Committee on the Future Economy report: Strategy 5: Develop a vibrant and connected city of opportunity

Creating a well connected Singapore physically and digitally

People walking in front of shops along Orchard Road.
People walking in front of shops along Orchard Road. PHOTO: ST FILE

Strategy 5: Develop a vibrant and connected city of opportunity

The Orchard Road shopping belt could be transformed into a place with more cultural performances and regular programmes, wider walkways and more sheltered paths, if a recommendation by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) becomes reality.

This is part of a broad strategy to create a vibrant city that is full of opportunities and is well connected to the rest of the world.

This is "connected", both in the catchphrase digital sense of the word, and physically - for example, the CFE said one way of being well connected globally is by improving Singapore's air, land, sea and digital links with other countries.

All this is to help grow Singapore's economy in the long term. The committee said in its report released yesterday: "Cities are the economic drivers of the future.

"Singapore's capacity to flourish in the future global economy is tied to the city state's ability to attract and create opportunities."

The report set out four main ways to make Singapore a vibrant city.

First, improve connectivity.

 

This involves building new airport and port infrastructure to strengthen Singapore's position as a global air and sea hub.

The CFE encouraged the development of Changi Airport's new mega passenger terminal, Terminal 5, and its addition of a third runway, and suggested the progressive upgrading of the other two terminals.

The upcoming port in Tuas and the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail will also better link Singapore with other countries.

Singapore should also invest in digital communications infrastructure to improve its digital connectivity, both within the country and with the rest of the world.

 

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing, who co-chaired the sub-committee on connectivity, said Singapore can overcome its limited resources and geographical location if it uses data well. For example, companies in the digital sectors can expand overseas.

Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran, the CFE's co-chair, said: "The smallest enterprise can reach the furthest markets through the digital economy."

Second, being bold in urban planning and land use can help Singapore overcome its small size.

The committee urged the Government to be creative in the use of space, including locating bus interchanges and electrical substations underground and building multi-purpose floating platforms.

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the sub-group on city planning, said there will be more detailed planning of the underground. But he added: "We are not building another underground Singapore, so we have to be selective and focus on areas that make sense, like utilities."

The CFE also suggested more multi-level, specialised places with shared facilities, like the JTC Chemicals Hub, where chemical companies carry out manufacturing and distribution all in one place.

Another idea is to create an urban logistics system, including the roll-out of a nationwide locker system and logistics networks in new industrial estates.

Third, improve the lifestyle destinations and arts and culture scene .

For instance, Orchard Road could be spruced up amid competition from suburban malls and online shops to offer "a signature street experience in a city garden". The CFE suggested the private sector work with the Government to upgrade the shopping belt in an intensive street transformation programme.

Jurong Lake District could also be developed into a "livelier second Central Business District".

The committee also recommended locating related economic activities close to one another. For example, Punggol, where the Singapore Institute of Technology is located, could become the place for businesses in the digital, infocomm technology and cyber security fields.

More workspaces for start-ups should also be created, and industrial spaces should be used for a greater range of purposes.

Fourth, Singapore can be a "living lab" for urban solutions that can be exported to the rest of the world.

The Government could help more Singapore-based firms in this area by setting aside zones where they can test and refine their products.

The committee suggested that Singapore experiment with new forms of transport such as electrical, hydrogen and self-driving vehicles, and embrace them if they become technically and commercially viable.

Singapore should also ramp up its use of solar energy and invest more in research and development of energy storage, as well as use energy more efficiently.

The report said: "We should be bold enough to do things differently from other cities."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2017, with the headline 'Creating a well connected S'pore physically and digitally'. Print Edition | Subscribe