Singapore prime minister defends exclusive deal with Taylor Swift that riles some neighbors

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Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. call on (someone) / kɔl ɒn / (phrasal v.) – to ask someone to do something, usually in a way that is formal or official

    The manager was called on to present this month’s financial report.

  2. strike / straɪk / (v.) – to make an agreement

    The two companies struck a deal to collaborate on a new marketing campaign.

  3. undermine / ˌʌn dərˈmaɪn / (v.) – to make someone or something weaker, less powerful, or less effective

    The constant criticism from her manager undermined her confidence at work.

  4. explicitly / ɪkˈsplɪs ɪt li / (adv.) – in a way that is clear and direct, leaving no confusion or doubt about the meaning

    During the presentation, the speaker explicitly mentioned the main points to help the audience understand the topic.

  5. goodwill / ˈgʊdˈwɪl / (n.) – positive, kind, helpful, or friendly feelings that exist between people or groups

    The company’s commitment to social responsibility helped build goodwill among customers and the community.


Read the text below.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was called on during a key regional summit on March 5 to defend an exclusive deal his city-state struck with Taylor Swift that prevents the pop star from taking her current The Eras Tour anywhere else in Southeast Asia.

Swift performed six concerts from March 2 to 9 in Singapore under an exclusive deal that has been criticized by some Southeast Asian neighbors who complain they have been deprived of the tourist boom that her concerts have brought elsewhere.

In a sign of the international phenomenon that Swift has become, the veteran Singaporean statesman was asked by a journalist to confirm the deal and to comment on whether it undermined the spirit of cooperation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a 10-nation bloc known by the acronym ASEAN of which Singapore is a key member.

Lee confirmed that Swift was provided with “certain incentives” from a government fund established to rebuild the tourism industry after COVID-19 disruptions to make Singapore her only Southeast Asian destination. He did not say how much the deal cost.

“It has turned out to be a very successful arrangement. I don’t see that as being unfriendly,” Lee said.

Lee suggested that if Singapore hadn’t struck an exclusive deal, a neighboring country might have done so. “Sometimes one country makes a deal, sometimes another country does. I don’t explicitly say ‘you will come here only on condition that you’ll not go to other places,’” Lee said.

Swift’s representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“If that’s what’s needed to be done to get an outcome which is mutually beneficial and which, from Singapore’s point of view, serves not just to grow the economy but also to bring in visitors and goodwill from all over the region, I don’t see why not,” Lee said.

“If we had not made such an arrangement, would she have come to someplace else in Southeast Asia or more places in Southeast Asia? Maybe, maybe not. These are things that she will decide,” Lee added.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Given the statements mentioned in the article, do you believe that Singapore really undermined the spirit of cooperation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • In your opinion, should countries focus more on their own economic interests, like the exclusive deal with Taylor Swift, or on working together with neighboring countries? Why? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Do you think exclusive deals with international celebrities, as seen in this case, can have a positive impact on a country’s economy? What about its effect on a country’s reputation? Discuss.
  • What do you think are the pros and cons of Singapore’s exclusive deal (ex. pro: economic boost, con: having a negative image)? Considering your answer, do you think that the deal is generally beneficial for the country? Why or why not? Discuss.