With the close of the General Election 2015 campaign period, much has been discussed regarding the outcome delivered by the electorate, the approaches taken by the political parties that contested the election as well as the background against which the polls were conducted. Unsurprisingly, these conversations have been of a political nature more so than they have been of a policy-oriented nature. Whilst elections in Singapore may not be won or lost entirely on the policies put forth by political parties in their manifestos, an overview of these policies would nonetheless be useful even after the polls.
As many would readily attest to, if ever Singaporeans cared about policy, party platforms and manifestos at the polls, environmental policy would probably not have been ranked highly amongst their primary concerns or considerations before marking their ballots. Indeed, this is more often than not the case in other developed countries as well.
However, what did the political parties put forth in their plans for the environment? Singapore is, after all, not without its share of environmental problems brought about by causes anthropogenic or otherwise. The last Parliament presided over the highest food waste rates our nation has ever faced, the worst Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) levels Singaporeans have ever had to contend with, during the haze of mid-2013, as well as problems such as anthropogenic climate change that continue to pose threats to our nation of islands that may very well materialise in time to come. So just what did the people running for the 13th Parliament have to say about these issues during the campaign?
Regrettably, several parties, such as the National Solidarity Party (NSP) and the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA), had no concrete plans for the environment to speak of.
The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) presented a series of policy papers which they published over the course of the last 5 years as well as in the run-up to the polls and whilst the party had no policy paper on the environment per se, their Shadow Budget 2013 and Town Council Management Plan contained within their pages traces of some form of environmental policy or other. These included their proposed troika of enterprise agencies that would explore industrial sectors related to “organic food, environmentally-friendly & eco-friendly products and eco-tourism”. They also pledged that their town councils would engage in “landscaping and other horticultural projects,” although the merits of such projects for the purpose of environmental policy analysis are easily questionable for surely any town council would have to carry out such projects possibly for purposes more aesthetic than of actual environmental value.
The Singapore People’s Party’s (SPP’s) manifesto did not explicitly mention environmental policies. However, their candidate for Mountbatten, Mrs Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss promised to raise awareness on animal welfare issues and to involve animal welfare agencies in her management of the constituency, as mentioned in her My Mountbatten Manifesto.
The Reform Party (RP) manifesto included five broad “Green and Environmental” policies revolving around the issues of solar energy, car sharing, green industry and becoming a regional leader in the areas of tightening greenhouse gas emissions and green technology.
The People’s Action Party (PAP) promised that they would implement policies to make Singapore more liveable, more green and more sustainable. Whilst it is not in their practice to publish manifestos with very specific plans, they included a pledge to improve infrastructure and connectivity through their Smart Nation initiatives as well as a short list of projects to rejuvenate the urban environment in Singapore including “the greater Southern Waterfront, the Rail Corridor, a 2nd CBD at the Jurong Lake District” as well as redevelopment works in Paya Lebar Air Base. The party also promised that Singaporeans will be able to live in an environment where they will be able to appreciate nature. After having formed the Government by the end of polling day, their commitments to sustainability and whether their redevelopment plans will incite greater debate on environmental management, as they have in the past, remain to be seen.
The Workers’ Party’s (WP’s) environmental policy proposals were the most extensive and detailed in nature amongst those of all the parties that contested the General Election. In a departure from the style adopted in previous manifestos of the party which each had a section specifically on the ‘Environment’, its 2015 manifesto grouped these policies under the umbrellas of “Promoting Green Towns” and “Protecting Natural and Cultural Heritage”. The former section outlined plans regarding renewable energy, recycling, environmentally-friendly forms of transport and food security whilst the latter section outlined pledges on mandatory environmental impact assessments and a Climate Change Risk Assessment. The manifesto also made a commitment to reserve 10% of land in Singapore for future generations as well as an Energy Efficiency Certification Scheme for SMEs.
The plethora of environmental issues outlined by all parties across the board is certainly more encouraging than it would have been in previous elections. This might be reflective of the increased relevance of environmental policy in a country where the trade-offs between environmental sustainability and economic development have received increased attention in the mass media certainly over the course of the existence of the last Parliament.
Nevertheless, the above outline of environmental policy proposals in General Election 2015 begs the question of whatever happened to food waste, the haze and other pertinent environmental problems of the day.
NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT AGENCY. (2015) Factsheet on Food Waste Management. [Online]. Available from: http://www.nea.gov.sg/docs/default-source/corporate/COS-2015/cos-2015-media-factsheet—food-waste.pdf?sfvrsn=0. [Accessed: 9th October 2015].
NATIONAL SOLIDARITY PARTY. (2015) NSP Election Manifesto 2015. [Online] Available from: http://nsp.sg/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Manifesto-PDF-Final.pdf. [Accessed: 9th October 2015].
PEOPLE’S ACTION PARTY. (2015) With You, For You, For Singapore. [Online] Available from: https://www.pap.org.sg/Upload/Manifesto/Manifesto2015.pdf. [Accessed: 9th October 2015].
SINGAPORE DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE. (2015) SDA’s General Election 2015 Manifesto. [Online] Available from: http://singaporedemocraticalliance.sg/sdas-general-election-2015-manifesto. [Accessed: 9th October 2015].
SINGAPORE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. (2013) Shadow Budget 2013. [Online] Available from: http://yoursdp.org/_ld/0/9_Transforming_Ou.pdf. [Accessed: 9th October 2015].
SINGAPORE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. (2015) The SDP Town Council Management Plan. [Online] Available from: http://yoursdp.org/_ld/0/15_SDP_TC_Manageme.pdf. [Accessed: 9th October 2015].
SINGAPORE PEOPLE’S PARTY. (2015) My Mountbatten Manifesto. [Online] Available from: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1PbZlkVBGM2OXplTDlZRHFRalk/view. [Accessed: 9th October 2015].
TAN, F., LEAN, H. H. AND KHAN, H. (2014) Growth and environmental quality in Singapore: Is there any trade-off? Ecological Indicators. 47. P. 149-155.
THE REFORM PARTY. (2015) Manifesto 2015. [Online] Available from: http://reform.sg/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/ReformPartyManifesto2015.pdf. [Accessed: 9th October 2015].
THE WORKERS’ PARTY. (2015) Manifesto 2015. [Online] Available from: http://wpge2015.s3-ap-southeast-1.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/29111924/Manifesto-2015-Official-online-version.pdf. [Accessed: 9th October 2015].
VELASCO, E. AND RASTAN, S. (2015) Air quality in Singapore during the 2013 smoke-haze episode over the Strait of Malacca: Lessons learned. Sustainable Cities and Society. 17. p. 122-131.