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Profligate spending on PAP’s S$235.6 million Founders’ Memorial?

Is the PAP’s S$235.6 million Founders’ Memorial a lavish misuse of public funds? Constructed against Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes of monument building, this project appears more a political stunt than a genuine tribute. Are taxpayers bearing the cost for political gains?

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Just yesterday, Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong (LHL) kicked off the Founders’ Memorial in Singapore, a big move by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) to boost its image by leaning on the country’s history.

The memorial is meant to celebrate Singapore’s founding leaders, showcasing the values and achievements that shaped the nation.

At the groundbreaking at Bay East Garden, LHL, who just stepped down as Prime Minister after two decades, talked up the memorial’s role in honouring Singapore’s founders: “Our nation-building journey deserves to be commemorated and remembered. This memorial will serve as a beacon of the values and spirit that propelled our founding leaders,” he stated.

But this goes against the wishes of Lee Kuan Yew (LKY), Singapore’s founding father, who wasn’t into personal monuments or memorials.

Back in April 2015, following the passing of his father, LHL echoed his dad’s views: “Mr Lee made it very clear throughout his life that he did not need and did not want any monument. We can pay no greater tribute to him than to uphold the principles upon which he built this country.”

This stance was further supported by LKY’s daughter, Dr Lee Wei Ling, who has been vocal about her father’s opposition to hero worship, fearing it might eclipse the substantive principles he championed.

In 2016, she emphasized on Facebook: “He did not want to be hero-worshipped. Papa’s wish should be honored as an example of an outstanding Singaporean who did not want to be hero-worshipped.”

Dr Lee also wrote, “In this age where prestige and power attract unscrupulous people to enter politics, Papa’s wish should be honoured as an example of an outstanding Singaporean who did not want to be hero-worshipped. To preserve the house sends a wrong message to Singapore’s politicians and aspiring politicians. It is also impossible to say we honor him and dishonor his only request of Singaporeans.”

This principle was the reason why LKY sought to have his family house at 38 Oxley Road demolished after his passing and the vacation of his daughter so that people would not treat it as a national monument. This was acknowledged by LHL in his 2015 speech, in which he cited his father’s unwavering position on the matter.

However, in what can be seen as an attempt to sidestep his father’s objections to personal monuments, LHL, in his April 2015 speech, proposed a more inclusive concept—a memorial not just for LKY but for all the founding fathers, coupled with an exhibition gallery to honour their collective legacy and educate future generations.

Despite LKY’s clear stance, the PAP’s decision to build the Founders’ Memorial might be a way to tie the party to the revered status of Singapore’s founding leaders, even if it goes against his explicit wishes.

And by all means, if such antics used PAP’s own resources from its MPs and party, it would be one thing, but this spending appears to be coming from public coffers.

According to GeBiz tender records, the construction of the building alone costs a staggering S$235.6 million. Beyond the hefty price tag of the structure, there is also a significant investment in manpower, time, and resources for development, promotion, and administration that could potentially be directed elsewhere. Additionally, there’s the cost of building a new MRT station, seemingly tailored mainly to service this monument.

One can’t help but question the wisdom of investing so many resources into a single project. What’s the opportunity cost here—as the PAP often likes to say regarding the use of state land? This prime land, dedicated to the memorial, could have been used for other developments that might offer immediate and tangible benefits to the public or add to the Singapore Reserves.

Just where is the public consensus? The last time I checked, the decision to build the memorial had already been made with the formation of a committee, which received inputs from just over 400 people and a separate sample of 1,300 individuals who provided over 200 responses via an online portal.

It somehow feels predetermined, much like how the undisclosed committee was formed by LHL to decide the fate of 38 Oxley Road even after his explicit acknowledgement of his father’s last wishes  (this was denied by the Cabinet), much to the surprise and disappointment of his sibling.

Are we sacrificing potential gains for a project with questionable necessity and one that seems primarily to benefit a political party rather than the public at large?

This type of lavish spending is perhaps the kind of pitfall that LHL warned about when discussing the potential need to hike GST.

He once forcefully articulated in response to claims of GST hikes back during the 2015 General Election, “What will make you need to raise GST? Profligate spending and irresponsible, unsustainable plans. That is what will hurt and require you to raise taxes and GST.” This project could very well exemplify the kind of financial irresponsibility that leads directly to increased financial burden on the citizenry.

LHL also said, “As far as the Government is concerned, we do things which we need to do and when we do that, we will explain it and we will justify it. And if it cannot be justified, and our people don’t believe us, then we will pay the price at the next election.”

If the justification for such extravagant expenditure on the Founders’ Memorial does not resonate with the public, it could indeed be a costly misstep for the current administration, risking not just fiscal repercussions for the country but political ones for the ruling party at the polls.

Correction: Updated correct tender price of construction of the Founder’s Memorial.

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Pinky has hereby cemented
DISHONORABILITY as his legacy.
Congrats!!!

Just a statue garden with maybe a fountain/bird-bath on the grounds of Parliament House should be more than sufficient and more apropos. After all, the founders WORK building up Singapore took place there, in parliament.

Spending $236 million just for the building itself? What about recurring maintenance cost into the future? All for the purpose of WHAT EXACTLY? And achieving WHAT RETURNS?

And they are ostensibly building an MRT station just for the convenience of getting there? Is there any population centre near that MRT? I thought there was ALREADY an MRT serving Marina Bay Gardens. Isn’t it near enough? To think that the PAP under LKY actually mothballed Potong Pasir MRT just because there wasn’t “enough ridership”.

Just another boondoggle!

SPH $180m annually. PA $1.2b annually. Now this project at $236m. All taxpayers’ monies used for PAP propaganda. Global warming, all these structures might just collapse or go up in smoke. So please stop building and zoom in on safety maintenance of the present structures.

Seems like LHL has forgotten everything he said before when as sg pm…?
Early dementia?
Carry on all this unneccessary lavish spending and for sure PAP will see a loss of few more seats at the next elections…
People are fed up.

Last edited 6 days ago by W.A.J.

It drives one well to remember deaths of various strongmen, the way their departures took places – nothing to do with Lavish Air Terminals, Splendour Send Offs, Gold Plated hearses – Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Nero, Progozin Wagner and so on. Some were so dishourable, one hiding in a drain, one blown into ashes.

Whats to make of modern day dictators – GE smash them to disappear to Hades?

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