Why is Singapore so Clean?


In Lee Kuan Yew’s world, a cleaner city fosters a stronger economy and this is exactly what he sought to achieve with his nationwide cleanliness campaign in Singapore. The result, about half a century later is a sparkling city state recognized as one of the world’s cleanest, though it was once a swampy, filthy and disease ridden place. When the first Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew took over after the country after it gained independence, there were already established campaigns for cleanliness in place. His method was however new with government using fines as a means of social control. Singapore is not only squeaky clean because its leaders insisted on it, but also for a number of factors that are essential.

War on Dirt

If you find yourself in a cool climatic region, it is not much of a problem to be reluctant on rubbish collection. But in such a humid and hot environment like Singapore, leaving waste uncollected for a short while can cause a lot of problems, not forgetting the pungent smells you may have to endure from dumpster trucks. The amount of cockroaches, flies, rodents together with the germs and bacteria they can easily spread as a result of littering and refuse disposal is alarming. This explains why the country urgently deals with its dirt to avoid mass health problems altogether.

Clean and Green Policy

Prime Minister Lee’s ultimate goal was to achieve the position of the cleanest and greenest city in the whole of South Asia. This he eventually attained through the implementation of the policy which saw modifications to laws on public health, disease control, development of quality sewage systems, as well as the movement of vendors to hawker centers. Around this period, majority of the inhabitants moved from Malay-style villages to housing estates built by the government. These events coupled with the following helped make the policy a success. Furthermore, the below tactics played significant roles in transforming Singapore into one of the cleanest places in the world:

  • Frequent public education by health personnel
  • Spot checks
  • Competitions ranking the dirtiest and cleanest schools, vehicles, offices, government structures and shops

 This policy was followed by numerous similar cleanliness campaigns throughout the 1970s and 1980s, as well as effective tree planting activities.

Singapore: A fine city

While Singapore is really a fine place to live or visit, they also have a reputation of using fines to enforce bans on behaviors they deem undesirable. This habit is said to have begun in 1968 when the Keep Singapore Clean campaign was in its initial stages. These fines could sum up to thousands per year with the minimum amount being S$300 for littering. Activities such as spitting, chewing gum, carrying durian (a smelly but tasty fruit), or not flushing toilets are some of the most popular laws that attract heavy fines or worse jail term for its offenders.

Cleaning the City

Gradually, the punitive measures put in place caused the citizens to be more alert to clean up, thus allowing the city to become cleaner. As the county’s wealth increased however, it became much easier to employ low-cost labor, mostly comprising of foreign and elderly workers, to clean up the place.

Currently, there are over 56,000 cleaners nationwide, who work for the National Environment Agency to keep both public and private spaces spotless. There is also a change in behavior that came with the increasing number of cleaners in that, Singaporeans now view cleaning as a job on its own and not necessarily the duty of everyone. For this reason, you can easily attribute the current state of Singapore’s cleanliness to the hard work of its efficient cleaners.

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1 Response

  1. September 30, 2020

    […] Singapore is so clean that is has even been dubbed by some as “the cleanest country” on Earth. This is largely because the government has been heavily vested in keeping the country tidy for decades. And as you can see from the previous list item, they are also pretty strict in terms of realizing this goal. In fact it has been noted that even though Singaporeans themselves are well aware of the laws of the land, the authorities still “issue tens of thousands of fines a year for littering”. […]

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