SINGAPORE: It was revealed on Friday (Oct 20) that Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the eventual winner of the 2023 Presidential Election, spent more than S$700,000 (US$510,000) on his campaign, dwarfing the amounts shelled out by the other two candidates, Mr Ng Kok Song and Mr Tan Kin Lian.
The Elections Department released the expenditure reports for inspection and they will remain online for six months, until April 2024.
From the mundane (taxi claims) to the unexpected (copyright licences), the documents give an insight into how the three men tried to navigate their way to the Istana.
We followed the money – all 710 pages of the three reports – and here’s what we found:
If you were a volunteer in the Tharman campaign, you would have been covered by insurance in case something had happened to you.
A group personal accident insurance policy costing S$4,536 was taken out for 12,000 people on polling day (Sep 1) and the day after. The main activities described in the policy document: Polling and counting.
The sum insured totalled S$20,500 per person, covering accidental death, permanent disability and medical expenses for injury.
The insurance company was NTUC Income and Mr Tharman was the only candidate who appeared to have purchased insurance coverage for his volunteers.
Mr Ng had made it a point to concentrate his resources on online advertising and, in fact, was the only candidate to allocate more money to online ads than non-online ads.
Part of the S$280,800 he spent went to buying guest spots in podcasts and talk shows. Documents revealed that this cost him S$7,503.
On the other hand, Mr Tan appeared to have eschewed online ads altogether, spending just S$20. It was unclear from the documents what this was spent on.
As a former senior member of the Singapore Cabinet, Mr Tharman would have rubbed shoulders with top political and financial leaders during his time in office.
But snapshots of those moments don’t come free and two of the expense entries were for the licensing of photos of Mr Tharman with Chinese President Xi Jinping and then-chief of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde.
These set him back S$518 and S$567 respectively.
Mr Tan received more than S$41,800 in campaign donations, but no single donor contributed more than S$10,000, the threshold at which donations, by law, would have to be recorded.
Two people came close: Ms Ivy Singh-Lim, the founder of Bollywood Farms, donated S$9,990 and Mr Tan Suee Chieh, the CEO of NTUC Income from 2007 to 2013, donated S$9,800. The former was seen at the viewing party at Mr Tan Kin Lian’s home on polling night.
Mr Tharman’s campaign received S$800,000 from seven donors, while Mr Ng did not declare any donations.
Mr Ng’s team spent a total of S$18,255 on transport costs during the course of the campaign, around S$7,000 of which was expensed to a limousine service.
In comparison, transport costs ate up S$2,977 of Mr Tharman’s budget while Mr Tan declared zero expense in this category.