Meeting between Singapore Ministers and American President Donald Trump and his delegates.

EIU analyst on NK-US summit in Singapore: “Indirect benefits, both for the government and businesses, will eventually be significantly higher than the costs”

Speaking to the media on Sunday (10 June), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong confirmed that Singapore will spend about S$20 million on the summit where American President Donald Trump will meet with North Korean Leader, Kim Jong Un on Tuesday (12 June).

On the amount spent, PM Lee said: "We are willing to pay and its our contribution to an international endeavour which is in our profound interest."

According to PM Lee, Singapore's hosting of the Trump Kim summit will give Singapore publicity and says something about the country's standing in the international community.

When asked to elaborate how Singapore might be able to recoup some of the costs of hosting the summit, he replied: "If you calculate the price of everything in this world, you will miss out on the real important things. And in this case what is important is that the summit is held, and we are hosting it, not extravagantly but with due consideration to costs, but making sure operational requirements are met."

Commenting on the costs and benefits of the North Korea-US summit for Singapore, Ms. Anwita Basu, Analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU), said:

 “The successful hosting of the historic summit will provide Singapore with significant soft powers. For one thing, it will be viewed as the Switzerland of the East and could act as neutral territory for other high-profile summits. This will also mean that Singapore's "friends to all but enemy to none" foreign policy will have worked out very well.

The logistics and security costs that will be borne by the Singapore government is expected to go up to US$20m as per the prime minister's estimations. Singaporean tax payers are not particularly happy about footing this bill. It roughly amounts to 4 times the price paid by the South Koreans for the day long Kim-Moon summit in April. However, the indirect benefits, both for the government and businesses, will eventually be significantly higher than the costs.”

Intrigued by the indirect benefits that Singapore is said to obtain, The Online Citizen wrote to Ms Anwita to find out more.

TOC: When you talk about indirect benefits that Singapore govt and business can get. What kind of indirect benefits are we looking at? Are we looking at business deals with NK or position where Singapore govt and business will find it easy to be the middleman between brokering deals between the NK and the rest of the world?

Ms Anwita: One of the key benefits for Singapore would be to gain global acknowledgement of the success of its "friends to all but enemy to none" foreign policy stance. This is a key motto that underpins the city states diplomatic identity. Not only would Singapore want to act as a broker for peace between North Korea and the US but it will eventually want to leverage this position and use its stance towards ease other regional tensions. The South China Sea comes to mind as another area where Singapore could weigh in with a similar perspective.

TOC: If ties between North Korea and South Korea were to improve, wouldn't South Korea be the best partner in helping NK reach out to the rest of the world instead of a country so far away?

Ms Anwita: Yes and No. South Korea does not enjoy the kind of neutrality in this issue that Singapore does. That said, we cannot expect Singapore to lead on the issue of opening up North Korea. Singapore is simply acting as host to the summit because it does not have a stake and will not press for an outcome either way. While it is in Singapore's interest that the talks go smoothly, the consequences will not be borne by it as such. South Korea, China and Japan are crucially more important in this gambit and Asia will certainly look to them for next steps on the North Korean issue.

TOC: Is it normal for hosting countries to foot the bill for high-profile summits?

Ms Anwita: Yes, hosting countries do incur some aspects of high profile summits. In many cases the costs are manageable. The most controversial bill The EIU can think of was that of the G8 summit in 2010 when Canada's costs for hosting the summit went up to US$1bn.