Singapore praised in UN Habitat report

Singapore is praised in the UN Habitat’s State of the World’s Cities 2012-13 report for its quality of life, greenery, transport system, commitment to education and training, focus on environmental sustainability and urban planning. Here are some of the observations it makes on Singapore:

Quality of life is rapidly emerging as a major asset in any efforts to attract and retain creative minds and businesses. It comes as no surprise that Toronto, San Francisco or Stockholm should consistently rank among the top performing cities in the world, since they are found as performing particularly well in a wide range of both economic and quality of life indicators, crime, green areas, air quality and life satisfaction. Outside the more developed nations, Singapore, with a similar balance of quality of life attributes, also ranks among the top world cities and the highest among developing countries.

Singapore’s public transportation system is considered to be one of the most integrated and well-planned in the world.

In addition, adequate facilities are provided for pedestrians with a safe and comfortable walking environment that enhances quality of life.

Singapore considers quality of life as a key competitive advantage to attract skilled foreign labour and investment.

In 19 cities out of the 52 (in the developing world) surveyed by UN-Habitat, an overwhelming majority of experts (more than 80 per cent) rated security to work and live freely as a major contributor to prosperity. In cities like Praia, Cebu, Algiers, Chongqing, Singapore, La Paz and Amman, nearly all experts rated security as ‘contributing’ or ‘highly contributing’ to prosperity.

Many cities across the developing world, especially in Asia and the Arab States, are creating new parks in an effort to meet international standards for green area per capita (i.e., eight square metres per head). The state-city of Singapore is a leading example in the world,with greenery over 50 per cent of the surface area and over 450 public parks and gardens. The city is also preserving its rich biodiversity with four nature reserves which cover more than 3.000 ha, and are legally protected to safeguard key indigenous ecosystems. These initiatives contribute to a cleaner environment, shaping the country’s landscape and enhancing quality of life. Recently, greenery has been given even more emphasis, with a new plan for a “City-In-a-Garden”’.

Singapore offers a clear example of repeated commitment by the government to education and training for all in an environment that promotes productivity and social mobility. Singapore integrates equity in national development policies and urban planning. According to a local expert, ‘There is room for upward social mobility among the poor and lower-middle class people through adequate opportunities for all in education and the job market’.

Singapore is fully committed to environmental sustainability. This includes environmental awareness campaigns, with institutions and grassroots leaders collaborating on community outreach schemes, and various programmes involving the citizenry in the ‘sustainable’ agenda. The city-State’s ‘compact city initiative’ promotes density, facilitates mass transit and includes a ‘walkable’ campaign. Under Singapore’s waste management scheme, 58 per cent of solid wastes are recycled, another 40 per cent incinerated to produce energy, and the remaining two per cent goes to a purpose built off-shore sanitary landfill.

Urban planning has played a significant role in Singapore’s compact pattern and modern, convenient public transportation. Singapore is transit-oriented, with high-density residential and commercial developments integrated into transport nodes. This improves accessibility to public transport.

It may come as no surprise that in Asia, most local experts saw a strong link between research and development (R&D), on the one hand, and enhanced prosperity on the other, with public authorities and other stakeholders playing significant roles in the areas of business, industry and technology.This was the case in Singapore, Hyderabad and Bangalore (India), Shenzhen and Chongqing (China), Gaziantep (Turkey) and Cebu (the Philippines). In Singapore, gross expenditure on R&D increased from 1.9 per cent in 1990 to 2.8 per cent 2008 and three per cent in 2010, with the focus on applied research, technology, sustainable urban living and ‘clean’ energy.