Speech by DPM and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, at the Clean & Green Singapore Carnival and Launch Ceremony 2017 on Saturday, 4 November 2017, 9.30am at Boon Keng Road.
Good morning. I won’t mention all the names of my colleagues, as Mayor Denise Phua has just done so and welcomed us all. But the reason why there are so many of us here is that this is such an important programme for Singapore. Many agencies, every CDC, and all of us are involved. Certainly there are two ministries that are driving this – both MEWR and MND. Two ministries take charge of a Clean & Green Singapore, and all of us are involved.
The initiatives that we have launched are doing well. We are trying to get momentum on the ground, and the CDCs are doing a good job. We have entered a new phase in our journey as a nation towards becoming a green society and green economy.
Our Clean and Green Journey: Changing Habits
We are doing quite well on the green side. We are one of the few Asian cities where you have a lot of greenery right in the city centre itself, and the business district. Everywhere you go in the city – ground level, inter-levels, on the roofs, the greening is coming along very well. We are also a much cleaner city compared to when we first started in the 60s, when we were a typical Asian city – quite dirty. But I think on the ‘clean’ side of our journey, after the first 20 or 30 years, we haven’t really improved in many of our habits. We’ve got a lot greener as a country, but we haven’t been improving as much on the clean side.
The reason for that is everyone’s habits. What Denise said is I think very important. At the end of the day, it is about whether we care for our fellow citizens, and whether we are public-spirited. That is at the heart of the matter. We need more public-spiritedness, starting from young and at every age, if we are going to keep this a clean place.
Today we are reliant on 50,000 cleaners. That’s what happens. We also have our community initiatives, teams of volunteers who go around and help pick up the litter. But that isn’t going to solve the problem. The only way to solve the problem is habits - habits have to change, and being mindful of our neighbours, being mindful of our fellow citizens, and being public spirited, is what Singapore has to be all about. We achieved something in the first 20 or 30 years in making Singapore clean, but it requires a whole new drive, and it has to start with individuals, each of us.
What we have started in our schools is very important. MOE began this last year, and since the start of this year, every school has all its students doing some cleaning every day, typically in the classrooms and corridors, and sometimes more. I think it is a very good start. It has to start when we are young, but it has to carry on. That is why the community initiatives which Denise mentioned – whether it is Eco Knights or many of the other initiatives, are very important.
Opportunities for the Green Economy and for Green Jobs
On the positive side, there is a real opportunity now, a lot of opportunity in the green economy, including green jobs, and it’s creating a better living environment as a result.
The technologies are evolving. The technologies are making many more viable business propositions in the green economy. The cost of photovoltaic modules is coming down year after year. In the U.S, the solar energy is now as cost-efficient as fuel-based energy, even without subsidies. And the green economy is creating very interesting jobs. It is breathing new life into engineering as well, young people are now going into engineering programmes with an environmental slant, they are excited about the prospect of using science and engineering to create better cities and a better living environment.
It’s an exciting prospect. That is the positive side of our agenda – creating green businesses, creating green jobs, and at the same time doing good for our society which is what ultimately matters. What we are going to see afterwards in the carnival includes many of the innovations that are coming up. Denise mentioned Eco-Home - CDL has been one of the leaders in this. We have the examples of what schools as well as businesses are doing to recycle waste, or to re-purpose waste - finding new purposes for waste.
All of these also help create a public culture. Going for a Zero Waste Singapore is critical, and it requires both innovation and the culture of trying to minimise waste, and where there is waste, trying to recycle it and repurpose it. We can do it.
To say this again, I think we are coming along very well on the green side of our journey, and on the blue side – if you look at what’s happening in our waterways. But we need a whole new drive on the clean side of the journey. That requires individual effort. It starts from young, building that culture, and it is all about public-spiritedness - all about being mindful of our neighbours, people who live beside us, and a little further from us, and owning Singapore together.
We can do it, and we can really create a much better, cleaner, greener, and more sustainable Singapore which everyone enjoys. Thank you very much for all the efforts and all the innovations. Let’s stay on this journey together, and make that our Singapore.
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