April 21st, 2024

Singapore prime minister defends exclusive deal with Taylor Swift that riles some neighbors

By Rod Mcguirk, The Associated Press on March 4, 2024.

FILE - In this July 10, 2019 file photograph, singer Taylor Swift performs at Amazon Music's Prime Day concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. Powered by big stadium tours from artists like Swift and Beyoncé, ticket sales are booming and it appears likely that live acts will continue to draw massive crowds after the pandemic closed down concert venues globally for close to two years. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday defended an exclusive deal his city-state struck with Taylor Swift that prevents the pop star taking her current Eras Tour to anywhere else in Southeast Asia.

Swift is performing six concerts from March 2 to 9 in Singapore under an exclusive deal that has been criticized by some Southeast Asian neighbors who complain they have been deprived of the tourist boom that her concerts have brought elsewhere.

Lee confirmed that Swift was provided with “certain incentives” from a government fund established to rebuild tourism industry after COVID-19 disruptions to make Singapore her only Southeast Asian destination. He did not say how much the deal cost.

He said he did not regard the deal as unfriendly toward his neighbors in the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“It has turned out to be a very successful arrangement. I don’t see that as being unfriendly,” Lee said in the Australian city of Melbourne where he is attending an ASEAN leaders’ summit.

Lee did not directly answer when asked if he had encountered “bad blood” among other leaders due to the deal.

Lees suggested that if Singapore hadn’t struck an exclusive deal, a neighboring country might have done so.

“Sometimes one country makes a deal, sometimes another country does. I don’t explicitly say “˜you will come here only on condition that you’ll not go to other places,'” Lee said.

Swift’s representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lee said he expected that Australia similarly made “mutually acceptable, sensible arrangements” with Swift when she performed in Sydney and Melbourne before flying to Singapore. Lee said he didn’t know what Australia’s arrangements were.

“If that’s what’s needed to be done to get an outcome which is mutually beneficial and which, from Singapore’s point of view, serves not just to grow the economy but also to bring in visitors and goodwill from all over the region, I don’t see why not,” Lee said.

“If we had not made such an arrangement, would she have come to someplace else in Southeast Asia or more places in Southeast Asia? Maybe, maybe not. These are things that she will decide,” Lee added.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who is hosting the ASEAN summit, attended one of Swift’s Sydney concerts last month.

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