Will Singapore be a bird of paradise or turkey?

Mr Liu and Mr Pillay will shed more light on how they helped set up Singapore's physical and economic infrastructure after Independence.
(Above) Mr Liu and Mr Pillay will shed more light on how they helped set up Singapore's physical and economic infrastructure after Independence.
Mr Liu and Mr Pillay will shed more light on how they helped set up Singapore's physical and economic infrastructure after Independence.
Mr Liu and Mr Pillay (above) will shed more light on how they helped set up Singapore's physical and economic infrastructure after Independence.

Architect and former chief planner Liu Thai Ker will give his thoughts at a Jan 15 dialogue with SIA founding chairman J. Y. Pillay

As Singapore's chief planner in 1991, architect Liu Thai Ker drew up a concept plan for the Republic that would see it grow into, as he puts it, "a bird of paradise" over 100 years.

Today, the 77-year-old rues, Singapore's urban planners are designing the city-state for only the next 15, not 100, years.

He says that a shorter-term approach to the future is akin to growing a "turkey".

"A hundred turkeys collectively will never become a bird of paradise," he adds.

Mr Liu, who used to head the Housing Board and now chairs the government's urbanisation think-tank the Centre for Liveable Cities, will share this and other contentious views at a forum on Jan 15.

It will be the second in a six-part series of dialogues with Singaporean pioneers, hosted by The EDB Society and The Straits Times.

The latter's editor-at-large, Mr Han Fook Kwang, will moderate the forum at The Arts House, as he did at the first dialogue with Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong last Nov 26.

Mr Liu will be speaking alongside Singapore Airlines founding chairman J. Y. Pillay.

They will shed more light on how they helped set up Singapore's physical and economic infrastructure after Independence.

In his 34 years in government service, Mr Pillay, 81, was among the few top civil servants called on to wear two hats.

Among others, he was the managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, chairman of Temasek Holdings and the Development Bank of Singapore, and also the founding chairman of Singapore Exchange.

He now chairs the Council of Presidential Advisers.

An Economic Development Board pioneer, Mr Pillay had anchored the series' inaugural dialogue in March 2008.

He fielded a total of 25 questions on such subjects as the qualities he lives by, the biggest decisions of his career and the secret of Singapore's success.

Quite a few Straits Times readers have already written in with their burning questions for Mr Liu and Mr Pillay. These include: "What city-shaping advice does Singapore have for China that China cannot think up itself?"; "How did your views differ from those of former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong?"; and "How should civil servants today approach the future?"

Readers have till Jan 8 to send in questions. E-mail stedbpioneers@ sph.com.sg.

Musing on how Singapore has blossomed in 50 years, Mr Liu recalls that, while at university in Australia in the late 1950s, he attended a Sydney Symphony Orchestra concert and wondered: "Would I ever see such a thing in Singapore in my lifetime?"

"So," he adds, "the opening of Esplanade - Theatres on yhe Bay in 2002 was an emotional experience for me."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2016, with the headline 'Will S'pore be a bird of paradise or turkey?'. Print Edition | Subscribe