Yes, we can do ‘Swiftonomics’ in the Philippines

Yes, we can do ‘Swiftonomics’ in the Philippines

The last thing I expected to emerge from Taylor Swift’s ongoing world tour is a geopolitical mini-kerfuffle.

In the very off chance you missed it, the pop superstar just wrapped up a week of shows in Singapore. In the days leading up to the concerts it emerged that the Singaporean government had negotiated to be the only country in Southeast Asia to host the tour, a fact that some politicians have taken offense to – with one Filipino legislator going as far as characterizing it as an “unfriendly” gesture that “good neighbors” just don’t do to each other.

But, well, it happened. Singapore did grant the concert organizers, AEG, a grant, and exclusivity was one of the conditions. The country’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, defended the deal. And it is perfectly within the country’s rights to do so. It may be unusual for many of us to see a government woo a pop star instead of, say, a multinational manufacturer, but the returns to the domestic economy are undeniable. Singapore, a country that has seen sluggish economic growth in recent years, stands to benefit from increased spending from tourists who book hotels, eat meals, visit other destinations, and maybe, buy some fan merch, too.

Perhaps more importantly, Singapore has the capacity to host over 300,000 Swifties, despite being a country of just 700 square kilometers. It has a modern airport, seen by many as the best in the world. It has a public transport system that is the envy of its neighbors. It has a mature tourism ecosystem that houses shopping, dining and entertainment options whatever your budget may be. And, of course, it has a venue that can house all those fans – but that’s not all there is to it, as Swifties who ended up not watching live will tell you.

In his remarks, Prime Minister Lee had one caveat: while they did have that exclusivity deal with Swift, there was no telling if she and her team had plans to mount concerts elsewhere in Southeast Asia or not. He’s right. The grant may have sweetened the deal, but organizers are also looking at whether a potential concert stop would be a good place to do, well, business. Is there a suitable venue? How easy is it for them – the performers, the technical crew – to move from the airport, to the hotel, to the venue, and anywhere else they have to go to? How expensive is it to move performers and equipment around? Is there access to good technical expertise from local suppliers? And that’s apart from concerns about whether fans can get to the venue or not.

The conversation soon shifted to how neighboring countries can be more competitive when another such situation arises. “Swiftonomics”, as the South China Morning Post put it. It does not just mean a venue large enough to accommodate tens of thousands of Swifties – and a transport system that can bring them in and out without having to wait hours stuck in traffic at the parking lot, as is seemingly always the case with the Philippine Arena. From the perspective of the organizers – from the perspective of business – it’s about whether it would be easy for them to mount the concert here. To do business here. And for that, countries should amp up their efforts to make it as easy as possible for companies to do business.

I’m not saying this is why the Philippines “lost out” on the Eras Tour, never mind Spotify saying that Quezon City is one of the biggest Taylor Swift-listening cities in the world. I mean, we did have Coldplay for two nights a few months ago, although that resulted in a controversy over President Marcos flying in via chopper to watch the concert while his citizens were stuck in traffic. We get a lot of concerts here, and it’s not just legacy acts with a limited fanbase. (Are you a Once or a Blink?)

The point is, work must continue to ensure our systems have the absorptive capacity to deal with demand shocks, whether because of calamities or holidays such as Christmas. We – both the government and the private sector – should continually invest in digitalization, and make sure it is truly inclusive, meaning we should also invest in educating our partners and customers, and improving their access. We should continue looking for ways to streamline our operations to improve speed and efficiency, but without sacrificing the welfare of the people that make our operations happen. Finally, we should also ensure we uphold integrity in our work, so as to better attract outside investment. This is important especially now that perceptions matter more than ever.

Maybe someday we can make the case for our love story – and maybe Taylor will say yes.

2024 Supply Chain Immersion: Our flagship weekend long event giving you a truly immersive look at end-to-end supply chain is happening on April 19-22. This year we are headed to Puerto Princesa City, the Ecotourism Center of the Philippines, and with our mix of expert talks and site tours we aim to look at how we can better work together to address logistics challenges. Learn more about this year’s event and register now at

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Henrik Batallones is the marketing and communications director of SCMAP, and editor-in-chief of its official publication, Supply Chain Philippines. More information about SCMAP is available at