Latest news

Posted on: 23 June, 2009 | No Comments | Tagged as:

The Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, which seeks to “recognise individuals and organisations that have made outstanding contributions to the creation of vibrant, liveable and sustainable urban communities around the world”, is a biennial award now open for nominations till 18 September 2009. Organised by Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority and Centre for Liveable Cities, the eventual winner will by picked by a panel of judges chaired by Chairman of Temasek Holdings, Mr S Dhanabalan and includes overseas urban planners such as Dr Pierre Laconte of the International Society of City & Regional Planners and Mr Achim Steiner of the United Nations Environment Programme.

Nominations will be judged on a criteria that includes good planning principles, resource-efficiency, environmentally friendliness, economic benefits and whether it helps builds a cohesive community. And as with all things Singapore, the prize stresses solutions that are “practical, cost-effective and easy to replicate” said Prof S. Jayakumar when he launched it yesterday.

Taking a closer look at the eligibility for nomination of the prize, one wonders if there is a public relations exercise element to the prize. In order to be nominated, it is explicitly stated that one has to be an elite in the field or deemed “fit” by the nominating committee itself — no criteria for what that entails.

Posted on: 21 May, 2009 | No Comments | Tagged as: ,

“A bonsai — if carefully cultivated — can be beautiful, hardy and long lasting. But it cannot reproduce on its own. And a whole bonsai garden needs the constant “micro-management” of the good gardener in cultivating each and every selected plant. In the rainforest, however, the whole is the greater than the sum of its parts; yet each part makes its own distinctive contribution to biodiversity and ecological sustainability.”

Kwok Kian-Woon in The bonsai and the rainforest: reflections on culture and cultural policy in Singapore (2004)

While Assoc Prof Kwok was referring to Singapore’s cultural policy when he wrote this, I find it an apt reference to examine two recent Straits Times articles that reflect the management of space in Singapore.

The head of the leading landscaper in Singapore was interviewed today in No gardeners in Garden City where he highlighted how our image as a Garden City would fail without government support because this is “a nation of armchair gardeners”. Indeed, the emphasis of our Garden City policy is to make Singapore a Garden City and not a Gardeners’ City, which brings us back to Assoc Prof Kwok’s description of Singapore as a “bonsai garden” — it cannot reproduce on its own.

On Monday, the current chairman of the Orchard Road Business Association was interviewed in Growing Orchard where she suggested that Singapore’s shopping street be cleared of beggars, flyer distributors and street buskers in order to make Orchard Road “A Great Street“. Such a move, I think, would sterilise the street and make it live up to its name of being a carefully cultivated orchard just for shopping.

But Orchard Road is after all a public space, so a suggestion that comes from an association which “promotes the welfare of businesses in Orchard Road” should be received with caution. The hope is that Orchard Road can be like Assoc Prof Kwok’s “rainforest”, a reflection of this city’s diversity and not just the space of the businesses.

/UPDATE/ The Straits Times published a letter I wrote with regards to Growing Orchard today. Read it here.

Posted on: 01 May, 2009 | No Comments | Tagged as:

Singapore climbed 26 in this year’s Quality of Living survey by management consultancy Mercer. This result was an improvement of six places from last year and also makes it the top city in Asia. In a separate survey for the best city infrastructure, it came out tops too.

According to Mercer, this survey is meant to be a guide for to help government and companies decide where to place employees on international assignments. It is based on 39 quality of life determinants grouped in the following categories:

  • Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement, etc)
  • Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services, etc)
  • Socio-cultural environment (censorship, limitations on personal freedom, etc)
  • Health and sanitation (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc)
  • Schools and education (standard and availability of international schools, etc)
  • Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transport, traffic congestion, etc)
  • Recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure, etc)
  • Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc)
  • Housing (housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services, etc)
  • Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters)

It’ll be interesting to see the specifics of how Singapore fared if we can get hold of the survey. The result is not a surprise, as Prof Ooi Giok Ling tells us Singapore is planned for business. And as further proof, not only has Singapore’s infrastructure come out tops, the World Bank ranks this city’s regulation over business as the best too.