Don’t fight fires, prevent them in the first place

  • Letters
  • Monday, 16 Sep 2019

Photo: SS KANESAN/The Star

SOMETIMES, I just don’t understand. Why do we expect corporations to do all the “right things” while the governments we elect are allowed to indulge in blame games?

At least corporations do not state upfront that their primary concern is to protect public interests. At most, they are only expected to be ethical and responsible when carrying out their business activities.

Governments, on the other hand, are expected to govern. They are expected to regulate, control and enforce public policies for the overall good of their respective countries.

But just look at the haze problem now brewing in South-East Asia. For how many decades has this problem been festering?

Each time when the haze becomes unbearable, the blame game starts. Malaysia and Singapore will blame Indonesia while Indonesia will blame Malaysian and Singaporean companies operating in Indonesia.

Where is the genuine desire to find and the common goal of solving this problem for the people? Where is the cooperation between the respective jurisdictions that is required to enforce regulations?

Why talk about fighting fires now when fire should be prevented in the first place? Where are the stern warnings, preventive enforcement and imminent punishment for those culprits responsible?

It is wishful thinking to trust corp-orations to do the right things. Their raison d’être is money-making first and foremost. That is why companies must operate under the jurisdiction of governments.

Haze is an economic externality. No corporation has an inherent interest in protecting the environment. Unless they are compelled to comply, they will not do it.

It is the responsibility of the govern-ments to manage economic externalities because market forces can’t impute a cost on the haze. If governments do not want to do it, no one will.

By the way, there is no better way to fight the anti-palm oil lobbyists than by governments in South-East Asia cooperating with each other to prevent and fight wild fires. Right now, we are giving the lobbyists every opportunity to shoot at us.


Kuala Lumpur

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