Helena Lyng Blak
11 weeks ago

How Taylor Swift's ‘Eras Tour’ ignited a cross-border quarrel

The American singer was a buzzing issue at the ASEAN summit.
Taylor Swift singing into a microphone.
Brian Friedman / Shutterstock.com

Taylor Swift's blockbuster 'Eras Tour' is making its way to Singapore, featuring six sold-out shows from March 2 to March 9. Singapore is Swift's only Southeast Asian stop, much to the disappointment of fans outside the city-state.

Now, however, Swift’s tour has become a hot topic not only among "stans" on social media but also among the region's political leaders. How did one US pop singer create diplomatic tension among neighbors?

The Swiftie economic boost 
To understand the current quarrel, it is necessary to understand the economic impact of the tour itself.

According to Time, the tour is projected to have grossed $2.2 billion in North American ticket sales, and according to Fortune the tour is projected to have generated $4.6 billion in consumer spending in the US alone.

Swift even received a shout out in the Fed’s Beige Book-report, for significantly boosting a tourism industry that is still recovering from the pandemic

A man wearing a t-shirt from Taylor Swift's 'Eras tour'

ezellhphotography / Shutterstock.com

The criticism The issue arose last month when the Thai prime minister Srettha Thavisin, according to The Guardian, claimed that he had discovered that the government of Singapore had paid Swift a subsidy to not only have her tour visit the country, but also as part of an exclusivity agreement which entailed that Swift’s tour would not be visiting any of Singapore’s Southeast Asian neighbors.

Singapore’s government was also criticized by Philippine lawmaker Joey Salceda, who said the move was “not what good neighbors do”.

The ASEAN summit
This finally compelled the Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to address the situation at a press conference during the opening of the ASEAN summit, a biannual meeting held by the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Here he confirmed and defended the existence of a grant.

As reported by Financial Times, Lee stated that: “It has turned out to be a very successful arrangement. I don’t see that as being unfriendly.”

Later, Singapore’s culture minister Edwin Tong asserted that the grant was nowhere near the US$3 million that had been speculated: “economic benefits to Singapore are assessed to be significant and outweigh the size of the grant".

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