Much has been said and written on the importance of arts and culture to societies. Concomitantly, there is recognition that public funding for this sector is merited due to the quasi-public nature of arts as well as the economic benefits it can deliver. At the turn of the 21st century, government support for the arts was often justified as the building of cultural capital. Despite these additional arguments, increases in arts’ share of the public purse have not been as significant nor as sustained as its proponents have hoped. One reason for the cultural sector’s inability to garner more resources – in juxtaposition with other sectors of the economy – is the dearth of more comprehensive and concrete monetary valuations of arts and culture. The development of non-market valuation methods and the subsequent proliferation of valuation studies have generally facilitated a more balanced reallocation of governmental interest and investment towards the environmental and social sectors. However, research into the total economic value of arts and cultural resources, specifically in newly-developed countries, still lags behind studies in environment, transport and health, as well as studies done on developed countries.
The basic premise of this thesis is that although citizens in a newly-developed economy such as Singapore have previously focused on livelihood more than lifestyle pursuits such as the arts and culture, these people do still attach a non-zero value to arts and culture; and that this non-zero valuation is true of both users and non-users of that cultural resource. Estimating the total economic value is critical since it will contribute to more robust and comprehensive measurement of the costs and benefits of investing in arts and culture. This will lead in turn to more nuanced cultural policymaking and programme development. Specifically, this thesis derives the economic value of three types of cultural resources – arts festivals, museums and performing arts centres – in Singapore. Contingent valuation and choice experiment are the two stated preference approaches used to elicit people’s willingness to pay (WTP). The former method delivers the overall amounts that Singaporeans are willing to pay to prevent a loss of the cultural event and cultural venues while the latter pinpoints the marginal WTP (i.e. the implicit price) of specific attributes of the performing arts centre. Besides obtaining the actual WTP amounts, this study also undertakes an analysis of the determinants of WTP.
The empirical core of this thesis comprises three papers. In the first paper, we compare Singaporeans’ valuation of two arts festivals differentiated by genre as well as by length of existence. We found that the average WTP of those attending the long-established performing arts festival was more than double that for the visual arts festival which was being held only for the second time. Factors which had an effect on WTP include personal characteristics such as age, education and expatriate status, attitudes towards the arts as well as prior experience of the cultural event. The second paper focuses on a cultural institution, specifically a museum. The amounts that both patrons as well as non-patrons of the Museum were willing to pay under two policy changes – a potential loss of the Museum and enhancement of the Museum’s services – are estimated. Results are indicative of the applicability of prospect theory to this cultural asset. In addition, this study considered people’s WTP to avoid loss of the Museum under two different payment mechanisms, allowing us to examine people’s preference for the mode of cultural philanthropy. In the analysis of the determinants of WTP, the impact of ethnicity on the valuation of culture was specifically explored. Key insights from this aspect will be important for all societies as ethnic diversity increases with escalating human mobility and globalisation. The third paper focuses on Singapore’s premier performing arts centre. While the demand for arts centres tends generally to be derived from the demand for arts performances and exhibitions, this particular performing arts centre is also a widely-recognised symbol of Singapore due to its distinctive architectural design. This paper thus investigates the WTP of Singapore residents as well as tourists for various attributes of the performing arts centre which contributes to its ‘sense of place’. Understanding the implicit prices of these attributes will allow policymakers and venue managers to better design future cultural venues and platforms to widen access to the arts for all Singaporeans and/or enhance the touristic experience.
Last but not least, this thesis contributes to knowledge on refinements in contingent valuation and choice experiment survey techniques for newly-developed economies. These methodological insights will benefit policymakers in similar societies seeking to estimate the total economic value of arts and culture.