SINGAPORE: The 30 per cent increase in the price of water is "absolutely necessary", as it is a "scarce" resource and "not cheap to produce", said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (Mar 25).
Mr Lee noted that the announcement, made by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget statement "provoked a strong reaction from Singaporeans".
"In retrospect, perhaps we should have spent more time explaining this before announcing the increase, then people wouldn't have been so surprised," he said.
But the increase is "absolutely necessary", he added, underlining just how precious water is as a resource. National water agency PUB is also investing in various infrastructure like NEWater and desalination plants, pipelines and sewage treatment plants.
"If the water tariffs are not enough to pay for these, PUB would still have to build all this, and we would still have to pay for this. But instead of paying for it through the water tariff, we would have to pay for it through our taxes and I think it's fairer to pay for it through the water tariff. Those who use the water pay for the water, rather than from general taxes and we use the GST or your income taxes, or your car taxes to pay for water."
As the economy grows, the country will need more water, said Mr Lee, adding that climate change will also cause the supply of water to be less predictable.
And as the population in the Malaysian state of Johor continues to grow, this means that the resource will come under pressure due to a corresponding growth in demand, he said.
Singapore draws more than half of its water supply from Linggiu Reservoir. Water levels there hit record lows in recent months.
"We've got to treat water very, very seriously. It's one of the things which Mr Lee Kuan Yew used to be obsessed with. Right from the beginning and right to the end of his life, and as a nation we have to maintain this attitude towards water", said Mr Lee.
"We've got water security now because of our obsession. And by keeping this focus, we can stay secure into the future. If we ever let water become a vulnerability for Singapore, I think we will all be in very serious trouble", Mr Lee cautioned.
Mr Lee was speaking at the official opening of the revamped Pang Sua Pond in Bukit Panjang. S$6.8 million was pumped into transforming the pond under PUB's Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters programme.
Some 3,000 residents gathered to mark the revamp, which took more than two years to complete.
MPs for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Vivian Balakrishnan, Christopher de Souza and Liang Eng Hwa were at the opening, as well as MP for Bukit Panjang SMC Teo Ho Pin.