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Economic loss estimated at US$50m since the start of the haze
By Rita Zahara, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 12 October 2006 2036 hrs

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SINGAPORE: Singapore has suffered an estimated loss of US$50m since the onset of the haze in early September.

This according to economists, who studied the impact the haze had on the economy in 1997.

The good news is the haze is expected to improve later this month.

The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) registered 42 at 10pm on Thursday, a sharp difference from 150 when this year's haze was at its peak last Saturday.

Although this year's haze is less severe than in 1997 when large tracts of Singapore and Malaysia were covered in haze, economists say the haze has nonetheless hurt Singapore's economy.

"Some of the various losses arising from forest fires and haze include threat to public health, rise in respiratory illness, hospitalisation and treatment costs. Losses in tourism, losses in productivity because people take time off from work because they're sick, losses to recreation, outdoor recreation in particular, people cannot enjoy the outdoor life," said Assoc Prof Euston Quah, Head, Division of Economics, Nanyang Technological University.

Studies on the 1997 haze crisis showed Singapore had suffered estimated losses of about US$300m.

The breakdown: health costs - US$5m, loss in tourism - US$210m, loss in visibility - US$41m, loss in recreation - US$95, 000.

The economic loss per household was estimated at about US$400 while losses each Singaporean experienced US$100.

NEA will be releasing graphics of the haze situation daily, so that the public can visualise how close Singapore is to the hotspots and take precautionary measures.

The images taken from 10 different satellites are analyzed daily by a team of about 6 meteorologists at the Met Services Division to provide an integrated representation of the haze condition in the region.

"The south-west monsoon season turns out to be also the dry season in the South Sumatra region and the dry season together with the south-west monsoon is coming close to an end. We do expect wetter conditions to occur sometime towards the end of October. With wetter weather, we would expect the smoke haze condition in the source region that is in South Sumatra, Jambi, in the Riau area to gradually ease off leading to an improvement in the whole regional haze situation," said Lam Keng Gaik, Chief Meteorological Officer, Met Service Division, NEA.

Still, experts say the haze may persist for awhile.

"A lot of fire the hotspots are really what we call peat swamps and some of the burning goes underground so we really need to douse that fire and we really don't know how much rainfall is required," said Dr Chang Chew Hung, Department of Geography, Nanyang Technological University.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim will attend the Sub-Regional Ministerial Meeting on Transboundary Haze Pollution at Pekanbaru in Riau Province, Indonesia on Friday. - CNA /dt



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