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Lack of green perks disappoints industry players

Lack of green perks disappoints industry players

Budget surplus gives scope for perks such as tax credits, say industry players

IT HAD been widely anticipated, but in the end, the ‘green Budget’ that many people had been waiting for did not materialise.

The lack of incentives such as tax credits to encourage environmentally sustainable business practices has left industry players across various business sectors feeling disappointed.

They say the bumper $6.4 billion Budget surplus offered plenty of scope for such measures.

Post-Budget discussions in both the public and private sector have questioned the ‘noticeable absence’ of such policies.

Some MPs have said they will be raising questions of their own at the upcoming Budget debate, which begins on Monday.

Singapore Environment Council executive director Howard Shaw said, given that awareness of climate change has grown in the Republic in the last year, the lack of pro-green fiscal policies has been very surprising.

‘I thought this year would be the green year. But perhaps, we’ll see some provisions for this in the upcoming debate,’ he said.

Dr Teo Ho Pin, the MP for Bukit Panjang, also said he had expected a ‘green element’ in the Budget, delivered on Feb 15. ‘In emission standards, we are a long way off. Perhaps we should provide for all our public transport going diesel too,’ he said.

Only one announcement – to cut costs for private diesel cars – seemed related. Under newer standards, such cars release less carbon dioxide than petrol cars.

However, Mr Charles Chong, who heads the Government Parliamentary Committee on National Development and Environment, felt the Government should move towards encouraging compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, which are greener than diesel and petrol cars.

Mr Chong, an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, said he will also be asking questions related to green incentives in the debate.

‘The private sector is more bottom-line driven and less altruistic in the short term. The Government has to take a longer-term view and put in the green infrastructure and policies. And what better time to do it than in a Budget surplus year?’

Although widely-expected direct measures such as tax credits for energy-efficient equipment for businesses did not turn up, the Budget did include indirect measures such as tax allowances for local research and development (R&D) – which could boost the environment solutions sector.

Also, in the past year, the Government has announced a slew of initiatives to improve environment sustainability such as the Clean Energy Programme Office.

Funds have been set aside to build test-bedding sites and for manpower training.

These efforts, although not part of the Budget, also helped to drive the local green movement.

Nominated MP Edwin Khew, also chief executive of local waste recycling firm IUT Global, said the R&D incentives will help the clean energy sector as its development is tied closely to breakthroughs in R&D.

Mr Khew said he will ask about incentives for the clean technology sector on Monday.

Recently, PricewaterhouseCoopers Singapore tax partner David Sandison said Singapore might have missed an opportunity in the wake of the Bali climate change conference to take a lead in the green movement.

Mr Shaw, however, recognised that an economy with green policies does not happen overnight. He added: ‘Making the right decisions is necessary and this will take time.’

Source: The Straits Times 23 Feb 08

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