Concrete plans to prevent future floods not set out by Environment and Water Resources Minister

by Ghui

A wise man or woman once said: “The only constant in life is change”. This is a saying that should apply across all spectrums of life including that of governance.

Issues that affect governance are myriad and varied, ranging from the global economic climate, global warming, immigration, transport and population demographics, just to name a few. With this in mind, governments must always be versatile and sensitive to the changing needs of their citizens. They must accept that nothing is ever static and be prepared to make amendments to better serve the needs of the country. They should also be open where they have had oversights and detail what they plan to do to address the problems.

This is even more crucial in a country like Singapore where there is no real opposition party to hold the government to account. It is also important to note that the Singapore government has always championed its ability to check itself and so, should use every opportunity to demonstrate that it can indeed check itself.

Having said the above, I would like to draw your attention to the Parliament speech made by Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulkifli which was rather curious in its contradiction.

First, he said that it was “not feasible” to build drains to accommodate every “extreme rainfall event” but then ended off by stressing that due to “climate change”, “more intense rainfall” can be expected. In between these two assertions are a whole lot of paragraphs dedicated to what the Public Utility Board and Land Transport Authority have done to alleviate a specific incident.

If climate change and increased rainfall are a forgone conclusion, why not address the building of more drains now? Isn’t that forward planning – something which the PAP government prides itself on?

While I have no doubt that the various government departments did what they could at that moment, could these floods have been prevented in the first place if proper measures had been taken?

Global warming and increased rainfall are surely not new issues? The fact that Singapore is land scarce is also common knowledge. How are these topics a surprise?

I suppose it would be pointless to apportion blame now that the flooding has already occurred but it is concerning that concrete plans to prevent future floods (even in brief) were not set out by the Minister in his address to the Parliament. Apart from a generic statement on increased rainfall and the government’s inability to build drains for every situation, all he focused on was what the government did in dealing with the flood’s consequences. This is fire fighting. It will not solve the problem and unless preventive measures are planned for and taken, it will happen again.

The pervading attitude from the government is to harp on all the things it has done instead of taking ownership of the problems and actually tackling the prevention of such problems.

We are not expecting perfection – it does not exist. While I fully acknowledge that our government is on the whole a good and stable one, perhaps they can spend less time blowing their own horns and being defensive and more time on tackling the issues and being more transparent with us as to what it plans to do or has done?

This is not a criticism and I hope it will not be taken as such. It is simply feedback on how we as a nation can do better because we are (government included) better than this.