Strong planning culture needed post-SG50

Tourists at the waterfront promenade along Marina Bay Sands.
Tourists at the waterfront promenade along Marina Bay Sands. PHOTO: ST FILE

The post-SG50 era will be more challenging in all aspects - economic, social and political.

Rigorous forward planning is crucial for surviving the next 50 years.

In the early years of our nationhood, great efforts were made by the Government in planning for decades ahead - in areas such as urban redevelopment, industrialisation, education, housing, defence, water resources and public transport.

This planning laid the foundation and framework that enabled us to transform Singapore into a First World city-state.

However, our planning culture seems to have lost steam in the past three decades.

People with a strong planning culture constantly review and challenge existing concepts, assumptions and policies, and are open to new ideas while also having the courage to change or try something new.

Equally important, these people look far beyond the horizon to spot any dangers or risks decades ahead.

Some of the issues we encounter today could be partly attributed to the fading of our planning efforts in the past 30 years.

For example, for decades, we did not have any official projection of our demographic trends.

Only recently have we started to understand the severe implications of our declining fertility rate and greying population.

Some of our public transport woes, high cost of living, insufficient retirement funds for certain segments of the people and low productivity growth could also be partly attributed to poor long-term planning.

So far, we have done very well in the planning of water resources, air and sea transport, communications and digital infrastructure.

Now we are stepping up environmental planning to achieve sustainability in the long term. Clean energy could be the next subject.

We are also planning to teach creativity and innovation at schools to prepare our young for new challenges in the future.

These are positive indications showing that we are catching up.

But a lot more still needs to be done, especially in the social, political and geopolitical arenas.

We have to build a strong planning culture, be more circumspect and plan ahead at the national, business and personal levels.

Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2016, with the headline 'Strong planning culture needed post-SG50'. Print Edition | Subscribe