Louis Ng’s Why

“Because when rescue centres are no longer necessary, it would suggest that animals in the wild are no longer threatened.”

Rio, the movie about two Spix’s macaw, Blu and Jewel, was released in 2011. Shockingly, 7 years later, this species of bird featured in Rio may have gone extinct in the wild (Butchart et al., 2018), likely driven by habitat loss due to deforestation from unsustainable practices (GrllScientist, 2018).

I have been asking myself:

“Can we strike a balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability?”

I think it’s challenging.

Mr Ng joined politics in 2015. SOURCE: ONG WEE JIN FROM STRAITS TIMES

But Mr Louis Ng who is currently serving as Member of Parliament (MP) of Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency replied:

“Anything is possible.”

Mr Ng believes that sustainable living in a country has to be both bottom-up and top-down where the Singapore government must work together with the public. As CEO of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society and an MP, Mr Ng advocates that the government must reach a middle ground between economic growth and environmental sustainability. On 11 July 2018, for instance, Mr Ng spoke in Parliament about the environmental consequences concerning the ongoing construction work in Mandai because he believes “careful thought must be put into mitigating environmental impacts while ensuring economic growth.”

But I was surprised, well… actually, utterly disturbed by the fact that while there are proposed mitigating measures, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development Sun Xueling, however, mentioned that there will be no penalties on developers when measures to mitigate environmental impacts are not implemented  (Sim, 2018).

Undoubtedly, it will be challenging to have both environmental sustainability and economic growth, but I subscribe to Mr Ng’s notion that anything is possible if we put in a little more thought and effort into making things happen. And by saying that, I mean making meaningful changes right now.

During my interview with Rachel, I talked about plastic. Today, I will like to talk about plastic again.

In 2010, the District of Columbia implemented a 5-cent bag fee and in just 5 years, plastic bag usage dropped by 85% (Brittain & Rich, 2015). Brittain and Rich (2015) also mentioned that the fees collected from plastic bag usage amounted to $10 million and the fund was used for the construction of trash trap, rain barrel and other green initiatives.

Closer to Singapore, in February this year, Taiwan announced the intention to ban single-use plastic straws, cups and bags by 2030 (Channel NewsAsia, 2018).

What about Singapore?

Mr Ng opined that: “Some businesses are doing their parts to mitigate the existing environmental issues. The government should start taking the lead, for example, by implementing a policy to charge consumers on plastic bag usage.”

I echo Mr Ng’s stance that Singapore should start imposing a tax on plastic usage, and for a start, on plastic bags. With taxation, we are not banning the use of plastic bags entirely but to encourage consumers to save their money by using one less plastic bags at the counter when they are paying for their items. The concept of using plastic bags is ingrained but it is time for all of us to learn to be more proactive in saying no to plastic usage.

P.S. Hopefully, we will hear good news after Mr Ng talk about issues revolving plastic usage during the Parliament Sitting tonight. For the full interview of Louis Ng’s Why, click here!


2011 WORLDWIDE GROSSES. (2011). Retrieved from Box Office Mojo: https://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?view2=worldwide&yr=2011&p=.htm

Brittian, A., & Rich, S. (2015). Is D.C.’s 5-cent fee for plastic bags actually serving its purpose? The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/nickel-by-nickel-is-the-dc-bag-fee-actually-saving-the-anacostia-river/2015/05/09/d63868d2-8a18-11e4-8ff4-fb93129c9c8b_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b4a2284fb1b9

Butchart, S. H., Lowe, S., Martin, R. W., Symes, A., Westrip, J. R., & Wheatley, H. (2018). Which bird species have gone extinct? A novel quantitative classification T approach.Biological Conservation, 227, 9-18. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2018.08.014

GrrlScientist. (2018). Forever Gone: Eight Bird Species Confirmed Extinct This Decade. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/grrlscientist/2018/09/07/forever-gone-eight-bird-species-confirmed-extinct-this-decade/#1532f7205926

Sim, F. (2018). No penalty for not implementing environmental impact mitigation measures: Sun Xueling. Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/mandai-developer-penalty-environmental-impact-mitigation-10519586

Taiwan to ban plastic straws, cups by 2030. (2018). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/taiwan-to-ban-plastic-straws-cups-by-2030-9981998

14 thoughts on “Louis Ng’s Why

  1. Hi Wei Qian,

    Mr Ng mentioned that there needs to be a ” bottom-up and top-down” approach and I agree that in theory, such an approach is the best way to do things. In real life, however, it is very difficult. Firstly, is it really possible to expect everyone to be knowledgable with the events going on constantly? While it is important for Singaporeans to be aware of current news, how many people actually do? If they are not in touch with current news, how can they truely be important enough to support projects that are “bottom-up”? For Singapore at least, my impression is that majority of people are still waiting for “gah-men” to do something instead of taking actions themselves. However, things need not be the case. As with the recent debates on 377A, the pot has been stirred and people are increasingly more knowledgable about the issue. I do look forward to the day when someone or some event can stir the environmental pot to get people on discussions as hot as, or even hotter than the ones now. Hopefully, it is one of the BES students!

