Thursday, June 14, 2012
Singapore YOG & London Olympics: A Tale of 2 Budgets
The UK Sports Minister Hugh Robertson has revealed that the expenses for the London Olympics would be within the budget allocated for the games. A budget of 9.3 billion pounds was set in 2007. Hugh Robertson has indicated that about 500 million pounds would be returned to the Treasury as they are within the budget.
This is how you come out smelling like a rose. Set a high budget with a huge contingency in the budget (2 billion pounds) and then keep your spending within the budget. You get lauded for your fiscal responsibility.
Compare that to the heat receieved by Singapore's former Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Vivian Balakrishnan. The budget set for the Youth Olympic Games was $104 million and the spending went up to $387 million.
Although the Olympic Games cannot be compared with the Youth Olympic Games in terms of logistics and expenses, I am trying to draw a comparison with the way expectation management is done. The organising committee for the YOG grossly underestimated the expenses and set a budget that was too low. In the end, given the nature of the event, $387 million was probably a reasonable sum.
But, in Singapore, the public conversation saw a mishmash of issues colliding together to form an overall anti-PAP rhetoric. (Incidentally, despite my long-standing stance against the PAP's authoritarian style of government, I did not see the YOG budget as an issue. If anything, the problem was in the initial estimate of the organising committee. It was not a case of fiscal irresponsibility.) 2010 was the year of the "once-in-50-years" flood. Singaporeans were becoming increasingly conscious of the presence of large number of foreigners. The plight of senior citizens fending for themselves by scavanging for tin cans was becoming more evident. For many, the YOG expenses became indicative of a government that had the wrong priorities.
I can imagine that the organising committee of the YOG could have estimated the budget at $500 million and kept the spending to $387 million leaving a balance of $113 million. I suspect that not much of a complaint would have been raised (and Vivian Balakrishnan might have kept his previous portfolio instead of being sent to fight floods).
From a public relations standpoint, the UK Sports Minister has scored a respectable point by keeping the Olympic Games expenses within the budget by 500 million pounds.