Coping with Resource Challenges
The Improbable Resilience of Singapore
Responding to the overshoot and collapse, Singapore’s leaders crafted solutions -- including a tax that some academics miss -- that overcame these challenges and produced a successful and sustainable development trajectory. This 2012 article is from the Solutions Journal, September.
by John Richardson & Elizabeth OngWhen Singapore gained independence in August of 1965, the challenges it faced were unanticipated, multifaceted, immediately threatening, and without precedent. How Singaporeans coped with these sudden challenges -- resiliently and effectively -- provides a model for other cities and countries coping with the depletion of natural resources and degrading of environmental integrity. Disciplined land-use planning, practical policies that look after citizen well-being, and flexible economic approaches are some of the political responses that helped Singapore emerge, over 50 years, as one of last century’s great development stories.
A review of the policies and programs that shaped Singapore’s post-independence point to the value of avoiding strict ideology when managing resource challenges.
A few key indicators from Singapore’s successful development, postindependence, present lessons in light of overshoot and collapse: economic growth averaging 8.5 percent for more than 30 years; clean water and sanitary facilities available to all; 2009 infant mortality rate of 2.3, one of the lowest in the world; life expectancy for males and females over 80 years; virtually no homelessness; at the top of international rankings for livability and freedom from corruption (though much lower on indices of democratic governance).
Later, public transport and creating physically appealing public spaces (“Clean and Green Singapore”) were added to the list.
Further, this Asian city achieved its goals while keeping costs down; in 2001 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries expended more than 13 percent of GDP on welfare, while Singapore expended less than 1 percent.
To read more
JJS: The academics so enamored with Singapore (and for good reason) were still so American that they could not see their subject clearly -- they missed the land.
A big reason that the city prospers (it’s prosperous cities that can afford the programs the authors admire -- as do we) is because Singapore taxes its land, and not at a low rate. Paying this overhead periodically, landowners forgo speculation and use land efficiently, and do not comprise a force against reform but a large middle class for reform. Another overlooked fact is that Singapore succeeds so well that it can and does pay its citizens a dividend.
But Americans, growing up in a culture that worships land speculation, can not even see any policy or custom that runs counter to the speculator’s creed, even well-meaning Americans can't. But we at this site are changing all that -- with your help.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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