WHEN it comes to achieving cleaner growth, Singapore leads the way in South-east Asia and the rest of the region still has much catching-up to do.
This was one of the key findings of a new economic report, which found that Singapore's transition to an international services hub has caused sustained lower carbon emissions on a per capita basis in the last two decades.
The Economic Insight report, commissioned by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), noted that Singapore was the only South-east Asian country to have made improvements in this area.
The UK-based institute, which represents over 144,000 chartered accountants worldwide, noted that most economies within the region had not reached a stage where the environmental impact of economic activity started to decrease.
Unlike Singapore, which has seen a sustained drop in emissions since 1994, the report stressed that other ASEAN member countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia were only seeing "periodic lower emissions" when their GDP shrank.
ICAEW economic adviser Scott Corfe said that manufacturing activities had a strong effect on emissions, producing more than three times of carbon emissions per US$1,000 of output than service activities.
"Singapore's transition from a low-cost manufacturing base to a high value-added international services hub has resulted in the nation leaving a much smaller environmental footprint than before," he said.
However, Mr Corfe pointed out that Singapore's investment in generating electricity through renewables, as opposed to fossil fuels, remained "an area of improvement".
He said: "While it is estimated that Singapore could produce 10 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2020, it must ensure that much greater focus is placed on renewables than fossil fuels to achieve this."
ICAEW went on to add that, over the last 10 years, while the environmental policy across ASEAN had been placed higher on the agenda, there had been little progress so far.
"Much more is needed to translate policies into reality, including a stronger regulatory environment, political will and funding," the institute said. "While environmental policy in Singapore has been relatively successful, plans in other ASEAN nations such as the Philippines and Thailand have been more modest."
As the global economy moves towards cleaner growth, ICAEW said that ASEAN had to keep pace. It reasoned that a lower environmental impact resulting from the region's development would make it a more desirable place for individuals and firms to move to.
The institute's Economic Insight report is a quarterly forecast for South-east Asia, providing the finance profession with a snapshot of the region's economic performance.
The six-page report also mentioned the recent passing of Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died on March 23 this year at the age of 91.
"He personally exerted considerable influence over the country's subsequent development, building an open economy with a strong state and heavy emphasis on education, productivity and economic growth," it said.
"Over the next 50 years - a jubilee it celebrates this summer - these policies transformed (Singapore) into one of the richest countries in the world."
This article was first published on June 4, 2015.
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