Creating a Sustainable Economy
While the immediate priority upon independence was to create jobs and kick-start a stuttering economy, it was clear from the outset that Singapore could not pursue “growth at all costs” and ignore the trade-offs.
Singapore was committed to sustainable development from the start. With our small land area, we simply cannot afford to implement a development model that placed economic growth over the environment. The “develop first, clean up later” model could permanently scar whatever little land we had – a risk that the Government was unwilling to take. Instead, the Government took the more challenging route by making economic decisions with the environment in mind.
For instance, when giant Japanese corporation Sumitomo wanted to build Singapore’s first petrochemical plant in the mid-1970s, the Government insisted that it met specific environmental requirements. Sumitomo protested, arguing that such an approach would be costly. Despite the risk of losing a critical foreign investment, the Government did not budge. Eventually, Sumitomo relented.
The Government also located industries in the west of Singapore, where there were few residential estates.
There were also practical considerations to wanting a “Clean and Green” environment. For one thing, it allowed us to stand out from our neighbours, especially when it comes to tourism and attracting global talent.
Today, being clean and green is more than just about keeping our roads free from litter and our air unpolluted. Climate change is one of our biggest challenges, and it is one that the Government is paying close attention to. As an island, the rise of sea levels will have deep impacts on our living environment, making climate change an existential issue. In 1992, the Government released the Singapore Green Plan (SGP) – its first formal plan to balance environmental and developmental needs. The plan has since gone through two more versions: SGP 2012 and SGP 2030.
SGP 2030, pictured below, is a wide-ranging plan that will see Singapore adopt green initiatives across all sectors of society. This will range from schools going carbon neutral to establishing Singapore as a leading centre for green finance. It will look to secure “a Singapore for our future generations,” as PM Lee Hsien Loong said.
Image: SG Green Plan