Singapore – One of the key points covered by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (February 18) during the Budget 2019 statement was about ensuring a sustainable environment for all. He focused on developing long term plans with investments in infrastructure that will prepare the country against the effects of global warming.
According to the Finance Minister, “we must plan for climate change and rising sea levels that threaten our very existence. As a low-lying island nation, there is nowhere to hide when sea levels rise.” He noted the severe implications this global occurrence brings and that the government is studying them carefully to come up with measures to adequately prepare the island-nation.
Climate action plan
The Climate Action Plan, which was launched in 2016, is one example of the government’s initiatives. It seeks a strategy for mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change with a focus on infrastructure. Through this, low lying roads near coastal areas have been raised and Changi airport’s Terminal 5 is being built at 5.5 metres above mean sea level, among others.
“We will have to invest more. Our total bid for infrastructure will increase significantly,” said Mr. Heng. He added that the ministries had done their preliminary estimations although it is difficult to gauge spending budgets way into the future.
The Finance Minister urged for a collective effort as “tackling climate change requires global cooperation, but Singapore is committed and willing to do its share in addressing this because this is the responsible thing to do for our children and the next generations.”
Zero Waste Master Plan
It is the government’s goal to become a zero-waste nation which will rely on the citizens’ willingness in a change of lifestyle such as adopting the “3 Rs” (reducing consumption, reusing and recycling). The full initiative, called the Zero Waste Masterplan, will be launched in the second half of the year.
Included in this master plan is the better management of issues such as foot waste, e-waste and packaging waste including plastic. The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) will provide more details at the Committee of Supply (COS).
“Given the dense urban environment, air quality and greenery are very important,” said Mr. Heng. The health and quality of Singaporean life benefit from the country’s 40% green cover although more steps must be taken to reduce diesel consumption, similar to what other European nations are doing. From here, he focused on the carbon tax being applied to this year’s emissions. This is to urge the country to opt for environmentally friendly engines such as hybrid cars.
To help businesses adjust, the government will provide 100% road tax rebates for one year and partial for another two years for commercial diesel vehicles. They will also provide over three years additional cash rebates up to S$3200 for diesel buses faring school children.
“Building a more sustainable environment makes our quality of life better and also creates economic opportunities,” noted Mr. Heng.
After the water loop, the Finance Minister brought everyone’s attention to the waste loop and mentioned two startups, UglyGood and Tris who are discovering innovative ways to convert food-related waste into useful products. He wishes that more similar initiatives will be enforced.
Mr. Heng also talked about the smart use of technology as one of the country’s efforts in becoming a Smart Nation. The example mentioned was the use of district cooling in the Marina Bay area and the construction of environmentally-friendly buildings with low energy consumption. He added that The National Research Foundation would continue to fund the R&D for these plans.
Housing and improvement programmes
The government aims to continuously maintain and improve the standard of living of every Singaporean through rejuvenation and home improvement programmes which must start with Housing Board estates. He said, “Many cities have large tracts that slip into disrepair over time – we must avoid that. We must strive to make every town in Singapore green and liveable.” Examples of these programmes are the URA Master Plan 2019, which will guide the country’s urban development over a 10 to 15-year time frame, the Home Improvement Programme, which will help address common maintenance problems of ageing flats, and the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme, which will focus on block and precinct improvements.
Through a sound fiscal plan, these “will keep our living environment first-class over the coming years,” said Mr. Heng.
Here is an update by the Ministry of Finance
Watch the full statement below:
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