    Lee Yang

    1. Hello Lee Yang

      Thank you for reading my blog! I agree with you that achieving both “bottom-up and top-down” is difficult. Indeed, not everyone is updated with current news and it is even tougher to expect everyone to be equally knowledgeable about various environmental issues. However, despite all the difficulties, I’d like to still remain hopeful and believe that anything is possible.

      On the point of whether the public is important in supporting projects rolled out by the government, the public will always play an important role in any initiatives implemented by the government, regardless of how updated they are with current news. The question is are they concerned with what initiatives are being implemented? A few months back, Singapore’s government rolled out CareShield Life to replace Eldershield Life. At that point, many Singaporeans were confused about the features in the new healthcare scheme. But Singaporeans, even those who might not have read the newspaper, were curious to find out more about the new scheme. They were concerned about what was implemented because the new healthcare scheme affects them significantly.

      There are two points I want to raise over here. Firstly, there are many platforms available for us to be updated with current affairs. Even if some people may not have access to the platform, word of mouth will help in the spreading of news. I think, by and large, Singaporeans do follow with current affairs. But when it comes to environmental issues, most people find it difficult to see the importance and are hence reluctant to participate in any environmental initiatives. Sadly, some don’t even participate in any. This leads me to my second point that we need to educate the public on the environmental consequences of our actions, for them to be more proactive. I don’t have a solution to the problem now, but I would recommend schools to start taking the lead in placing even more emphasis on environmental issues in their curriculum. Environmental education for students is crucial as good habits, such as replacing plastic bags with tote bags should be and must be developed since young.

      I hope I have answered your questions, and I certainly hope collectively as BES students, all of us will continue to advocate for sustainable living in Singapore.

      P.S. On the note of the recent 377A debates, I wanted to point out that the rise of the debates doesn’t suggest people being more knowledgeable about the issue. In fact, I have been following the debates via newspapers and online forums, and I was really disturbed when I came across comments from people who are against the repeal of 377A using arguments such as “377A should stay because with medical advancement, we will one day find a cure for the different sexual orientations.” Arguments like this seem to suggest that while people might be aware that there are ongoing debates, many don’t really know what 377A is about and what does it mean to be part of the LGBTQ community. There are also bigger issues such as discrimination, and that argument I shared as an example earlier is clearly a form of discrimination which needs to stop.

      Therefore, while we are aware of ongoing environmental issues, do we really know what exactly are the environmental issues and why do they even occur? My personal take is still for the public to know what exactly are the environmental issues and why do they occur. Hopefully, with education, the public will be more proactive in taking the first step towards a more sustainable living.

      Wei Qian

  2. Hi Wei Qian!

    This is a really interesting article, hearing honest thoughts of someone in the parliament! I agree that the government should implement some policy changes because such hard methods might really be the most efficient way to deal with the public’s mentality that plastics are a right instead of a privilege.

    FairPrice Green Rewards Scheme managed to save an average of 10.8 million bags a year in the last 3 years but the increase in the number of plastics saved eventually levelled so I was just thinking do you think imposing a tax would actually work in the long run or should we consider having that alongside other measures?

    Hui Lin

    1. Hello Hui Lin!

      Thank you for reading my blog. It is really heartening to know that the scheme rolled out by FairPrice has helped to save on average 10.8 million plastic bags a year in the past 3 years!

      I believe we shouldn’t stop at imposing a tax on plastic bag usage. More should be done such as education to increase awareness, more efforts put into recycling or upcycling, etc.

      At the end of the day, it is vital for us to always seek continuous improvement. Likewise, we shouldn’t just stop at tackling issues related to plastic usage. There are other environmental issues that are of concern too, such as how do we ensure the coexistence of humans and animals in Singapore where there is a rich biodiversity.

      P.S. Hope your first Monday after Recess Week was great!

