Singapore—Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) received much flak earlier this week for his suggestion of imposing an environmental tax with regards to Singapore Airlines, which Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung pushed back against, given the already beleaguered condition of SIA due to the current pandemic.
In Parliament, Mr Ong stated flatly, “This is really not the time now to talk about an environmental tax on SIA.”
Critics have called Associate Professor Lim insensitive for bringing up the matter, calling it inappropriate given the economic fallout of the pandemic, which has had a serious effect on the global airline industry.
The WP MP took to his Facebook page to explain his point, that while 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.”
On Friday (Oct 9), Mr Lim posted a photo of a parliamentary question that came from a fellow newbie, People’s Action Party MP Don Wee Boon Hong (Chua Chu Kang GRC) that had been withdrawn.
One of the reasons I entered politics was because I believed that good policy is the result of careful deliberation and…
The question was: “To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment whether the Ministry will consider introducing an environment tax on bottled and packet liquid products in view of their environmental impact.”
The photo also said it was a notice for a sitting on or after October 19, 2020, received on October 8, and that Mr Don Wee had given notice to withdraw the question.
Mr Lim’s post has since been widely shared on social media.
He wrote, “I am not alone: other colleagues in Parliament have thought about environmental taxes too, but of course are fully entitled to change their minds after careful consideration, as I am open to as well.”
The Sengkang MP, who became one of the most popular candidates of any party in the July General Election, wrote from his heart about why he had gone into polices in the first place.
“I believed that good policy is the result of careful deliberation and earnest debate. I have tried my best to keep this principle in mind in my interactions in Parliament. This was the reason I raised the issue of environmental taxes, in the context of #SIA’s ‘flights to nowhere.’ I was therefore disappointed that what could have been a thoughtful debate about who bears the tax burden of supporting our national airline became misrepresented as a misguided agenda to roll out additional taxes on an ailing industry.”
He underlined that environmental issues impact everyone. “thinking about how we can be good stewards of it need not come at the expense of jobs or profit, and likewise not just when it suits us, as it is an existential issue that affects all future generations. I genuinely believe that these objectives—saving jobs, and saving the earth—can be complementary. Green businesses are the business of the future.”
He added that the Government’s decision to not withdraw carbon taxes amid the pandemic “is an implicit admission” that we can’t forget environmental tradeoffs in any discussion of policy.
“I will do my utmost to stay true to the principle of engaging in constructive criticism and debate, because I believe that doing so is for the good of our country, our businesses, and our people. #makingyourvotecount #workersparty” —/TISG