Small island, but we can dream big

Jurong's remodelling plan, which the Prime Minister sketched at the National Day Rally, will raise greatly the capital value of the district's real estate over the next decade. If the terminus of the high-speed rail line to Kuala Lumpur is located there rather than in Tuas, touted as the early favourite, it will be boom time in commerce and domestic tourist flow when the relocated Science Centre is up and the twin Chinese and Japanese gardens are prettied up. Choice housing and lifestyle services will emerge to make the most of the scenic setting which includes the lake.

The wealth effect naturally is what developers and property investors think of when whole districts or enclaves are transformed. But by far the greater gain will be the boost to the quality of life that residents in these suburban areas enjoy.

Jurong is typical of the process. In the Singapore of old it was a frontier dormitory town - pioneer industries, blue collar workers, little commerce and recreation. It has long since been gentrified, and will grow into another desirable suburban address when the town planners are done with the sculpting of the Lakeside end of the district, where the conjoined gardens are. Thus do Singaporeans get to enjoy a rising quality of life, to go with raised property values. It is a virtuous circle of the state being rich enough to bring improvements to the living environment, limited only by the imagination. Singapore, for all its smallness, is by no means at the limits of its drive towards further upgrades to the liveability of the city.

In the Rally speech last year, PM Lee Hsien Loong presented a preview of conversions of prime land in Paya Lebar and Tanjong Pagar which had long been used for an airstrip and a container port. Massive development is in store. In the past decades, Bedok-Tampines, Pasir Ris, Marine Parade and Telok Blangah have bloomed, soon to be followed by waterside Punggol and Woodlands. Yishun-Sembawang, the sleepy hollow of the north, also fancies its prospects. The rule of thumb is that where new or inter-connected rail lines go, prosperity is likely to follow.

The next tempting location for planners would have to be the lush wilderness of Mandai. Its bucolic ambience beckons developers, but planners could well have to contend with the green lobby to have the expansive woodlands left undisturbed. Whatever the future of Mandai, the many other locations - think of Tuas, the Dempsey area, Tekong, Ubin, and other offshore islands - that offer scope for development should make clear that the memorable refrain from the Dick Lee tune "big island, bigger than it can be" is more than a throwaway ditty, but a vision of what remains possible even on our little island.