Urban sustainability congress discusses Singapore's next 25 years

Among the topics are the economy, society and transport of Singapore, 25 years from now.
Among the topics are the economy, society and transport of Singapore, 25 years from now.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Singapore's challenges in the next 25 years are the focus of a six-part study by the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities, ranging over topics from the economy and transport system to sustainability and the role of technology in everday life.

"It's not 'futurology', but critical thinking on long-term developments," said Ambassador-at-Large Chan Heng Chee, who revealed details on Friday at the closing session of the two-day Urban Sustainability R&D Congress.

Ambassador Chan is chairman of the Centre, which is part of the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

The six studies began at the end of last year. Among the topics are the economy, society and transport of Singapore, 25 years from now. They will also look at sustainability, living with technology and future "urban typologies" - types of buildings and spaces.

Questions to be tackled include what the drivers of economic growth will be, what social divisions might arise, how the needs of different generations will change the nature of public spaces, and how information technology and robotics might affect how Singaporeans live, learn and work.

"We hope the studies will contribute to policy-making and improve the lives of our citizens," said Ambassador Chan.

The other keynote speaker, Professor Greg Clark from Britain's Future of Cities Foresight Project, also suggested five possible aspects of Singapore's future as city.

These include dealing with "externalities of success" such as overcrowding and inequality, building the "creative economy" and deciding how to increase population density.

Another possibility is developing civic leadership and business leadership, as seen in other cities, which could complement the Government's role.

Finally, there is the question of what role Singapore will play in Asia's urbanisation, and who its rivals, customer and partners will be as other Asian cities rise.

The closing plenary came at the end of a day of focused breakout sessions, dealing with topics such as underground spaces, urban food production, and using technology to help elderly Singaporeans age in place. The Congress is held every two years, with this year's event organised by the Ministry of National Development with 13 other government agencies, including - for the first time - the Ministry of Health.