Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Sustainable Singapore or Sustainable Population, does it matter under IPAT model?

During the parliament debate on Population White Paper, both the PAP government and WP used ‘sustainability’ to argue their cases.  One used it for Singapore (WP) and the other used it for Population (PAP).  Really, does it make any difference?    
The PAP government’s white paper wants to achieve “A Sustainable Population for A Dynamic Singapore”.   However, WP argues for “A Dynamic Population for a Sustainable Singapore”.   Which argument will give us a better living environment and quality of life?

A.Using population to achieve a dynamic Singapore or
B.  Using Singapore to achieve a dynamic population.  

IPAT equation
IPAT equation is commonly used for environment impact analysis and as we know the environment will affect the quality of life of Singapore core.
I = PAT is the lettering of a formula put forward to describe the impact of human activity on the environment. I = P × A × T 
In words:Human Impact (I) on the environment equals the product of P= Population, A= Affluence, T= Technology. This describes how our growing population, affluence, and technology contribute toward our environmental impact. The equation can aid in understanding some of the factors affecting human impacts on the environment.(
Singapore is an immigrant country and since independence in 1965, Singapore has increased its population as well as its economy rapidly. So much so that we have to think of sustainability in terms of many aspects: land, environment, population, economy, social development etc.

A country is made up of its people, especially its citizens. In the recent Parliament debate, the life quality of citizen core was the key points of argument.

However, Singapore’s case is unique as it is different from the IPAT equation for developed countries and looks more towards an IPAT model for developing countries.

IPAT for developed countries
To reduce the human impacts on environment, the model for developed countries will look like this:

P stable (population stable or reducing)
A down (high GNP, need to cut down consumption)   
T down (using technology more environmental friendly production)

A developed economy will try to make changes to reduce consumption and improved technology to reduce the environment impacts. A better environment or healthy environment will improve the quality of life.  This is why we talk about Swiss standard of living many years ago.

The challenges or options for change are A and T: to cut down ‘the consumption per person’ (due to affluence) and to bring down ‘the environmental damage per unit of consumption’ (help by technology).

IPAT for developing countries
To reduce the human impacts on environment, the developing countries will do the followings:

P up (e.g. population reduction through birth control, education, jobs for women)
A up (becoming affluence, GNP per capita increasing, consumptions up, to reduce consumption for less stress on environment)   
T down (using latest technology for production)

A developing country will try to make changes to reduce population and consumption; and improved technology used to reduce the environment impacts. A better environment or healthy environment will improve the quality of life (e.g. longer life span, better education and health care).  This is the early days of Singapore from 1965 to maybe 1980s.

The challenges or options for change are P, A and T. There are big population size and continuing growing; increasing affluence leading to higher ‘consumption per person’ and technology/ways to bring down ‘the environmental damage per unit of consumption’.

The case of Singapore
Singapore’s case is unique that we are a developed country but facing the challenges like a developing country, especially from the arguments of the government published (parliament endorsed) Population White Paper.

P Up (Singapore wants to increase population size by bringing in more immigrants)
A Up (emphasis on economic growth and to increase income further so consumption will go up)   

T down (in basically 2 approaches: using advanced and latest technology for manufacturing activities and little agricultural activities. Also Singapore is a service industry economy.  It is able to cut down environmental impacts or damage by improving technology in manufacturing and service industry as well as transferring some environmental damages to other countries, especially in primary and agricultural industries)  

Sustainable Population or Sustainable Singapore?
The PAP government white paper wants to have “A Sustainable Population for A Dynamic Singapore”.   They suggest:  

P up (increase population to a possible worst case scenario of 6.9 million)
A up (3-4% per year 2013-2020, 2-3% per year 2020-2030)
T down

However, the opposition Worker’ Party (WP) wants to have “A Dynamic Population for a Sustainable Singapore”. In this case,

P stable (cap at 5.9 million)  
A stable (slower growth rate, 2.5%-3.5% 2013-2020, 1.5%-2.5% 2020-2030)
T down

WP arguments for less population increased are: 
<We believe this rate can be achieved with productivity improvements at the same rate as that proposed in the White Paper, but with less population injections, if we can utilise more of our existing population. We could target to grow our resident workforce by 1% per year, by getting more foreign spouses, home-makers and seniors back to work. Second, our senior citizens may not be as much of a burden as the government makes out. >

Is Singapore a developed country?

In many ways, the PAP is denying our achievement and success.  It still considers Singapore as a developing country (and there are many advantages in the international world for being a developing country).

A developing country uses population (P) to grow economy, and increase consumption due to affluence and improved income (I).   

The PAP government is using the IPAT equation for developing countries to deny citizen core to have a better standard of living and quality of life.

It is not surprise that the low income workers do not have real income increase for more than 10 years. Despite affluence we still have housing, education, transport problems.  

After all, in the eyes of the PAP leaders, Singapore is still a developing country and the PAP wants to keep the status quo for as long as they are in power!

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