At a public dialogue in 2013 [Link], Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he would rather get more foreign billionaires into Singapore even if it increases the rich and poor divide here. His justification is that rich foreigners coming to Singapore will help create jobs here.
How many jobs do FT billionaires create for Singaporeans?
By Richard Wan
He said, “In fact, if I can get another 10 billionaires to move to Singapore and set up their base here, my Gini coefficient will get worse but I think Singaporeans will be better off, because they will bring in business, bring in opportunities, open new doors and create new jobs, and I think that is the attitude with which we must approach this problem.”
One of these rich foreign billionaires welcomed into Singapore not long ago is Australian Nathan Tinkler, who was recently in the news.
It was reported by Reuters on 10 Feb [Link] that Mr Tinkler has been declared a bankrupt in Australia’s Federal Court, after losing a legal battle over money he owed from the sale of a luxury jet.
Mr Tinkler rode the mining boom to become Australia’s youngest billionaire. The one-time electrician was ranked Australia’s 26th-richest person by Forbes in 2012.
Obtains Singapore PR despite financial troubles
According to an Australian news report (‘Former billionaire Nathan Tinkler living in Singapore as Australian creditors line up‘, 2012), Mr Tinkler was granted Singapore PR in 2012. He lived a high life driving luxury cars, involving in horse racing and living in 2 bungalows in Singapore.
However, he was already in financial troubles then, with Australian creditors hounding him. The news reported in 2012:
“Life has been good for Nathan Tinkler at his new home of Singapore, but the question for the former billionaire is how long will it last? As Australian creditors line up claiming they are owed, Tinkler has been living a reclusive but extraordinary lifestyle only the super rich could afford…
The creditors and burnt staff and suppliers who are turning against Tinkler and his empire in the courts and the media, tell a story which must hurt even a man in his ivory tower in Singapore.”
In 2014, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of Australia grilled Mr Tinkler about allegations that he and his companies illegally bankrolled the 2011 election campaigns of Liberal Party candidates [Link].
But he told ICAC that he had been used as a “scapegoat” for political donations organised by colleagues he thought he could trust. He said he believed the co-founders of his property development company Buildev, had set him up and used him as a “scapegoat”.
He also said he knew nothing about those candidates referring to him as “the big man”, and said “all these people I don’t know were trading on my reputation”.
In one of the hearings, a Labour MP Jodi McKay gave evidence that Mr Tinkler had attempted to bribe her before the 2011 election so as to gain her support for one of the Buildev projects. She reported him to the authorities [Link].
Later, ICAC heard that Buildev turned against her. Text messages presented at the commission revealed that Mr Tinkler was determined to ruin Ms McKay’s chances of re-election because of her opposition against Buildev to build a coal terminal in Newcastle. Buildev was said to have secretly paid for thousands of flyers smearing Ms McKay during the 2011 election. He denied bribing Ms McKay and rejected suggestions he had paid for a smear campaign against her.
In any case, a state police minister resigned following explosive allegations that he was involved in a “corrupt scheme” with Mr Tinkler’s company to receive the illegal election donations [Link].
On 20 July last year, an arrest warrant was ordered after Mr Tinkler failed to appear in the Supreme Court in Adelaide to answer questions about the liquidation of his assets. The liquidator had taken action in the South Australian Supreme Court over unpaid debts and asked the court to issue a warrant for his arrest, saying he had shown a “flagrant disregard” for the court [Link].
Returning back to Mr Tinkler’s PR in Singapore, how many jobs do you think the “billionaire” has created for Singaporeans by becoming a Singapore Permanent Resident?