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Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at Launch Ceremony of Keep Clean, Singapore! 2023 at F1 Pit Building

Published Date: 13 May 2023 11:30 AM

News Speeches

1. I would first like to thank Mr Edward D'Silva, Chairman of the Public Hygiene Council and his hardworking committee, not only for organising today's event, but the year-round programme to spread the message of Keep Clean, Singapore! 2023.

2. Second, I would like to thank all our partners who are here today, not just for spending this morning with us, but also your year-long efforts to help us spread this message in your respective agencies, institutions, and workplaces. Thank you very much for your support.

3. Third, I would like to thank the Public Hygiene Council for working with MOE, particularly this year for us to have the Keep SG Clean Comic Strip Competition, which is another innovative way to encourage our students to participate in this activity. Thank you Mr D'Silva and your team for coming up with innovative ideas to encourage our students.

4. As the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment invited me, I will use the alphabets M, S, and E to share some of my thoughts with everyone today.

5. M stands for Mission. We can look at our Mission from three different levels. The first level is to keep Singapore clean. The second level is to ask ourselves why are we doing this? It could be we're doing this because we want a better quality living environment. Lastly, we can also say that we're doing this because when foreigners come to Singapore, they leave with a good impression, and hopefully that will also help us attract investments and create better jobs for us.

6. This was one of the reasons why our founding Prime Minister Mr. Lee Kuan Yew paid so much attention to the East Coast Parkway. Why is it we have one of the straightest and cleanest road from the airport to town? This is so that anyone who arrives in Singapore from Changi, coming into town will have the best impression, and everyone leaving Singapore from town to Changi, will again have the best impression.

7. So, how many of you think that we are doing this for the first reason, which is that it is just our mission to keep Singapore clean? Or how many of you think it is the second reason that it leads to a cleaner environment and higher quality of life for us? Or how many of you think that the most important reason is the third reason, it is so that we can attract more investments and jobs for us?

8. What if I tell you that, to me, the most important reason is none of the above. The message that we are trying to spread to the next generation is not just about keeping our environment clean, not just about having better quality of life, and not just about attracting investments in a very tangible way.

9. I think the most important message we are trying to send, which the various committees and the Public Hygiene Council have worked very hard on spreading, is about stewardship.

10. We want to teach and imbue in our next generation this spirit that we will leave behind a better place for the next generation. And to me, that is the most powerful message.

11. Keeping Singapore clean is a means to an end, but keeping Singapore clean is not the end.

12. And I've always said this, in Singapore, our definition of success is not how well we do for ourselves in this generation. But how well we enable the next generation to do even better. And that is what makes us proud.

13. So there is to me, a much deeper meaning in this campaign of Keep Clean, Singapore, which is that we all want to steward what we have and leave something behind for the next generation for them to scale the next higher peak.

14. On that note, I would like to thank the Public Hygiene Council and the various committees for doing this as what you are doing is not just about keeping Singapore clean on the surface, and there is a much deeper meaning.

15. My second point is how do we define success? I agree with Mr D'Silva, and you have seen the examples of both the Taiwanese and Japanese. Success for us is not how well Singapore manages to clear more rubbish. Success for us is not how many cleaners we have or need in Singapore. Success for us is not how many rubbish bins, and how much more convenient we can make it for Singapore to keep it clean.

16. Paradoxically, success for us is even without all these, we have within our DNA to keep Singapore clean. In my weekly visits to schools, this is a common topic that students discuss — how to keep the school clean?

17. They have many suggestions like having another campaign, have more posters, have more rubbish bins, have more aunties and uncles to clean up after them.

18. But I always remind them these are not the most appropriate or important answers. The real answer is each and every one of us has a responsibility within our DNA to not dirty our environment in the first place, have within us the DNA to say that I want to leave behind something better for others, be it the toilet or the tables in our canteen.

19. I believe some of us here have visited Japan. Actually, the thing that struck me most when I visited Japan is not just how clean the environment is, even out in the most far-flung place, but how few rubbish bins and cleaners there are, and I think that is something that we can aspire to.

20. The day will come whereby our success is not benchmarked by the number of cleaners or bins, but how few of them we need because we don't need them to clean up after us.

21. When I visited Taipei some time back, it was the same thing. It's never about how many cleaners they have, or how many bins they have that really makes the people very proud. It is how they take initiative, and I hope we can learn from them and one day, meet the same kind of standards they have been able to achieve. And that for us is real success.

22. So, my message to all the schools whenever I visit is just three simple rules: Know it. Do it. Spread it. We will start young, and MOE will continue to partner with the Public Hygiene Council to ensure we keep it to these three simple rules.

23. While we have the support structures to encourage more people to do the right thing, our final goal is not to have more support structures, but really to have it in our DNA that even without the support structures, we can do it.

24. Now, the last alphabet E. What does E stand for? And this is where we have a choice as fellow Singaporeans. We have a choice of what E stands for. E can stand for Enforcement, or E can stand for Empowerment. Which one should we aspire towards?

25. In fact, we should not look at Enforcement as the last E, and to really get our culture right, Empowerment should be our last E. Some have said that there is no point telling students this because the students won't change. I don't agree with this. If we get it right from young, we will have a better generation in time to come.

26. We get it right from young, and never underestimate the power of the young to even shape and reshape the mindset of adults. You look at the campaign that we had a couple of years back where school children went around hawker centres to remind adults to return their trays. The adults quickly behave ourselves because we want to be a positive role model for our kids. So, never underestimate the power of igniting the minds of our young and empowering them.

27. So, I hope we remember the larger mission. The larger mission is for all of us to be good citizens to leave behind a better Singapore, and that defines everything we do in Singapore.

28. Success for us is the day when we next celebrate Keep Clean Singapore, we are celebrating the kind of DNA that we have in us.

29. And finally, I hope that we will truly empower everyone to do what is right, rather than to use enforcement in order to do what is right.

30. On that note, one final congratulations to the Public Hygiene Council. Thank you very much.