The Improbable Resilience of Singapore
|October 17, 2012||Posted by Progress Report under Environmental, News|
Overshoot and collapse are likely to first challenge cities. One city faced these challenges with success. How’d they do it?
by John Richardson & Elizabeth Ong
When 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.