Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Dialogue with PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Lee Kuan Yew Prize Award Ceremony 2016


$200m boost for water research
This is to ensure it has enough water to cope with effects of climate change
By Carolyn Khew and Cheryl Teh, The Straits Times, 12 Jul 2016

To mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure that Singapore has enough water, the Republic is pumping $200 million into water research over the next five years.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, announcing the funding at a dialogue yesterday, said research and development have helped ensure an adequate supply of water for Singapore over the years and the country will continue to spend on them.

"Droughts are going to be a problem for us in Singapore. We have to prepare for our own water supply which, for us, has always been a strategic and high-priority issue, and we are putting a lot of resources into it," he said at the Lee Kuan Yew Prize Award Ceremony and Banquet at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia.

The Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize and Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize - which recognise excellence in water and urban innovations respectively - were given out respectively to renowned hydrogeologist John Anthony Cherry and Medellin, Colombia, at the event last night.

PM Lee was responding to a question from Professor Chan Heng Chee, who asked if the region was spending enough on infrastructure to mitigate the effects of climate change. Prof Chan chairs the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

PM Lee said climate change will bring about more extreme weather, droughts, floods and rising sea levels, and that some of the effects could be felt faster than predicted.

But these can be mitigated. "There are things you can do about these if you have lead time, and the resources and the attention," he said.

While the official forecast of the rise in sea level is 18 inches (46cm) in 100 years, he warned that this could turn out "faster and higher than as predicted".

So new projects will take this into account. The upcoming expansion of Changi Airport, for one thing, will take place on higher ground to guard against rising sea levels.

It is hoped that the water industry will contribute $2.85 billion to Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) and create 15,000 jobs by 2020, said national water agency PUB and the Economic Development Board.

The latest investment - some 40 per cent more than the previous tranche - will also go towards helping the industry commercialise innovations more quickly and export them overseas, and develop a suitable talent pool. 

In total, the Government has committed $670 million to R&D in the water industry since 2006. The industry contributes more than $2.2 billion to Singapore's GDP and has created over 14,000 jobs.

PUB chief executive Ng Joo Hee said: "Singapore today is really the Silicon Valley of water research and we started from nothing... We have invested and built up capabilities and, today, Singapore is one of the handful of places in the world where real cutting-edge research on water is taking place."

Singapore's current water demand stands at about 430 million gallons of water per day and this could more than double by 2060 - with non-domestic water demand estimated to make up 70 per cent of overall water use.

One key area that PUB is looking into is to reduce the energy involved in producing desalinated water or treated seawater. Current technology uses about 3.5 kilowatt hours of energy to desalinate a cubic metre of water, but the aim is to slash this by 70 per cent.

The technologies being looked at by PUB include one by American company Evoqua, which uses a process called electrodialysis to remove salt ions from seawater.

In a push to ensure the sustainability of Singapore's water supply, General Electric (GE) and PUB have a five-year agreement to explore new research opportunities and develop novel water-treatment technologies and R&D projects locally.

Mr Hoshang Subawalla, regional executive for GE Power (Asia-Pacific), said the agreement was a big step towards helping Singapore become water-independent, by increasing the efficiency of the water-purification process in Singapore's desalination plants.

Trust between citizens, Government key for Smart Nation: PM Lee Hsien Loong
Small size helps, but people's willingness to work with Govt more crucial: PM
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 12 Jul 2016

Singapore's compact size gives it a natural advantage in its quest to be a Smart Nation, but the trust that has been built between Government and citizens plays a key role too, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last night.

The island's small size means it can be wired up quickly, and the Government can set new rules expediently compared with countries with more layers of government, Mr Lee told participants at a dialogue at the World Cities Summit.

But even more essential is that its people are willing to work with the Government, trusting that they will benefit from the initiatives and that the Government will make the right trade-offs, he said.

Mr Lee cited public acceptance of the extensive network of some 65,000 police cameras the Government has installed in public areas like lift lobbies nationwide since 2012 to deter and combat crime.

"It's very useful from a law enforcement point of view, but it's not so straightforward to do because people must be convinced that this is good for them, they will benefit from it, and it is not to intrude on their privacy," he said.

"In Singapore, we have been able to do that and there has been acceptance from the population that this is a scheme which is good."

There are many more difficult decisions to be made on the journey to be a Smart Nation, he added, citing how the Government wants to digitise citizens' medical records so they can be more easily accessed by clinics and hospitals, but must ensure patient privacy is protected.

"You could track handphone data, anonymised, to find out where commuters are moving, where the traffic jams are, where you need to improve public transport," he said.

Some of the changes can be very disruptive and affect livelihoods, he said, citing private-hire car services like Grab and Uber, and their impact on taxi operators here.

"Our taxi operators are concerned, and we are changing our rules to make it fairer between the taxi operators and the new services," he said. "But everybody in Singapore knows you have to move forward and you can't stop this from happening."

During the 40-minute dialogue, Mr Lee took on a range of questions, from Britain's recent decision to leave the European Union to climate change, terrorism and lessons from Singapore's development.

One thing governments have to do to ensure their countries can adapt quickly, he said, is to understand reactions to disruptive change, address reasonable concerns and help people to adapt.

In Singapore, to help the older generation with technology, community centres provide access to computer terminals and teach basic skills. There are also schemes to help low-income families and children have access to computers so they do not fall behind, he added.

Asked about Singapore's secret in maintaining a constructive citizen-government relationship when many societies were coming apart, Mr Lee said Singapore was exposed to the same uncertainties about jobs and technology that others were. But he said it had developed a balance between self-reliance and government help that worked.

"We work with you but we do expect you to work. And it's backed up by the resources of the state in terms of education, housing, healthcare, security and safety," he added. "That's a balance that's not quite the same as in most other countries, and it's a dynamic one we have to find, but it has so far worked for Singapore."

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