It was billed as a treat for Singaporeans, Andrea Bocelli's free concert at the Botanic Gardens on Saturday. But not everyone got to see him in the flesh, not even on the big projection screen set up on the rain drenched lawns. Even the public carpark was closed to the general public, only invited guests and cronies were allowed exclusive access.
Among the supposedly 5,000 seated VVIP audience was Singapore President S R Nathan, who got to watch it free as one of the many perks of his $3 million a year "job". Bocelli was accompanied by the Singapore Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonic Chamber Choir conducted by Eugene Kohn.
YTL Corporation (named after founder Malaysian Tan Sri Dato' Seri Dr. Yeoh Tiong Lay) managing director Tan Sri Dr Francis Yeoh was frank enough to admit it was his way of expressing "gratitude" to the city-state (read key government officials) for allowing the foreigner to buy up choice investments in the country. Among the company's strategic acquisitions here was power generation company Power Seraya. Pulau Seraya Power Station was Singapore's first offshore power station. Operating 9 units of 250MW oil-fired steam generating sets and 2 units of gas turbine with an installed capacity of 3,100MW, it is the second largest power generation company in Singapore, meeting over 40% of the nation's power needs.
Once upon a time, utility companies like power generation and waterworks were considered important security sensitive operations for the country and should always be kept out of the purely money motivated private sector. YTL made their money in power plants because Malaysia could not build sufficient plants for their power grid. Not so Singapore, who did not have the same financial and infrastructure constraints. The sale of the nation's security asset can only be justified by the rambuctious greed of the bureaucrats responsible.