The Centre for Liveable Cities organised a panel discussion with former National Environment Agency (NEA) director general for public health Daniel Wang, former NEA deputy chief executive officer Loh Ah Tuan and NEA deputy chief executive Joseph Hui, where all agreed that while Singapore has done well economically, it has not done so well when it comes to social graces.
Etiquette ‘not on pace with progress’
Singaporeans need to work on social responsibility, say environmental pioneers
SINGAPORE – Despite Singapore’s state-of-the-art skyscrapers and reputation as a clean city-state, it appears social etiquette has not kept pace with the country’s rapid advancement.
This was the consensus reached by a panel of environmental pioneers during a dialogue session yesterday, in response to a question by a member of the audience, Mr Eugene Heng, who heads the Waterways Watch Society.
Addressing the three panellists – former National Environment Agency (NEA) director general for public health Daniel Wang, former NEA deputy chief executive officer Loh Ah Tuan and NEA deputy chief executive Joseph Hui – Mr Heng wanted their views on his observation that Singaporeans are littering and foreigners, hired by cleaning services, are tidying up after them.
Mr Loh said Singaporeans’ “social responsibility is not there yet” despite the Government’s efforts to educate people.
“We also engaged and empowered them. We tell them that Singapore is yours, and you should not be littering and dirtying the environment …
“This is an issue about heart-ware, and not hardware,” he said.
Added Mr Wang: “Singaporeans are very compliant, but only when there is a law in place … It’s very difficult for Singaporeans to do things from the heart, to think about community and not of self.”
The panellists said it would take time for Singapore to reach the standards of Korea and Japan, where social responsibility has been successfully inculcated into the people.
During the session, organised by the Centre for Liveable Cities, a member of the audience asked how sustainable it is to throw rubbish inside plastic bags.
In response, Mr Wang said: “There’s nothing wrong with plastic bags, so long as we reuse them.
“Any proposals to ban plastic bags irks me. In Singapore, we burn our rubbish, so whether it’s bio-degradable or not, it doesn’t make a difference; and secondly, because we encourage residents to bag their rubbish, so sanitation is maintained.”
Speaking to reporters after the event, Mr Wang lashed out against supermarkets that charge extra for plastic bags.
“I don’t think (they should do that), because the cost is already built into their overheads,” he said.
“The question is: Do you need these bags at home? I need the plastic bags at home because I need to bag my food waste. If you don’t give it to me, I have to go and buy them, right? Do I need the bags? Can I use them at home? If your answer is yes, then, by all means, take it.”