SINGAPORE - Add up the cost of the haze in terms of medical bills, tourism losses, businesses hit and face-masks bought.
Armed with this bill, Singapore could then go to a third-party country and ask it to exert pressure on Indonesia to reduce the smog-causing forest fires there.
That is the advice of Professor Euston Quah, who pioneered cost-benefit analysis courses at two universities here, and who put the bill of the 1997 haze here at almost US$300 million (S$383 million).
"There is nothing much Singapore can do about cross-border pollution because of sovereignty issues," he said. "But if Singapore has leverage over a third country which has leverage over Indonesia, the (intervention) model will work."
Even if help does not materialise, calculating the haze's cost would help Singapore better decide how much aid to offer Indonesia, and how best to assist sectors here hurt by the haze, he said.
Head of the Department of Economics at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Prof Quah has been putting a dollar sign to the intangible for several decades, to help businesses and organisations make more informed decisions.
He was involved in the Environment Ministry's air pollution studies here, for example, to guide its investments to improve air quality. He has also published ground-breaking studies on smoking costs here, the cost of dengue-related sickness to the economy, as well as the first study on transboundary haze pollution in 2002.