Speech by Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC, at the Second Reading of the Singapore Tourism Board (Amendment) Bill (Bill No. 20/2022)
This Bill allows STB to take over the economic regulation of cruise terminal operators from the MPA.
This will enable STB to exercise regulatory oversight of financial matters in a manner that supports the growth and development of the cruise sector and in turn, Singapore’s tourism sector.
I have three clarifications.
Power to act as third-party guarantor for tourism enterprise
My first point is on the new section 8(ha).
The section introduces a new power for STB to act as a third-party guarantor for a tourism enterprise. This is subject to the Minister’s approval and provided that the enterprise develops Singapore as a destination or enhances the travel and tourism sector’s contribution to the economy.
This new power comes with significant risks. STB may end up propping up mismanaged, decaying businesses. STB may also be accused of picking and choosing winners in the tourism industry, unfairly disadvantaging those not lucky enough to be chosen.
This power should thus be used in extremely limited situations. The decision to use it must be guided by clear, objective frameworks of success.
How will the Minister decide whether to approve instances where STB seek to use this power? What factors will they consider? In what situations is STB envisioned to use this power?
Determination of public interest
My second point is on how public interest will be determined under the amended Act.
A number of amendments proposed refer to the STB or Controller making decisions on the basis of “public interest”.
One example is the STB’s power in granting or renewing tourist guide licences to impose conditions that are in the public interest. The STB may also give licensees directions that are necessary or expedient in the public interest.
I ask this because “public interest” is not a term that is currently used in the Singapore Tourism Board Act. However, the term is used repeatedly in the Bill.
Given the scope of matters that can fall under “public interest” is very broad and it is a new term in the context of the Act in relation to important decisions, can Minister share how “public interest” should be interpreted in the context of the Act?
Sustainability goals for cruise sector
My third point is on how STB will assist the cruise line industry in reaching its sustainability goals. Concerns have been raised about the carbon emissions, pollution, and significant energy demands of cruises.
Earlier this year, the Friends of the Earth, an NGO, evaluated 18 cruise lines according to four environmental criteria. No cruise line got better than a C grade. Seven received a failing grade. The report card concluded that “clean cruising” was simply not possible.
Research suggests that a large cruise ship can have a carbon footprint of greater than 12,000 cars. That’s twice the number of cars newly registered in Singapore each year!
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 aims for our nation to become a sustainable tourist destination. MPA has also said it aims to decarbonise the maritime industry.
What steps will STB take to help decarbonise the cruise line industry? What targets will it set, and on what specific areas does it aim to drive reduced emissions?
For instance, are there goals for cruises to transition first to using liquefied natural gas and subsequently to other low or zero-carbon marine fuels?
Notwithstanding these clarifications, I stand in support of the Bill.
Watch the speech here.