BUDGET 2019: Keeping Singapore safe and secure

Investing more in infrastructure to protect against climate change

Changi Airport's Terminal 5 is being built 5.5m above the mean sea level as part of efforts to deal with rising sea levels.
Changi Airport's Terminal 5 is being built 5.5m above the mean sea level as part of efforts to deal with rising sea levels. ST FILE PHOTO

The Government will be investing in infrastructure in a big way and developing long-term plans to protect the country against climate change, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

But individuals must also change their ways and work towards a more sustainable future.

"As a low-lying island nation, there is nowhere to hide when sea levels rise," he said. "To protect ourselves against climate change and rising sea levels, we will have to invest more. Together with existing infrastructure needs, our total bill for infrastructure will increase significantly," he said.

Mr Heng pointed out that it is very difficult to project spending needs so far ahead, although the different ministries have done some preliminary estimates.

"We will continue to do our best to look forward, develop fiscal plans well in advance, and put in place the right approach to finance such long-lived major infrastructure. Each generation should contribute its fair share," he added.

The Government's Climate Action Plan, launched in 2016, has seen low-lying roads near coastal areas raised. Changi Airport's Terminal 5 is also being built 5.5m above the mean sea level. And there are pilot projects involving dikes and new reclamation methods on Pulau Tekong to shed light on how to deal with rising sea levels.

Mr Heng said the carbon tax being applied to this year's emissions is an important signal to companies and households to adopt energy-efficient practices.

And the Zero Waste Masterplan, which will be launched in the second half of the year, will look at better management of food waste, e-waste and packaging waste, including plastics, among other issues.

However, individuals must also change their ways, he noted, by adopting the 3Rs: reducing consumption, reusing and recycling.

Building a more sustainable environment also creates opportunities. "Just as we closed the water loop, we can now turn our attention to closing the waste loop," Mr Heng said.

Start-ups are already tackling the challenge: Two companies, UglyGood and Tria, for instance, have been working on innovative ways to convert food-related waste into useful products, he said.

Praising the National Parks Board for its "excellent job" in greening the island, he said that the more than 40 per cent green cover here improves both the living environment and air quality.

"Our beautiful living environment can also be enhanced through the smart use of technology as part of our Smart Nation efforts," he added, giving as examples pneumatic waste collection, the use of district cooling in the Marina Bay area and environmentally friendly buildings. "Today, our shining Little Red Dot can hold its own on the global stage," he said.

But the work is not over: Singapore's development plans must be far-sighted and must include the country's need to be well connected within and with the world.

Within Singapore, there are now about 230km of MRT lines, a figure which will rise to about 360km in the 2030s. Airport and sea port capacities are also being enhanced. "This will strengthen our role as a key node within Asia and to the world."

Mr Heng said the long-term transformation of the city must start with Housing Board estates, where most people live.

"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 by rejuvenating them systematically over time."

The nation's public housing policies have been uniquely successful because of long-term planning, he said.

"Today, we are not just building new flats. We are improving the quality of life for Singaporeans through the rejuvenation of our public housing estates."

Touching on the upcoming URA Master Plan 2019, he said it would guide the country's urban development over a 10-to 15-year timeframe, ensuring that the limited land could meet the needs of current and future generations.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2019, with the headline Investing more in infrastructure to protect against climate change. Subscribe