WhyItMatters

Jurong Lake District: Test bed for a future Singapore

The new draft masterplan for Jurong Lake District showcases ambitious proposals with possible knock-on effects on the rest of Singapore.

Last week, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong revealed the Government's high hopes for it: Jurong would be the "catalyst for Singapore's next phase of economic transformation". It can "become a hub for our future economy".

For starters, it will be the country's second Central Business District (CBD), serving sectors such as maritime services, energy and technology. Some 100,000 new jobs would be created. There are also plans for 20,000 new homes, as well as more parks and water channels to give the town a makeover.

The planners also announced new ways to live, work and play, making Jurong a policy test bed of sorts. One goal is to nudge commuters into using public transport for eight in 10 trips within the district. The current percentage is just 66 per cent. There would be buses-only roads, as well as a strict cap on the number of carparks.

Experts said these are among the more aggressive moves to discourage the use of cars. If successful, they could be replicated in the rest of the country.

In the same vein, any negative outcomes in Jurong will reverberate islandwide.

Analysts have warned of the possibility of a glut in office space. With an estimated nine million sq ft of office space - more than five times the current amount in Jurong - it will be a balancing act to ensure there will not be an oversupply, not just in Jurong but in the current CBD and other regional centres like Woodlands and Tampines.

Another question mark is over whether Singapore can afford to wait for Jurong to spark its next phase of economic transformation, as Mr Wong said. After all, the district will be realised only from 2040 onwards.

In the coming two decades, the world will no doubt be hit by other technological disruptions and economic shake-ups. The challenge for the authorities is to anticipate as much of these changes as possible, and ensure the district is still relevant by the time the plans materialise.

Rachel Au-Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2017, with the headline 'Test bed for a future S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe