29 April 2008

You have to wonder at the kind of long term thinking that goes on at the ministerial level when the government decided to give the go ahead to develop the two Integrated Resorts.

PM Lee Hsien Loong's decision to go ahead with the IRs in 2005 was based on studies that they would boost Singapore's image as a global city, provide jobs, and fuel economic growth.

Oppositions to the IRs were related to social problems such as compulsive gambling, loan sharks, organised crime, and money laundering - all of which are legitimate and are causes for concern.

The point I want to bring up is no one in Parliament questioned the possibility that tourism may plunge in coming years due to sustained rising oil prices caused by possible long-term supply disruptions. Hence, wherefore the IRs?

Our DPM Prof Jayakumar, a member of the ministerial committee which was responsible for evaluating the IR tenders, acknowledged peak oil in a 2006 speech at the Singapore Energy Conference, so it comes as a surprise that he did not raise any of the oil disruption concerns and how it may affect tourism here.

Land is a valuable resource. According to PM Lee's speech, the size of the Bayfront and Sentosa sites are 12.2 ha and 47 ha respectively. It's an absolute waste to utilize such land to build holiday resorts which in no way contribute to our food and energy security in the face of possible supply disruptions. The land could have been used for Vertical Farms. If the 59.2 ha of IR land were allocated for Vertical Farming instead, it could be possible to feed up to 900,000 people per year, or about 20% of our current population.

It would seem that in the worldview of our ministers and MPs, there are no physical barriers to growth and progress. I believe this underscores a deficiency in systems and resilience thinking among our ministers and MPs. Redundancy and resilience are the keywords here to our future survival and our leaders seem to be oblivious to these terms.

When the frightening reality of peak oil and food shortages sets in, our Integrated Resorts will be labelled Immaterial Resorts.

im·ma·te·ri·al (ĭm'ə-tîr'ē-əl)

  1. Of no importance or relevance; inconsequential or irrelevant.
  2. Having no material body or form.