Make Singapore more liveable, not just secure

Singaporeans appreciate the extensive commitment and involvement by the Government, various social communities and the people at large in making our nation safer and more prepared for any terror event ("'Attacks' test coordination of security agencies"; yesterday, and "S'pore stages its biggest anti-terror exercise"; Tuesday).

Security is important. But we should also do more to make our city-state more liveable, and more interesting and "romantic" to live in.

Very crowded cities such as New York, London, Tokyo, Shanghai and Singapore find it difficult to get on a list of the top 10 most liveable cities, despite their excellent infrastructure, and education and job opportunities.

In the latest list compiled by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), seven of the top 10 most liveable cities are in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The other three are in Europe - Vienna, Helsinki and Hamburg.

Many big Asian cities are very modern nowadays, with newly built skyscrapers and very good facilities. But in terms of liveability, none of them has impressed the EIU judges.

Some of us may not agree with the EIU's criteria of liveability, but as a city-state, improving our liveability is an important issue in our urban planning and nation building.

For decades, we have been putting great emphasis on functionality, cleanliness and greenery.

We could set new standards and goals, such as making our city-state more "romantic". We could look for ideas in cities such as Paris, Venice, Prague, Amsterdam, Florence, Buenos Aires, Kyoto or Istanbul.

Equally important, we, as a people, should also reflect on whether we are living our lives a bit too seriously.

Are we too concerned with minor issues at the expense of bigger ones? We need to reprioritise our goals and purposes sometimes.

A whole-of-government approach is needed in this respect, just like we do in tackling the security issue.

Albert Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'Make Singapore more liveable, not just secure'. Print Edition | Subscribe