The Green Equilibrium – Is Budget 2021 greenwashing?

GOING paperless using existing equipment may be viewed as a sustainable move. But getting specific gadgets to go paperless for many individuals may need an overall analysis as gadgets have other serious environmental risks that may undo positive paperless efforts. With that note, Budget 2021 is still far away from improving the water, energy and environment situation in Malaysia.

Rampant water pollution

Frequent water pollution incidents in raw water intake locations have once again proven the failure of federal and state agencies to tackle pollution issues. Many suggestions were put forward for many years and continue to fall on deaf ears. It is no surprise that such incidents are becoming rampant. Giving rewards for those who report pollution incidents is just a very tiny effort. What happened to the real solution given? Does the government fear the polluters?

Langat 2 Water Treatment Plant (WTP) Delayed again!

Pengurusan Aset Air Bhd (PAAB) is a wholly owned company by Ministry of Finance Inc. PAAB handled the tender process for Langat 2 WTP. It was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019. The former water minister announced that this project will only be completed by late 2022 and the current water minister delays it further to 2023.

Why there is such a delay? What happened to the contracts? Is PAAB incompetent or the contractors they appoint via tender process is incompetent?

Water companies have long complained that PAAB sidelines water companies when it comes to selection committee for tender process. Legally, water companies must sit there as they are the vehicle state government uses to pay lease rental and own these assets. Why there is delay and what actions are taken to speed up?

The delay in Langat 2 WTP completion is eroding investors’ confidence in Malaysia as it also plays a role in reducing impact of water disruption due to pollution. Can the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee investigate this matter?

Save 2.0 Programme

A RM200 rebate for locally manufactured air conditioners and refrigerators was introduced in the recent budget. Save 1.0 was already a failed programme and there was no proof that it reduced the price of energy-efficient products for consumers or reduced the carbon foot print as the report by the government agency was based on assumptions only. In a Energy Efficiency (EE) study conducted by Awer few years ago, Save was reported as a failed and meaningless programme.

We have proposed to the government to target 80 -90% of electrical products to be included in the five-star rating labelling to assist consumers to buy more efficient products by 2020. This move will have more EE products in the market and is estimated to save RM7 billion worth of electricity tariff from domestic consumers alone when the implementation hits full impact. Thus, we feel the RM30 million should be given to needy groups.

We urge the government to drop this inane programme. In fact, during a meeting with the ministry officials few years ago, it was agreed such a meaningless programme would not be carried out. We wonder who lobbied this to be approved again.

Redundant agencies a waste of taxpayers’ money

Malaysia is hard hit due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. We need to ensure every ringgit is spent responsibly. Administration cost will increase when we have redundant agencies. The 11th Malaysia Plan has already paved the way to close redundancies. We raised this issue with the previous administration and it fell on deaf ears yet again.

For Budget 2021, we did propose it again to the current administration. Why should we waste our resources in such an abusive way? Awer urges the Federal Government to shut down the Sustainable Energy Development Authority, the Water Supply Department, the Sewerage Services Department, and Yayasan Hijau. All these redundant agencies’ job functions can be implemented by other existing agencies and licensees. This is called optimisation and sound resource allocation.

Finally, greenwashing is an easy task carried out by many large corporation and governments to portray their “environmentally friendly” efforts. Implementing real sustainable changes takes true and holistic understanding of the environment and its respective parameters.

Will the government lead by example?

This article was contributed by Awer president Piarapakaran S, president of the Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (Awer), a non-government organisation involved in research and development in the fields of water, energy and environment.

A RM200 rebate for locally manufactured air conditioners and refrigerators was introduced in the recent budget. – REUTERSPIX