Good morning. I am very happy to join you at the Temasek Foundation International@10 Asia Urban Governance Leaders Forum 2017.
Singapore, as you know, has experienced rapid urbanisation in just over 50 years, since our independence in 1965. In a few weeks' time, we will celebrate our 52nd national birthday. This is an achievement that we are very proud of. Some have said that this transformation is only possible because Singapore is a small city with a single layer of government and does not have to deal with federal state issues, but I say this is only true in part, not in whole.
The fact is that being a small city state of 719 km2 means that while we have a smaller geographical size for planning and for development, we also therefore have less room for planning errors, and less margin for poor planning. Just think of how much harder it is to buy suitable furniture for a small room! I think you get the idea. If you buy the wrong furniture, you will have no space to put anything else inside, and you have no place to move. The room becomes an obstacle rather than a place for good living. There are important driving factors which contributed to Singapore's success in urban development. These include strong political leadership, a stable political environment, a whole of government approach to our urban development, and our city planners with a long-term vision and a good long term plan to execute these plans.
These are all factors that we believe are important, which we continue to employ today. Urbanisation is an ongoing process for Singapore to remain relevant, and for us to maintain our status quo as a global city. Our approach to urban planning has always been to adapt to emerging socio-economic trends and also to harness new opportunities from technology and innovation.
Long-term planning & decentralisation strategy
Even though Singapore is small, we have yet to reach our limit in terms of land use and infrastructure, something that is quite paradoxical. You would have thought that with such a small space, we would have been finished and done with it long ago. But through our decentralisation strategy, Singapore is developing new economic centres outside the Central Business District and our city centre. For example, Punggol Digital District will be a new growth centre for digital and cyber-security industries. So what we are trying to do, is to spread the employment opportunities and economic development beyond the traditional city centre, and into other centres around Singapore to enable people to live, work, and play closer to the same locality.
We are also building another cluster for advanced manufacturing and digital economies in Woodlands.
We want to broaden our development beyond just the downtown area, to ensure more opportunities for jobs all over Singapore. We are also providing new types of spaces to cater to the dynamic nature of economic activities. As you know, the economy is changing, new models of businesses are emerging. We are piloting the Enterprise District at Punggol Digital District. With this scheme, the master developer, Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), is given flexibility to optimise land use across the entire development and will be much less constrained by the typical zoning rules that are imposed on individual land parcels. So there is a lot more scope for innovation in how the land parcel is being used as a bigger district.
The working populations also have different aspirations today, with different work or business models. These include workers in the gig economy, as well as disruptors who see office spaces not just as functional spaces but also spaces for networking. Singapore must have the infrastructure to support our workers, and provide them with appropriate environments which are conducive for their work.
One of the ways that we have been supporting this is by the setting up of the JTC LaunchPad @ one-north which was launched in 2015. This LaunchPad provides start-ups less than five years old with a supportive environment, such as more affordable office rentals, networking spaces and opportunities as well as mentorship from incubators and accelerators which are co-located within the same area. An initiative that was supported by several government agencies, the LaunchPad now houses 260 start-ups and 25 incubators. We are also adding an international centre within the Lauchpad that will host start-ups from different geographical regions from around the world - from Australia, Germany. I think in the Launchpad today, we have more than 30 nationalities co-creating and innovating together.
Even as we create new growth and economic centres around the city, we will have to ensure that there is a sense of community within each area, to nurture innovation and to cultivate collaboration. So we are keen to explore greater flexibility of land use across various land parcels as we masterplan our new economic centres. The Government could partner the private sector to develop, place-make and manage our future economic centres. Beyond hardware, it is the software which will drive the outcomes in these new economic centres.
We will also support local place-making efforts through Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). These are already precinct associations that serve as place-management organisations, such as Singapore River One, One Kampong Gelam, Orchard Road Business Association and Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association. However, these associations sometimes face the problem of having 'free-riders', where not every stakeholder contributes their share to the common funds. Imagine a condominium where some property owners refuse to put money into the sinking fund � it would to be tough to manage the development. Through a formalised BID model, we could introduce a stakeholder-led and stakeholder-funded body to improve a defined commercial area. These BIDs are not new. They were first established in Canada and the US in the 1960s and now exist around the world, including in Germany, Japan, and Australia. The BID model would ensure that property owners and business operators are represented and have a say in what they want for their precinct, and to co-create solutions to make their precinct much more dynamic and attractive. We are bringing in ground-up initiatives to work with policy makers to rejuvenate and to make these business districts vibrant and innovative.
Embracing Technology and Innovation: Developing a Smart Nation
In expanding our city, we are also changing the way we build. We are trying out more productive construction methods, and leveraging on technological and innovative solutions to be a Smart Nation.
One of the benefits of an elaborate digital infrastructure is to be able to change the way that we plan, and in turn overcome existing challenges to deliver better services to our citizens using smart technologies.
An example of how this has been done is the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) collection and analysis of anonymised data to make the land transport system much more efficient. LTA gathered anonymised data from commuters' fare cards and tracked the real time location data of buses via sensors that are installed in more than 5,000 vehicles. The insights from this data enabled LTA to better anticipate and address the needs of different types of commuters. The good news is that this resulted in a 92% reduction of bus services with crowding issues. The average waiting time for popular bus services was also shortened by three to eight minutes. These are some of the ways technology has contributed to Singapore's development journey. So despite the density, using smart information and big data analytics has allowed us to make things much more conducive for living.
Technology not only benefits the masses, but city planners as well. GEMMA, a newly developed Geospatial Information System (GIS) based system by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), A*STAR, and other development agencies allows planners across different agencies to come together to do land-use scenario studies and work on infrastructure staging plans, and also provides them with ready access to rich layers of map-based information and data-analytics. GEMMA has enabled land-use planning to be done much faster, and with deeper insights, improving the way new infrastructure and towns in Singapore are planned. Take it as a form of a dry-run rehearsal to have a better idea of what this particular town or estate will look like once the buildings come up. So this is a way to visualise what the future would be, once the plan is executed.
These are some of the initiatives that we are working on in Singapore, but we hope to continue to develop our technological capabilities and innovative urban solutions, so that we can continue to improve and transform our city.
Beyond capacity building
Although Singapore has come far in our urbanisation journey, there are many challenges that we face, and we are continuously learning and trying to find new solutions for ourselves. Although every country and every city has its own circumstances and face challenges of different scale and different nature, we hope that this forum will enable lively discussions, where we can all hear from each other's experiences.
On that note, I would like to thank Temasek Foundation International for providing grants to create platforms to bring people and resources together, and the partnership from Singapore Cooperation Enterprise to implement some 20 urban-related capacity building programmes, including a forum like this. Let me encourage all of you here to make use of this platform to share ideas and experiences, and adapt solutions for possible implementation back at home. There is no one size fits all approach, not everything that works here will work where you are, but I think it is where you understand how we implement some of these things that you can adapt, cherry pick, improve upon it, and use it back home. So all of us can continue to improve and create a better living environment for our people.
Let me now wish all of you a very fruitful discussion and a good forum, networking, and learning. Thank you.
Source: Ministry of National Development, Singapore