case, we should not have started in the first place. The fiasco is a major embarrassment to Singapore. From a policy standpoint, the initiative could have been better thought through.
 
And such a project would have benefitted from a strong champion – perhaps a powerful ministry, which would have paved a much smoother path.
 
On another front, the cost of the land plot as well as its relatively short lease of 30 years proved to be a major hurdle, too. SG Changi, the consortium that won the bid to build the project in March 2010, paid $36 million for the 41-hectare site. Interestingly, the Marina Bay Golf Course was built on a prime 68-hectare site for $45 million. Is golf a sport for the masses?
 
Of course, one wonders if the selection process could have been more thorough. If SG Changi was the only party to have put serious money down, alarm bells should have rung. The background of the group, track record of the partners, or where they got their funds, should have been scrutinised. Ditto a document similar to a banker’s guarantee provided by the bidder, which is alleged to have been forged. (The CPIB and CAD have been investigating the case since late 2010.)
 
Was there wrongdoing? If so, who should be held responsible? These questions and many more must be answered if Singapore’s reputation for accountability is to be preserved.
 
This article was written by Christopher Tan, consulting editor for Torque.  

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  • 1
Eyke Sep 13 2014 12:27 AM
can you say :"let's move on"? seriously, no point in asking who was at fault as it will not do anything to help make the track a reality. just thank God for Peter Lim and the track he is building...
Ake109 Sep 13 2014 01:25 AM

Guess there are more policy-makers who are golfers than there are policy-makers who like driving cars for fun.

Turboflat4 Sep 13 2014 12:53 PM

can you say :"let's move on"?
seriously, no point in asking who was at fault as it will not do anything to help make the track a reality.

just thank God for Peter Lim and the track he is building...


Yes thank god for peter lim and thank god for malaysia (or at least the johor royal family) which is not so blinkered in this respect compared to the singapore government.
Watwheels Sep 13 2014 01:35 PM
Singapore is literally a land of gold. Who in the right mind would waste the plot of precious land to build a race circuit? It makes more sense selling the plot of land to a developer. Any nearby in M'sia has a track. How to compete? Ringgit vs Sing dollar, in terms of fees it would be cheaper to race your car in M'sia. So no need to blame or find fault with anyone. It's obvious the project will not work. It's better to fail before building the track Dan fail after it has been built. Just look at Sgp flyer.
Eyke Sep 13 2014 02:44 PM

It makes more sense selling the plot of land to a developer


prease lor, you can develop what on that piece of land that is next to Changi Airport?!

with so many fast cars and faster drivers in Sg, I'm sure there is a market for a track within our borders.

and why gahment already waste "golden" land on Sports Hub and other sports facilities? why didn't sell to developer?
Watwheels Sep 13 2014 10:53 PM

prease lor, you can develop what on that piece of land that is next to Changi Airport?!

why gahment already waste "golden" land on Sports Hub and other sports facilities?

 

Build another golf course lor. What else? LoL...

 

Gahment for so many years has the resources and time to build something for motor sports, why didn't they do it, why wait til now? For other physical sport they built lah. Motorsports? Have lah, F1 lor. Street circuit. Something we are using everyday. Dun have to invest on building a track. LoL...

  • 1
 
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