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Spending 14 million to reduce energy consumption does not gel with Masagos Zulkifli’s stance on plastic use

Singapore's policies are sometimes mind-boggling and contradictory. An example of this seemingly counterproductive logic is the reported news that while Singapore has earmarked S$14 million (US$10.19 million) to drive the development of smart urban estates that can operate and consume energy more efficiently, it still refuses to take any action against the appalling levels of plastic consumption in Singapore.

S$14 million is not a small sum. If Singapore is prepared to spend such a huge amount to reduce energy consumption, it would be fair to assume that the government is committed to reducing its carbon footprint. Flowing from that, why doesn't it take the most obvious step of tackling our country's plastic use?

Simply put, why is the government spending staggering sums on huge projects when it doesn't take simple steps to tackle what is right in front of it?

Just a few months back, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli had said that he did not think that we wanted to be a society that charged for plastic bags. My retort to that is "Why not"? If we want to be a society that wants to reduce energy consumption. then surely we also want to be a society that uses plastic in a sustainable way? How does this stance on plastic stack up against the willingness to drop such a big sum of money to combat energy consumption? Besides why is it so repugnant to charge for plastic bags? Many countries now do it which has created opportunities for the customers to consider whether or not they really needed the bag. This, in turn, creates awareness and environmental consciousness. Isn't societal mindset the backbone of any successful policy?

At the end of the day, throwing large sums of money at something does not necessarily equate success. In this case, the government's bid to reduce energy consumption may have limited success in making Singapore a more green country because it would have been let down by its own Environment and Water Resources minister's stance on plastic bags. Is limited success worth 14 million?

Looking at these seemingly conflicting policies, I wonder if it is a case that the various government departments are not taking a unified stand which could lead to duplication and waste. Are they even communicating? Also, are they sending out confusing mixed signals to the public? Is the government pro-environment or not?