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Relationship between economy and urban development in Singapore
(It’s still the economy, stupid! Critically discuss the extent that the economy still dominates thinking about urban development.)
Singapore is one of the leading countries in many aspects of economy, education, architecture, development and wealth. In this essay the argument will be about the advantages and disadvantages of the rapid economic growth. The effect and implementation of neoliberalist ideas and the healthy way of the government power. Try to give answer to the question, why we need free trades, what are the benefits from it, for the economy and for the urban development? In the other hand, why we have to give power to the government too and where is the balance between privatization and nationalization?
In general neoliberalism approach in economy, is promote the privatization deregulation and one of the most important is the free trade. (Hackworth, 2017). In case of Singapore, neoliberalism ideology is partly arrived right after they became independent country and its journey, to the top of the world countries, started. The only difference is, the government party has the only power in the country and decide what can be privatized and what not. Nowadays, even though they hold the full power in decisions, they saw the opportunities and advantages of foreigner investors and the help what they can provide for the country.
In this essay, the advantages for economy and development will be showed and analysed in separate paragraphs as the disadvantages of these two areas.
Opportunities and advantages in Singapore
For the Economy
Right after the country became independent in 1965, enormous part of the population lived in poverty and been uneducated. But the development in the country GDP was extremely rapid. (Menon 2007, p. 1). The People’s Action Party (PAP) take encouragement to develop the national economy and build up a strong nation after the independence, even though the party started to be formed before independence. Between 1959 and the early 1970s they built a single-party dominate state, so its means that, they do not have to face any opposition in the Parliament what can affect their operation. (Chua 2007) Even though, they have the power till nowadays, they never used it above economy, and never take everything under control of the government. They tried to balance between privatisation and governmental power. They saw the opportunities and huge advantages in the free trade market, and thanks for that, their economy started to grow faster than anyone expected.
After they lost the Malaysian market, at the very same time when they become independent from them, they were ready to open their market space for the whole world. (Beng, 2011) In the glory of a huge new market and a lot of fresh investors, Singapore became one of the most successful country in the world in such a short amount of time. Also, because they became a charming place for investors and huge companies with their new open-minded market they get a huge amount of money which flows into the countries money veins and give a boost for the economy. Which gave a reliable and safe ground for developments, planning, and encouraging the government in many ways to develop not just the city but the country too. Even though biggest part of the population lived in the city of Singapore. Parallel with the fast economic development the lifestyle of the population changed rapidly too, and homelessness and poverty nearly disappeared in the whole country. Which means that thanks for the economy, planning and urbanization, was successful and the wealth could begin to grow.
For the Development
A sustainable city is, where every individual in the city can meet their own needs, and to reach their well-being without making any damage in the surrounding nature and or other people. (Girardet 2001)
For every city in the world sustainability is an important factor in this rapidly changing world. As fast is the growth in a city as fast has to adapt the changes and become more and more sustainable as it possible. In case of Singapore, there is no question that they have to face with this challenge everyday and find the best solution in the shortest time.
In case of Singapore, 70% of the land owned by the government, (Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1995, p. 5) Which means it is make much more easier to the government to take action in developing lands. They are able to make sure, as a government, that in most of the cases, foreigner investors plane is suitable and acceptable for the city and for the area and also provide a sustainability. As in general the target of the government of Singapore, is develop the city into an excellent tropical city which is favours international investors. (Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1991, p. 11). They provide this with, the improvement in the living and working conditions which also means the rise in the quality of life. Also, the government try to provide enough land for development, to keep up the economic growth and other infrastructural developments. Because if there are investors whose brings money into the country, its means with that they provide the economy to go on and grow.
Plans in Singapore are based and regulated by two huge instruments. One is the statutory Master plan and the other one is long-range Concept Plan. (Foo, 1992) While the first one is controls and rules the private sectors development the second one is regulating the development made by public sector.
Since the Master Plan was formed, they updated it several times and the last version was proposed in 1990. (Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1993) Because of the fast urbanization and the rapid development of the city, the plan couldn’t keep up, it has been forced to adapt a new planning system. In this new system, the Concept Plan has a huge role and more control over the ideas. It is proposing and views a long-term use of a land and try to find a strategy development idea. It is including the ideas of improvement in quality of environment and life, also, trying to keep up and be competitive in economic growth. Support development in the economy and provide mobility for goods and people. (Koon, 1995) In the latest Urban Redevelopment Authority (2001) the plan was focused on the city centre and a development of a new financial district in the hope that it will get the “Global city” status for Singapore and be a global financial hub. (Urban Redevelopment Authority, 2001) In the long term the reviewed plan is supporting the dynamic ideas which are also easily liveable during the night time in the city. They also wanted to form a city as a satisfying city for art lovers. The biggest development and investment for it, was the reopening of the National Museum of Singapore in 2006.
