Singapore — When Workers’ Party MP Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) suggested an environmental tax on Singapore Airlines flights to nowhere in Parliament on Tuesday (Oct 6), Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung responded that the airline was already beleaguered due to the Covid-19 pandemic and that additional costs would be unduly burdensome.
Associate Prof Lim’s suggestion also drew criticism from members of the public and the online community. One of those who spoke up for SIA and its workers was former MP Amrin Amin, who was in the People’s Action Party team that lost to a WP team which comprised A/Prof Lim in Sengkang GRC in this year’s elections. He was a Parliamentary Secretary and had been a PAP MP in Sembawang GRC before being fielded in Sengkang.
In a pointed Facebook post on Wednesday (Oct 7), Mr Amrin said he worried about the future of the employees of SIA who have been retrenched, as the airline industry has taken a huge hit due to the pandemic.
I worry about the many cabin crew and staff of SIA who have been retrenched. Passenger volumes are critically low. For…
He wrote: “There’s a serious disconnect for Workers Party Jamus Lim to suggest slapping a new environmental tax on an ailing national carrier. SIA had already dropped plans for ‘flights to nowhere’ last week. Times are bad. It’s a struggle.
“If a PAP MP had suggested this, many colourful adjectives will be coughed out. But I suppose we can be charitable and just call the less than compassionate suggestion — noise pollution?”
However, A/Prof Lim had taken to Facebook on the same day as the parliamentary session on Tuesday (Oct 6) to explain that his suggestion would mean that customers would shell out more for flight costs, “this then constitutes an indirect transfer from (typically wealthier) passengers willing to take a flight to nowhere, to SIA workers”.
He added: “More generally, I was hoping to spur some creative thinking about how we can help ensure the future viability of our national airline, without compromising the need to pay attention to the environment, too. I think such creative thinking is necessary to ensure that we don’t spend our hard-earned reserves in an unwise fashion.”
Some people have responded to Mr Amrin in A/Prof Lim’s defence.
One person disagreed that A/Prof Lim’s suggestion was “noise pollution”, adding that, to youths, the environment is an important issue.
Others called Mr Amin “a former MP trying to stay politically relevant”.
And one asked him to respect Sengkang’s voters.
Some agreed with the idea of an environmental tax, calling paying it “the responsible thing to do”.