It may be somewhat premature but February could have been my favourite month of 2017. Thanks to a monsoon surge that summoned strong winds from the South China Sea, we enjoyed cool temperatures between 22°C – 27°C. Usually that only happens in air-conditioned malls or when the searing equatorial sun is blotted out by a thick miasma of forest fire haze.
With the monsoon surge, we also enjoyed plentiful rainfall that unfortunately flooded parts of Orchard and Bugis; and demonstrated how well designed Bishan Park is. Further up north in Johor, Linggiu Reservoir went from dangerously low to more than 30% full. I’m a glass-half-empty kinda guy so I’d say it’s still a cause for concern.
We can’t control how much rainfall we get but we can control how much water we use. Through the years, the campaign efforts of PUB through water rationing exercises (back in 1963) and the antics of Water Wally, have had some success. To reflect the rising costs of water production and desalination, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced the increase in water prices by 30% over the next 2 years, during the Budget 2017 speech. This would be the first increase in 17 years since 2000.
Min Heng’s Budget 2017 Speech also included a series of announcements in support of the recommendations from the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE). This 30 member committee, which comprised top business leaders and thinkers, had earlier published a lengthy report on the critical steps that we need to take as a nation, to succeed in an increasingly uncertain world.
The report focused on upgrading our workforce through lifelong learning, helping our local firms internationalise and transforming our industries to meet new needs and create new markets. All of which will be put into action as we restructure the economy to meet changing needs. At the same time, there will be targeted measures to help firms manage the transition, including income tax rebates and supporting employment of older workers.
All of these measures were designed to re-position ourselves against the unpredictable weather of a changing world, as an economy, society and as a people.
The strong winds in February were suspected to be a factor in the topple of a 270 year-old Tembusu tree in the Botanic Gardens. The tragic accident left one dead and four injured. It was a terrible thing that no one could have foresaw. But when it did, so many rushed forward to try their best to clear the tree, pitching in individually to lift the trunk, branches, twigs, anything…
I know that is small comfort, particularly to the bereaved, but as a people, when we try our best to face the storm, that’s all we can aspire to.