One of the most recent and inspiring candidates to enter the top tier of world cities, Singapore is an island country located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. A city-state less than half the size of Greater London, Singapore has not been deterred by its geographical limitations, successfully attaining global services and manufacturing hub status since independence in 1965. The population of Singapore is 5.1 million with authorities adopting a population scenario of 6.5 million over the next 40-50 years to guide land-use and infrastructure planning.
Singapore plans to double the size of its business and financial district to allow it to compete with Hong Kong as Asia’s pre-eminent financial services location. The city-state provides a highly attractive business environment, founded on highly competitive investment incentives, a highly-skilled and cosmopolitan labour force, and a comfortable quality of living with low crime rates. It is also extremely well connected, facilitated by one of the best airports in the world, and occupies a strategic location in a high growth region. These attributes have helped to overcome resource deficiencies and ensure high quality human capital. Indeed, Singapore is aiming to become the ‘talent capital’ of the global economy based on a relaxed immigration policy, event-led marketing, and promotion of its overlooked cultural and entertainment qualities.
Singapore’s major challenge over the next two decades is to maintain its privileged role as gateway to Pacific Rim markets and remain highly competitive against rivals Hong Kong, Shanghai and Mumbai. To do this it needs to form stronger institutional connections with nearby regions which may come to function as a manufacturing hinterland in the way the Pearl River Delta does for Hong Kong.
Singapore Strategic Plan
Singapore’s Concept Plan 2011 is a significant document, updated every decade, which charts the land use and infrastructure blueprint of Singapore, and maps out its vision for the next 40 to 50 years. The Concept Plan, designed by the city-state’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, is not just a land use plan. Created in tandem with various government planning agencies, it is a strategic plan that takes into account demography, economic development and livability needs. It plans at the broad conceptual level and draws up strategies to ensure prudent land and infrastructure use. The engagement of multiple departments ensures that land-use and transport are well-integrated.
Subsequent to the Concept Plan, a rail master plan is then developed to serve Singapore’s long-term transport demand. The Concept Plan begins from a projection of a maximum 6.5 million population for the city-state over the next 30 years, up from 5 million today. This enables the city to plan for employment, housing and recreational needs. The strategy identified a dramatically aging society that requires town planning and infrastructure suitable to public transport dependent senior citizens.
Livable sustainability is a core ambition, based on green spaces for leisure and high efficiency construction principles. High density housing around transport nodes is being pursued, with over 10,000 units around rail stations already earmarked in 30 storey housing up to 2020. Design innovations for genuinely livable high-storey communities have been proactively sought as Singapore recognises its future role. Gardens by the Bay, is meanwhile to become the city’s new green lung, and a national park.
Land-use for economic purposes is the third critical motive. Singapore’s limited land resources are being productively planned to support a high-value economy. The North-South flow of rush hour traffic is to be stemmed by creating more industrial space in the Central and Western regions, and the creation of more jobs in residential areas in the North.
Existing population centres – such as Punggol, Sengkang, Yishun and Choa Chu Kang – are to be redeveloped and expanded to provide affordable and good quality housing, while in the longer term, new districts are to be created from scratch, such as in Tengah.
Core vision of Singapore
In 2008, Singapore set out a core vision for its future: Towards a thriving World-Class City in the Twenty-First Century.
A city that’s dynamic. A city that’s distinctive. A city that’s delightful.
(i) A Home of Choice By 2020 Singaporeans can look forward to more quality living environments, with a wide choice of housing locations and types. New towns like Punggol and Sengkang will be further developed to build up their critical mass, alongside supporting amenities. There will be new housing choices for those who want to live in familiar places like Bukit Merah, Bedok and Clementi. Kallang Riverside will be developed as a new mixed-use lifestyle precinct. In tandem with the growing population, the island-wide rail network will be expanded, with new rail lines such as Downtown Lines 2 and 3, the Thomson Line, Eastern Region Line, and the Tuas extension to the East-West Line.
(ii) A Magnet for Business By 2020 Singapore will be a distinctive global business hub, with a choice of attractive business locations, supported by amenities and infrastructure to meet the different needs of business.
(iii) An Exciting Playground Singapore promises more fun! There will be something for everyone with more recreational choices round the clock. Relax in new parks and move around from park to park with additional park connectors. For those who love the great outdoors, one can cycle or jog round the island in future. Check out new water activities in selected rivers and reservoirs. Or pump up the energy with new sporting facilities and arts and event spaces, closer to home.
(iv) A Place to Cherish We will continue to strike a fine balance between protecting our built heritage and meeting development needs in planning for Singapore. More plans will be made to retain and enhance designated activity nodes by recognising existing trades and activities, developing urban design guidelines, and improving their physical environment.
Sources  URA (2011), ‘Keynote address by Mr Mah Bow Tan, Minister for National Development at the URA Corporate Seminar on 14 April 2011, 2.00pm, Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel’, http://www.ura.gov.sg/pr/text/2011/pr11-42.html
Top image credit : Photobank gallery