Pandas are cute. But when the two giant pandas from China land in Singapore, I predict that there will be an online backlash against their arrival. Their arrival timing couldn’t be worse, given the general online sentiment against foreigners (especially PRCs).
Pandas are notoriously expensive things. So expensive, that US zoos typically lose money on them. Our pandas are going to be displayed along with other sights at the upcoming River Safari attraction, a new park that costs about $180m. Because pandas need cool weather, they will be in a large (1,500m2) air-conditioned environment that costs $8.6m to create and another bomb to upkeep. The pandas will also eat bamboo shoots specially grown from a 8000 sqm plantation. The pandas will only stay here for 10 years, returning to China afterwards.
So it’s not surprising if we read complaints about how the PAP is willing to spend more money and land on a pair of pandas than it is willing to spend on a pair of citizens. Given that the entrance fee to the River Safari is going to be about $28 to $30 pax, we’re going to hear accusations that the poor cannot get to see the pandas. Pandas who will be living a better life than themselves.
But here’s something I ask the reader to consider. The pandas were offered as a gift by China back in 2009 to celebrate 20 years of diplomatic relationships. Given China’s size and “face-loving” culture, would it have been possible for the govt to reject China without ruffling feathers?
My reading is that it would be very difficult to do so without slapping the Chinese in the face, especially when pandas are seen as important diplomatic symbols. Maybe it was the wiser choice to accept the pandas, and find a way to milk their rarity to recover their cost of upkeep (or at least a part of it).