Thursday, 17 November 2011

Long-term planning – I thought we always had it in Singapore!



Singapore is a planned country - from the day of our independence or even longer than that from the day Sir Raffles Stamford found it.  Sir Raffles wanted to make Singapore a trading hub in the Far East and skilfully and strategically planned a successfully ‘take over’ of Singapore.
So, planning is not a strange word for Singapore.  In our early history, we built our economy based on suggestions and planning from United Nations (Dr. Albert Winsemius). In 1960, Dr Winsemius led the United Nations team to examine Singapore’s potential in industrialization. …... He presented a 10-year development plan to transform Singapore from an entrepot trade port into a centre of manufacturing and industrialization. (wikipedia).

And now, suddenly we hear that we need to have a long-term planning for flood control. Don’t we ever have one? We have long-term plan for water requirements even long before our independence (the water contracts with Malaysia) and now PUB is telling us there is no long-term plan for flood control. Have we already forgotten the story of once in 50 years – the force of nature?

Long-term plan and nature

<Dr Balakrishan noted that Singapore is at a point where it needs to develop a long-term plan for flood control infrastructure.

But even as he outlined plans to review and improve the flood control system, he was quick to set expectations right.

"Nature is a very, very powerful force ... there will inevitably be some episodes of flash flooding, despite all our best efforts ... what we will commit to, is making sure that everything we can do to prevent it, to mitigate it, and to keep you informed, we will do so."> (Today, 16 Nov 2011)


Since there is no long-term planning for flood control, it can also mean there is no long-term planning for migration, MRT/Bus, foreign workers, housing, hospitals, doctors, education, etc. What a surprise!

When everything moves smoothly, there is a planning and when things are not OK, it can be the force of nature or there is no planning.

Only short-term businessmen or speculators will not have long-term planning. Our GIC and Temasek Holdings, when they made losses, they will tell you they are looking at the long-term and not short term.
Is this a long-term planning?  People are told we may need 10, 20 years to recover the losses and this is planning!


Wait a minute we have to admit the force of nature too as suggested by Dr Balakrishan. Not only for flooding, but also for all other social and economic areas, natural force or market force is very powerful.  We did not expect the population to be increased by so much, so the trains, buses, housing, hospitals and many infrastructures are facing pressure to meet the demands.

We have economic forecast every year.  We even are happy if we can achieve 3-5% annual growth in the coming 10 years. So, there must be a planning, especially water is money and flooding is causing money.

Are all these problems caused by nature or lack of planning?  Or our economic development and planning is so successful in the past 50 years that we overshoot our target and land us in a situation of planned development higher than planned infrastructure.

So, don’t blame the nature? The nature will grow on its own speed and human beings have to adjust the change of nature. Perhaps, we have moved so fast that the nature is not able to cope with it.  This is especially true for Singapore.  Limited by land and nature resources, even with reclaimed land, there is a limit and constraint for Singapore to grow.     

Of course, if you look at the money, the GDP, the profit, you will consider less of your physical constraint and look more on how to maximise profit. 

This perhaps is the result of using GDP as a measure of happiness.  

Lee Yuan Tseh, the first Taiwanese Nobel Prize (chemistry, 1986) laureate, in a recent interview (see below) pointed out that blindly emphasizing the growth of GDP is not equal to happiness. In the process towards globalization, we need to look at the relationship between human beings and land.  Only considering this, then the growth will be a healthy one.     

Man and land, development and nature, will PUB consider more human touches and nature elements in their long-term plan for flood in Singapore?


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