      Wei Qian

  3. Hi Wei Qian!!

    Really love reading your posts as it provides so much insight into other people’s take and contributions to the environment. I am also glad to know that there are political representatives like Mr. Ng who is advocating for the environment! I definitely agree with you that Singapore should start implementing a tax on plastic usage! However, when I followed up Mr. Ng’s talk on plastic usage during the Parliament Sitting, it appeared to me as though the government is reluctant to impose a tax on the plastic ban as the government believes in taking a “long-term, holistic” approach by building “a national consciousness to care for the environment.” Although I agree that educating people and instilling environmental awareness in people is important, I find it ironic that there have been many instances where the government implemented policies when that they could have promoted “bottoms-up” approach. For instance, the government rolled out an entire CPF scheme so that we have enough money for us to retire with ease when they could have entirely focused on educating the public on saving for retirement. They also imposed a ban on chewing gums so that we do not dirty the lifts, etc. From this, I feel that although there are currently does have measures in place to mitigate environmental impacts, the government probably does not prioritize environmental sustainability as much as other things, such as cleanliness of the city for example. Hence, when you pondered over whether we can “strike a balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability”, I feel that we can if our government starts to take some definitive legislative actions for the environment.
    Looking forward to more of your posts!!

    – Komal

    1. Hello Komal! Thank you for your very kind comment!

      I agree with you that certain statements made by various leaders can be quite contradictory. On the one hand, leaders often place emphasis on the need for holistic educational approach, yet on the other hand, when the opportunity arrives for them to roll out certain initiatives to raise awareness, those opportunities are not seized. I can’t say for sure, but I believe at the government level, there are many aspects of a country’s progress they need to factor in when rolling out certain initiatives. However, I would personally insist that there is a need to have both bottom-up and top-down approach. More importantly, I believe that although raising awareness is crucial, the government should start taking actions when they realise the existing educational approach is not working — and I am hopeful that implementing a tax on single-use plastic is a probable action that we should be taking to help raise awareness. I mean, we can always conduct an evaluation afterwards to see if taxation really helps to reduce the problem of plastic usage.

      P.S. Have a great weekend!

      Wei Qian

  4. Hi Wei Qian! Thanks for the informative post!
    You mentioned that while Taiwan and Columbia both implemented measures to tackle the problems of plastics, Singapore has yet to do much about the issue. I also noticed this difference between Singapore and Taiwan. I did a survey about this issues and found out that a significant proportion of Singaporeans actually do not support a ban in disposable items and is reluctant to change their behavior even if a ban is implemented in Singapore. I also read on the straits times that Singapore’s parliament has no plan to charge the use of plastic bags (https://www.straitstimes.com/politics/parliament-no-plan-to-impose-plastic-bag-levy-other-types-of-disposable-bags-not-much) as they think it will not be helpful towards conservation.
    Why do you think many people living in Singapore do not see the impacts of disposable plastic items and how long do you think it will take for the government to ban or restrict disposable plastic items?

    Thank you and I look forward to your reply!
    Also, if you are interested in Taiwan’s effort in the issues of disposable plastic, you can visit my blog to find out more 🙂 (https://blog.nus.edu.sg/ecopotato/)

    1. Hello Li Peng! Thank you for reading my blog and for your nice comments!

      Indeed, many Singaporeans are against the idea of imposing charges or ban on disposables. In fact, when I went around asking my friends in NUS, many of them are resistant towards the idea too. When I told Rachel about it, she assured me that one day, we will witness a change in NUS. But like you, I wonder how long will that take?

      In regard to whether Singaporeans see the impacts of disposable plastics, I think we do. But I have always believed that having the awareness is very different from putting what we understand into actions. Frankly, most of us don’t walk the talk. Perhaps because many of us grew up in the environment where disposables can be obtained so easily, hence when there is the notion that a ban or a tax is to be imposed on disposables, people start to voice their unhappiness despite knowing the consequences of using disposables.

      I don’t know what’s the best solution to tackle the issue we face here in Singapore. But I certainly stand firm in my belief that the government should impose a tax on disposables as a start towards building a sustainable city. There are a lot of doubts if taxation would work out but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be trying. I mean, we don’t know what the outcomes would be until we try. If in the event taxation isn’t working out, we should then evaluate why taxation isn’t working and think of suggestions/alternatives. At this point, doing nothing isn’t going to effect any change and staying stagnant at where are is the worst thing we really should be doing.

      Frankly, I think NUS should impose a tax on disposables too. Firstly, by imposing a tax, we wouldn’t bring any inconvenience to anyone because they can still purchase disposables. We are not banning disposables, we are only making consumers more aware and reluctant to use disposables because they have to pay in order to use them! Thus, if money is of concern to consumers, then perhaps they should start bringing their reusables out!

      Just my two cents. Hope my reply finds you well!

      P.S. I have been following your blog and I really love learning more about Taiwan through your blog! Happy weekend! 🙂

      Wei Qian

      1. Hi Wei Qian!
        Thanks for your thoughtful reply 🙂 I also agree that imposing tax should be one of the first few steps in reducing the use of disposables.

        I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future!

