As they say, all good things must come to an end. And so, we have now come to the conclusion of two days of very fruitful and insightful discussions.
I would like to put on record our thanks to various parties. First of all, to all of you � Mayors and city leaders for coming here and attending this Forum. Some of you have travelled long distances to come here � more than 20 hours! We really appreciate you for making the time to spend these few days in Suzhou, and to share your views and insights with all of us.
There were also some cities that took special care to prepare case studies to share with all of us. We would also like to thank all of you. I'm sure we can all benefit from more sharing. This is an open call to cities and Mayors who have lessons or something useful which you would like to share with other Mayors in future sessions, please let us know, because we can find ways and platforms for your lessons to be shared with others so that more people can benefit. I've certainly taken note of the suggestion from our friend from Muscat, to consider having Financing as one of the topics for future summits. Again, if you have any other ideas or suggestions on what we should discuss, please feel free to share with us.
I would also like to thank our moderator, Mr Nicholas You, who has helped to moderate the Forum. It's an unenviable task doing this across so many people in the room. I think he's done a wonderful job, so we should give him a round of applause to thank him.
And finally, I'm sure you will all join me in thanking the Mayor of Suzhou and his wonderful team in the excellent arrangements that they have made for us. They have worked very hard to put this event together, and we should also recognise the many volunteers they brought together to help coordinate the event, serving as guides, as your liaison officers, as your translators, as your ushers, and all the arrangements that they have made for us, not just for the Forum itself, but also for the site visits. So let's give a big round of applause to our host from Suzhou.
There are many insights and lessons that we have gleaned from two days of discussion. I don't think I want to summarise them here, but there were three things that stuck out for me.
First of all, it seemed like there were some policy tensions and trade-offs that we discussed. For example, there was a call for more planning � more long-term planning, more top-down planning, more organised planning. And yet, we all recognised that there was also a need for spontaneity, for things to develop organically, for things to develop from the ground-up. So this seems like a tension.
Secondly, there was a call for preserving for culture, heritage, and traditions, and yet, there was also a need to be forward-looking, to be progressive, to perhaps discard tradition in order to create new things.
Thirdly, there was a need for growth to create jobs, to have a better living. But at the same time, we all recognise that the excesses of growth can impact on environment, environmental sustainability, and can lead to unaffordable housing, and issues of liveability.
I think there are indeed trade-offs to be managed. But in managing these trade-offs, I think we have also learnt over the course of these two days that sometimes, we need a paradigm change in dealing with these issues. For example, more planning may well give us the capacity to be more flexible. It may give us the preparedness to have more participatory and consultative processes. So, more planning need not hold back ground-up involvement. In fact, it can facilitate better ground-up involvement.
And likewise, a stronger sense of culture, a stronger sense of identity may in fact give us the confidence to venture forth, to try out new ideas. It may help create the social networks that Professor Marilyn Taylor talked about, that will allow us to venture into new areas in a more organic sort of way. And one illustration that I would give, is when you look at a jazz musician. A jazz musician who improvises, seems to be playing spontaneously � as though it all comes naturally. But we do not see the many years of very disciplined training that a jazz musician needs in order to play like that. So sometimes, more planning, more culture and more discipline can also provide for more spontaneity, greater ground-up and greater organic growth.
The other tension of growth and liveability again is a similar sort of paradigm, because excessive growth at all costs can be bad, but inclusive, sustainable and quality growth is good. And I'm sure we all need more of that in order to provide better living conditions for our people. In the end it is about a balance, and it reminds me of an old Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang. They are seemingly contradictory forces, Yin and Yang, that exist. But these seemingly opposing forces are in fact complementary, they are interdependent, they are interconnected, and you need both. Dr Liu Thai Ker perhaps put it in a more poetic way: We need the heart of a humanist, we need the mind of a scientist, we need the eye of an artist.
How do we combine all these elements together? There is no magic formula, and that is why we are all here. Because we are all learning and trying to find new ways to combine all these together. Clearly, it needs political leadership in order to forge a consensus. A consensus that will allow us to set long-term directions for our city, and at the same time, navigate through short-term challenges. And for those of us who are elected, short-term challenges include getting ourselves elected ever so often.
In Singapore, it's relatively easier in a sense that we are a city state. Singapore the city is also Singapore the state, so we do not have to deal with federal state issues or different levels of government. But I think in other places, different mechanisms have worked. For example, in our cooperation with China, it's bilateral cooperation at the government-to-government level, and that's why we are able to do what we have done in Suzhou and Tianjin. Because there is long-term direction, there is strong top-down high-level commitment, there is delegation of authority to the local level in order to make these things happen. But different cities have their own circumstances, and I'm sure you'll have to work out your own mechanisms to get that political consensus.
We also need innovation, something we have talked about extensively. The boldness to try new ideas, to experiment, to expand our frontier of possibilities, but most of all we need collaboration. Because as many of you said, we are all in this together. We cannot solve problems on our own, and there is much that we can benefit from sharing and learning from one another. Yesterday, I think some of our friends from the Philippines talked about a league of mayors within their own country that come together to support one another, and in many ways, we can extend that concept beyond the national concept to a concept across countries.
And that is what this Forum is about. It is about creating a network of Mayors, where we can exchange notes, learn from one another, and have fruitful conversations with each other. And so I would encourage all of us to continue this relationship. I'm sure beyond the formal Summit itself, at our breaks, at our bilateral meetings, we have all exchanged name cards, we have exchanged email addresses, and we can all continue to keep in touch, and maintain the conversation.
I would just close by highlighting that we will be meeting next year in Singapore. The World Cities Summit will be hosted from 8 to 12 July 2018, and we certainly look forward to seeing many of you, if not all of you, again in Singapore next year. And in the meantime, I would like to wish all of you every success in growing your cities and making them more liveable and sustainable.
And on that note, thank you very much, and look forward to seeing you soon.
Source: Ministry of National Development, Singapore