Making the little red dot model work for giants

The choice of Singapore to help design and develop the new capital of Andhra Pradesh state is an Indian vote of confidence in Singapore's urbanisation model. The masterplan will be for the development of the state capital region, 10 times Singapore's size. The size of the project's core and a development zone are modest by comparison, but they will influence the economic contours of the entire region. As the single largest infrastructure project attempted by tiny Singapore in the subcontinent-sized country, the breakthrough gives a fillip to International Enterprise Singapore's efforts to nurture globally competitive companies. The confidence to transplant a city state's planning experience to other countries, undeterred by giant challenges of scale, ought to inspire more Singaporeans. Small and medium- sized enterprise (SME) bosses and professionals, too, should venture more ambitiously into India, where the next leg of the Asian growth race will be run.

The Andhra Pradesh project is no less than a national branding exercise. At stake will be Singapore's reputation for quality and efficiency, built up patiently over time. Singapore has earned an international premium by exporting its expertise, notably to China where the Suzhou Industrial Park and the Sino- Singapore Tianjin Eco-city have sought to replicate aspects of its experience of sustainable development. That development is primarily economic, but it extends to creating an ecosystem in which high-quality city living produces new social and economic relationships, as well as mindsets that are handed down from one generation to the next.

Sustainability thus is key to the social and ecological making of new cities. As in China, so in India: Much will depend on the ability and willingness of the local culture to absorb and retain the best practices associated with Singapore's development DNA.

This should not pose major problems in Andhra Pradesh, where the foresight and dynamism of Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu have placed the state among a handful of states at the vanguard of India's transformation into a global economic player.

Nevertheless, Singapore planners must display cultural sensitivity and come across as partners, not teachers. Training Indian government officials in urban development and governance will play a key role in the process. Here, personal friendships and professional networks would help to cement bilateral cooperation.

Ultimately, the objective is to leave a lasting imprint on southern India's urban landscape, much as French architect Le Corbusier has done with Chandigarh in North India. Andhra Pradesh could do much to expand Singapore's global footprint.