        – Li Peng

  5. Hi Weiqian!

    Wow your blog’s theme is super cool and novel!
    Thanks for the interesting read. As a fellow BES student, I am of the similar opinion that imposing a plastic bag tax is the way to go. Just as how KFC was flamed for the ban on plastic straws at first, I believe that this measure would receive a good amount of criticism. In the case of KFC, the brickbats soon died down and many people came to accept it. Similarly, I feel that this is just a matter of time and the public would get used to a plastic bag tax as well, possibly encouraging the reduction of plastic bag use.
    As to why the government decided not to impose penalties on developers, I presume it could possibly be a move to avoid deterring potential investors. Most likely, the mitigating measures set out are just to signify that the government does consider the environmental impacts the developments might have, in order to placate the masses.
    I’m curious, what do you think is the government’s reason for doing so?

    – Ning Ginn

    1. Hello Ning Ginn! Thank you for reading my blog and for your very kind comments!

      I personally think taxation would be a better measure for two reasons. Firstly, if individuals were to forget to bring their own reusables, they can still purchase the disposables at a higher price. Thus, taxation, as compared to a complete ban, doesn’t pose an inconvenience to the forgetful ones. Yet, if we were to charge disposables at a much higher price, let’s say 50 cents, I think consumers will start to be more mindful of their habits. They will probably start asking themselves if it is worthwhile to constantly pay 50 cents for disposables. If it isn’t worth it, then they better start bringing their own reusables. The other reason why I think taxation might be a good measure is that the money collected can be used for other green initiatives/projects.

      By and large, I think taxation will bring about a change in consumers’ habit, although there will still be a group of individuals who would continue to pay for disposables. However, I think it is important for us to recognise that the implementation of a charge on disposables can only be a measure used to ease citizens in the transition towards a no disposable lifestyle. At the end of the day, a ban may still be necessary if individuals choose to continue being ignorant of how their habits have dire consequences on our environment.

      At present, there’s no taxation nor a ban on the use of disposables in Singapore. I think we ought to implement either policy because only then, can we really evaluate the results and effectiveness of these policies. Of course, that’s just my perspectives on how things should be. At the level of policy-makers, they may be other considerations that they need to address. But I feel that if there are factors that are hindering the implementation of any policies which would help build a more environmentally-friendly nation, the government should be transparent in sharing those factors with the public. I mean, when it comes to environmental issues, everyone has a part to play in it and there’s no reason why the public is unaware of what’s truly going on.

      As to why the government decided not to impose penalties on developers, I think you mentioned valid points and I subscribe to them too. But I just wonder if the sacrifice of our environment is worthwhile in our pursuit of progress. I mean, what meaning is there to development, if our environment is utterly polluted? Nothing at all.

      I hope my reply finds you well.

      P.S. Have a great week ahead!

      Wei Qian

    2. Hello Ning Ginn!

      I have contacted MND, and this is their reply:

      “The Government takes a serious view to ensure that the environmental impacts arising from developments are minimised. To clarify, developers that are found to violate regulatory requirements face penalties under the various environmental Acts. These include NEA’s Environmental Protection & Management Act, PUB’s Sewerage and Drainage Act for air, noise and water pollution, and NParks’ Parks and Trees Act for activities within nature reserves and national parks. Where potential environmental impact has been identified, the developers are required to put in place the appropriate mitigation measures. These measures are closely monitored, and should there be deviations, we will require the developers to rectify the situation. Nevertheless, we recognise that this is an ongoing process, and we will continue to review the relevant policies to protect our environment.”

      I’m curious if the violation of regulatory requirement actually includes the lack of mitigating measures put in place. Otherwise, there seems to be a contradiction between what was said in Parliment and the statement by MND. But if mitigation measures aren’t part of the regulatory requirement, then it’s questionable why it isn’t.

      I will try to clarify and if there’s any follow-up on this, I will let you know! No promise though!

      Have a great week ahead! 🙂

      Wei Qian

  6. Nobody else is saying it so I will. Please consider two things (and you don’t have to answer).

    1. The basic premise that economic growth is necessary at all – is it really ? Because I’m not convinced it’s the way to go. To me, the alternatives look a lot more sustainable.

    2. The notion that what the public supports or doesn’t matters (i.e., the idea that inconveniencing people should be avoided). Doesn’t that discount the wellbeing of those who can’t express their views (e.g., children, future generations, non-human organisms) ? In my heart and mind, I know future generations will never forgive us for putting our desire for $$ and our convenience ahead of their survival. Hell – I already feel enormous resentment toward the baby boomers and their excesses.

    I don’t mean to offend you or anyone, really I don’t, but when are we going to get serious about tackling this mess in a meaningful way ? At putting needs ahead of wants ?

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