Singapore Budget 2017: Singapore’s environment makes it a clear winner

Panellists at post-Budget roundtable welcome the focus on green issues
Chia Yan Min Straits Times 23 Feb 17;

Singapore's clean environment is a competitive advantage over other Asian cities and a strong draw for top talent from around the world.

Panellists at a post-Budget roundtable yesterday underlined the economic benefits of the Republic's clean environment in welcoming the Budget's focus on green issues. The event was organised by The Straits Times in partnership with United Overseas Bank, and brought together four panellists representing different sectors to discuss the Budget.

Panellist Gerard Ee, president of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, said he was pleased that the Budget, delivered on Monday by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, did not neglect the environment.

"The competitive advantage Singapore has over other bustling cities in Asia is our clean environment," said Mr Ee, who is also chairman of the Charity Council.

"We want it to be so liveable that it is the preferred choice for people and their families to be based here."

The Budget contained several measures that reflected a strong emphasis on the environment. It introduced a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in line with global efforts to combat climate change. It also restructured diesel taxes to a volume-based duty to encourage a reduction in diesel consumption, as well as adjusted two incentive schemes to encourage the use of cleaner vehicles.

Mr Ee and his fellow panellists - UOB economist Jimmy Koh, Garena group president Nick Nash and NTUC assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong - discussed a wide range of other issues, including the misconception that Singapore is not an innovative society.

"Sometimes, we short-change ourselves," said Mr Ee. "(As an auditor) I have seen some things my clients have created - but these innovations are often created for large multinationals and not credited to Singapore companies.

"We need to ferret out these stories of (innovative companies) and give Singaporeans the confidence... We should also help them to scale up."

Mr Nash said his firm, tech company Garena, is a good example of a home-grown business made good.

The company was founded in a "little shophouse" in 2009 and has since become one of South-east Asia's largest tech unicorns with more than 5,000 employees.

"All of our technology is by and large built right here in Singapore...

"There is a lot of innovation happening in Singapore, we probably don't talk enough about it," added Mr Nash.

More roundtable coverage wil be in The Sunday Times this weekend.