Disadvantages for Singapore’s Economy
Based on the precious figures about Singapore, the huge amount of constant growth in its GDP, we would say that nothing could be bad in that economy and in that’s system, but like every other good and precious thing, this one also has its own drawbacks.
First of all, like it was said before, their economy highly based on foreigners’ investments and their willing to come to Singapore and invest their money in that city. What is a danger for Singapore is, if another new market place appears and take away the investment s form them.
We could say, if the Singaporean government make wrong decision about any changes in economic proposals or regulations, it could mean that the whole economy and their market with income of money would collapse. Which could be a disaster. (Beng, 2011) Even if they are making changes in policies and regulations, they have to take careful action and have to analyse the scenarios in a wide range.
Although, we would think there were no bumps in the history of the economy, we have to be proved wrong. Singapore faced some crisis not just in economy but also in political life too. But, all in these cases the government was engaged to find the right solution before it is become way bigger problem what clout cause a massive damage to the country and its economy (Dale, 2008).
The biggest advantage for Singapore is the globalization of manufacturing. In the beginning of t its economic growth Singapore was one of the first target for companies whose production plan includes low-cost manufacturing. But after a decade it’s started to change and instead of low cost manufacturing the main character of Singapore swapped to a centre of high-technology society. (Dale, 2008) Which means, they had to face the problem of the huge investment loss of labour manufacturing. Therefore, Singapore was forced to find a solution in collaboration with the surrounding countries, like Indonesia and Malaysia. (Dale, 2008).
The end result of this agreement is, Singapore became the business centre of the region and on small Indonesian and Malaysian islands took over the labour-based manufactures. So while the other countries doing the cheap work, Singapore managed to keep its head above the water and keep its position as a financial centre.
Disadvantage for development in Singapore
To summarise the fast economy growth is not really have a bad effect on the urban planning and development side of the country, in case of Singapore. This is possible because the government makes the right decisions and provide enough sources for developers.
In the very beginning of the independency, Singapore was facing serious housing problem, but as the PAP recognised the seriousness of the issue , they focused on to find a fast and efficient solution for it. And after a couple of years, the problem been solved and since then they haven’t faced any serious issues in this sector. (Dale, 2008)
To sum up, the relationship between economy and urban planning, in Singapore’s case is really simple. Because the economy is perfectly running, it can provide a safe financial base for urban planning and different types of developments. But it is not mean that everything in a safe hand. I would say that, because the government has a lot of power in its hand and it could be dangerous, although it’s look like they find the perfect balance between power and foreigner sources. Also, in the other hand, because Singapore’s wealth and economy growth mostly based on international trades, and investors, if this will end or reduced in a significant amount the country could end up in serious troubles, if they cannot find a fast and efficient solution.
So right now, life is blooming in Singapore and become one of the biggest leather cities in the world, but the question still remain, what if there will be a significant change in the economy and lost their resource power ?
- Hackworth, J (2007) The Neoliberal City. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Chapter 1
- Menon, Sudha V. (2007): Governance, leadership and economic growth in Singapore, MPRA Paper, No. 4741
- Chua Beng Huat (2007) Political culturalism: representation and the People’s Action Party of Singapore. Democratization 14(5), 911–27.
- Beng Huat, Chua. (2011). Singapore as Model: Planning Innovations, Knowledge Experts. Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of being Global. 27-54.
- Girardet Herbert (2001) Creating sustainable cities: the green books for the Schumacher Society, Devon
- Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1995, Urban Redevelopment Authority (1995) Changing the Face of Singapore through the URA Sale of Sites. Urban Redevelopment Authority, Singapore
- Urban Redevelopment Authority (1993) Master Plan Written Statement 1993, The Planning Act (Cap 232, Revised Ed. 1990). Urban Redevelopment Authority, Singapore
- Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) (2001) Concept Plan 2001. Singapore
- Foo, A. F. (1992) Planning process: implementation, coordination and control in the city-state of Singapore. School of Architecture Journal, National University of Singapore, Singapore, pp. 103–118
- Koon, H.C. (1995) Urban land use planning in Singapore: towards a tropical city of excellence. In Environment and the City, ed. Ooi, G. L. The Institute of Policy Studies, Times Academic Press, pp. 109–128
- Dale, O.J.J., 2008. Sustainable city centre development: The Singapore city centre in the context of sustainable development. In Spatial Planning for a Sustainable Singapore. Springer Netherlands, pp. 31–57.
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