"to rescue truth from beauty and meaning from belief"

That’s A$246,406.57 per day…for 25 years; thanks, mate!



In the excitement and run-up of Bukit Batok by-election, this A$2.25b deal might have been missed…

 “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’–that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Keats


Notwithstanding PAP leaders’ cold, calculating leadership ideology (embodied in words such as ‘How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?’), I have always imagined that they are all closet, poetry-loving dudes. Well, at least, Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn appear to express their beliefs in beauty and truth.

Why and how else can it be that whatever they do are reported by the mainstream media as acts of beauty – that it’s always the only truth? And, yeah, ‘that is all…and all ye need to know’, citizens!

Take the now-concluded Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement PM Lee has just inked with PM Turnbull. Both called it a ‘landmark’ pact. There can be and there are only upsides all round for Singapore and Singaporeans. Read here and here.

I have little problem with ‘beauty is truth, truth beauty’, my usual concern is with the truth behind the beauty. Specifically, in this case, the truth behind the beauty of access to a training area 10X the size of Singapore is at a cost of A$2.25 bil over 25 years. Our ever-compliant reporters & editors preferred the neat 3-digit beautiful figure.

But, in truth, it’s a mind-boggling A$246,406.57 per day of our hard-earned money.

Why should it concern or worry you? 
Since the announcement on 7 May, not one single MP, whether PAP or WP, has raised any questions about this serious money that we are throwing to the Aussies.

What is even worse, for an agreement with such a high payout, the defence minister, the foreign minster or the prime minister himself never bothered to bring the agreement up for parliamentary discussion prior to negotiation. Does that not put Singapore at a grave negotiating disadvantage as the Aussies know that they need only convince the ministers who, unlike their own, need not be accountable to their MPs and citizens – or inquisitive reporters? Perhaps, a little polishing of the ministers’ apples (that they are such worthy ministerial talents, so decisive in knowing what’s best for their Singapore will yield the additional A$100mil, A$400mil more in the final price tag?

What’s more, will it not encourage other countries (Taiwan, Thailand, Brunei, USA, India etc) to rub their hands in glee when similar agreements come up for renegotiation?

Therefore, shouldn’t that worry Singaporeans on 2 counts, namely, no prior debate and the actual amount of serious money that we are paying just to train (up to) 14,000 soldiers annually?

I know that questioning expenditures on defence-related issues are a favourite for the PAP leaders to jump on to make outrageous claims that the questioner is risking our nation’s survival etc. They are also wont to throw up out-of-context, false-dilemma or many-questions type of fallacious arguments (Minister Shanmugam did with Chee’s call to relook our foreign labour policies) i.e. everything but give straight answers to our honest concerns, worries and questions.

But we are merely exercising our basic right to question and, in fact, taking up Minister Tharman’s recent belief that politician and leaders, in particular, must ‘discuss things openly, tell the people the truth‘.

My fellow Singaporeans, please email your MPs (click here to get their email addresses) to demand that they raise the questions on our behalf. It’s OUR money!!!


3 thoughts on “That’s A$246,406.57 per day…for 25 years; thanks, mate!

  1. I have read the two ST news reports cited here and some of their cross-referenced articles. Aside from your concern about the lack of parliamentary debates on the spending issue, it seems to me that it is a wise and prudent move for Singapore to strengthen its ties with Australia-New Zealand within this particular region of Asia in taking a long view, instead of with its geographic neighbors of Brunei and now even Indonesia given the ruinous effects of their religious influences and regressive tendencies, which will very likely see no “truth or beauty” whatsoever in the future where Singapore and the world are concerned, (Malaysia is also in this same boat, but Singapore has no choice but to maintain a gentlemanly tie with it if not for necessity out of sheer proximity.)

    Just to mention, the figure of A$2.25 billion is actually a “cap” over the course of 25 years in developing joint military training facilities in Australia. [1] Singapore is paying not merely to train up to 14,000 soldiers a year but potentially up to 350,000 soldiers throughout the span of this program that will provide hitherto unavailable spaces for specialized training, big enough to house a mock city for soldiers to acquire urban warfare capabilities. [2] This looks like a substantial, meaningful boost to the kind of military capability that will be relevant to Singapore’s defense in 25 years’ time, given its status as a small nation in a volatile, backward region. I am all for weaning Singapore off its dependence on Brunei for military training spaces, especially since Brunei’s oil reserves will run out in 24 years [3] (about the time of Singapore’s pact with Australia!), at which time I am quite sure the world (and I) will not miss Brunei as a country that has virtually zero positive contribution to humanity.

    I am taking the data reported as factual, so the A$2.25 billion figure is indeed NOT exorbitant when you see that Australia’s investments in Singapore were already worth A$50.7 billion in 2014 alone, while Singapore’s bilateral trade with Australia amounted to S$20.2 billion in 2015. [4] Furthermore, this military spending is only one facet of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Australia that also include cooperation in economics, science, education and culture. [5] Seeing it in this light, $2.25 billion over 25 years is but a speck to pay in the totality of a mutually beneficial relationship that reaps tangible rewards for both parties.

    PS. I love the two lines of Keats’ quote, very much after my own heart.


    [1] http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/saf-to-get-expanded-training-areas-in-australia

    [2] http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/deal-more-than-triples-safs-training-area-in-australia

    [3] http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21661040-autocratic-sultanate-turns-more-devout-oil-money-declines-all-pray-and-no-work

    [4] http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapore-australia-ink-pact-taking-ties-to-new-heights

    [5] http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/australianz/malcolm-turnbull-hails-massive-upgrade-in-bilateral-ties-with-singapore


    • It should be up to the parliament to decide if A$2.25b is reasonable. The same applies to the F-35 joint strike fighter program. Even Temasek/GIC investments can use some Parliament oversight. Otherwise why bother to have an election for MPs?


    • Kai,

      Thank you for your considered observations and remarks.

      I’m sure all the reasons to proceed with the CSP are there for the govt to repeat ad nauseum – and valid ones, too.

      It’s just the complete disregard for parliamentary discussions, accountability and oversight that is plain, plain wrong.

      SG and S’poreans will live to regret what we are bequeathing to our children and theirs.


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