Both prime minister Lee Hsien Loong and ex-prime minister Goh Chok Tong commented on how Singapore is becoming dirtier. I thought to comment on it as well.
Lee Hsien Loong: “Last November, Myanmar sports fans were seen picking up litter at the National Stadium, after their team lost to Singapore at an AFF Suzuki Cup match (right pic).
Last Saturday, the 2015 Laneway Festival was held at the Meadow at Gardens by the Bay. The left pic shows what the 13,000 festival goers left behind.
It takes continuous effort to keep Singapore clean. We need to progress from being a cleaned city to a truly clean city.”
Goh Chok Tong: “Singapore is likely to become a “garbage city”. Cleanliness is a character thing. It shows who you really are.”
Prof James K. Boyce: “Well, if you think about why we get variations in the extent of environmental problems around the country and around the world, one of the relationships that we can often see is that where there are wider inequalities of wealth, inequalities in the distribution of power, we’re likely to get more environmental degradation.
And what we found again was the degree of environmental degradation, pollution, resource depletion, had a lot to do with the extent of inequalities of wealth and power. Where income inequalities were greater, where educational inequalities were greater, where the fairness of fiscal policy in terms of both the tax system and access to services like Medicaid was better, you tended to find differences in environmental degradation. More equal distributions of wealth and power as proxied by these measures were associated with better environmental policies.”
Prof Carmen Lawrence and Jaqueline Haupt: “Environmental degradation appears to be another side effect of economic inequality and analyses show there is a negative correlation between income inequality and environmental sustainability: the higher the income inequality the worse the environmental indicators such as waste production, meat and water consumption, biodiversity loss and environmental composite indices (e.g. ecological footprint).
Boyce et al (2007) have proposed that the unequal distribution of wealth and power within countries leads to greater environmental damage by undermining the collective action required for environmental protection. Likewise, it has been shown that more equal societies are more socially cohesive and have higher levels of trust which foster public-spiritedness (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2010). Similar findings have been reported on the relationship between social capital and environmental outcomes (Dulal et al., 2011), presumably because lack of trust and poorer social capital erode the capacity for collaborative action.”
photo credit: Channel NewAsia
If you ask me, the willingness to take care of your people is a character thing. It shows who you really are (in reference to Goh Chok Tong).
In fact, it takes continuous effort to keep Singapore together.
We need to progress from being an artificially-developed city to one where our city is truly developed, not only economically but psychologically and socially, and where our people are able to grow with respect and dignity (in reference to Lee Hsien Loong).
When that happens, the level of trust and collaborative action will improve and the people will naturally take care of one another, and of the environment.
On the one hand, Mr Goh’s remark, “Cleanliness is a character thing. It shows who you really are,” seemed to be taking a swipe at Mr Lee’s comment before his, but on the other, if the duo would so care about the environment, then maybe the PAP should start sculpting policies to take care of the people. There are already several studies, as has been shown here, that income inequality that is too high has a negative impact on the environment, and Singapore already has the highest income inequality among the developed countries.
It is embarrassing that when Singapore has an estimated poverty rate of 30% where 30% of Singaporeans cannot earn enough to spend even for basic necessities and where the next 30% cannot earn enough to save, that the PAP would still dare to chide Singaporeans when it is the PAP government that has been unwilling to define a poverty level and implement a minimum wage to that level to protect Singaporeans.
If Mr Lee and Mr Goh, and if the PAP truly care about Singapore and its environment, then start taking care of Singaporeans – increase our wages, subsidies etc, so that the people will be protected and so that our environment will be protected.
Yet, it has also now been exposed that Mr Lee did not do a proper fact-find on how the littering at the Gardens by the Bay actually took place but was quick to “call on Singaporeans to pick up their own litter”, as The Straits Times reported.
Perhaps Mr Lee refuses to acknowledge this but where the PAP government itself would treat Singaporeans as second-class citizens worthy of being lambasted and derided every so often by their very own government, foreigners would as well take the PAP’s cue and similarly treat Singapore and Singaporeans with the same respect that the PAP government would accord to Singaporeans, or the lack thereof.
It is perhaps worrying that Mr Lee would see nothing wrong in criticising Singaporeans but would be unabashed in speaking well of foreigners. One wonders if Mr Lee is the prime minister of a nation of Singaporeans or if he is the prime minister of the United Nations. Make no mistake, we have to treat everyone who resides in Singapore with fairness, justice and respect, but where the prime minister himself would practice double-standards and place foreigners on the pedestal while constantly looking down on Singaporeans, then is this the kind of government and prime minister we want in Singapore?
Was it not Mr Lee who (in)famously said that, “crime rates (of foreign workers) are, in fact, lower than Singaporeans in general”?
What equality can we speak of when the very government which is supposed to enshrine it in practice is itself guilty of being prejudiced and discriminatory against Singaporeans?
Where the PAP is in a position to act to protect Singaporeans, but has instead chosen to make snide remarks on Facebook, this is incorrigible. Where it has chosen to instead push the blame onto Singaporeans instead of take a careful look at the situation, shows the small-mindedness and lack of socio-philosophical understanding of things, and of its governance of the country.
And yet Mr Goh would compare Singapore with Japan and remarked about how “Tokyo is a fine city without “fine” signs. That is why it is a clean city with no foreign workers.” But Mr Goh’s comment disregards how the Japanese government also spends much more on health – 85% of total health expenditure as compared to the PAP’s miserly spending of 35%. Also, elderly Japanese are able to retire with dignity, while our elderly Singaporeans still have to work in menial jobs as cleaners, odd-job labourers and cardboard collectors.
In other words, the Japanese government would protect its citizens. And that is why its people are also willing to work hand-in-hand to take care of the country, because they are proud of their country. But the same cannot be said of Singapore where the PAP has neglected Singaporeans and where increasingly, many Singaporeans no longer feel proud of the country.
To want to really protect our environment, then protect our people, and this is what the experience in other countries have shown. The PAP government cannot expect our society to flourish when it simply refuses to provide Singaporeans with the means and social infrastructure to do so, and then continues to look down on Singaporeans with disdain.
The PAP government today spends the least on social protection among the developed countries, and also the least on healthcare and education, as a percentage of GDP. Singaporeans also earn one of the lowest wages among the developed countries, have the lowest purchasing power and yet have to pay the most out-of-pocket for healthcare and possibly pay the most expensive university tuition fees and childcare fees in the world.
If Mr Lee and Mr Goh really want our environment and our people’s lives to improve, then start increasing the wages of Singaporeans and increasing government spending on these public goods, and if not, reduce their costs; and stop putting down Singaporeans at every opportunity that arises.
But it is unlikely that the PAP will do so. Its track record speaks for itself.