Point 1: Singapore’s a small place. At about 730 square kilometres, we are less than 2 per cent the size of Switzerland — but with about two-thirds of the population.
Point 2: This size and density are why the Party consistently stewards wisely what little land reserves we have.
“There is always a temptation to exhaust all our land and consume our fiscal reserves to make popular choices to meet the needs of today’s generation,” said Minister for National Development Desmond Lee at the St. Gallen Symposium’s Singapore Forum on Jan 13.
But, no, that instant gratification just isn’t what Party leaders of the past and present have done.
“Instead, they were disciplined and far-sighted to make the difficult trade-offs and long-term plans that have set our generation up for success,” added the Minister.
It’s not just about today
“They made those choices in the context of a Singapore that was just newly independent with few resources and a whole lot of problems,” continued Minister Lee about the long-term planning of PAP leaders.
That’s why Marina Bay is a thriving financial centre as well as an instant visual shorthand for Singapore on the international stage today.
“They started planning for Marina Bay as far back as the 1970s, shortly after independence,” said the Minister.
“Our city planners foresaw that our city centre would need to be expanded if Singapore was to succeed as a business and financial hub. It took more than 30 years of painstaking planning, investment, and preparation, before developments in Marina Bay started taking shape in the new millennium.”
And one key kicker:
“Some who envisioned Marina Bay knew that they might not see the fruits of their labour, but that did not affect their determination to keep improving Singapore,” explained Minister Lee.
Other Party leaders consistently express this attitude elsewhere: for building a Singapore brimming with opportunities and hope even if they are no longer around to see it.
And also for other parts of Singapore.
“Similar to how our pioneers planned for Marina Bay, we have started planning and preparing for the development of the Greater Southern Waterfront (GSW), amongst others, which we announced in 2013,” said Minister Lee.
“It will open up a large stretch of prime land along our southern coastline for future generations to live, work, dream and play.”
Part of the GSW includes a waterfront promenade connecting West Coast Park to Labrador Nature Reserve.
Look forward to the GSW finishing after the 2040s and take pictures of it with, well, smarterphones for the multi-metaverse or whatever else is in the future then. It’ll be a good legacy from today.
“We really make a deliberate effort to move, do land preparation, land reclamation — and a lot of work — to make that land available for generations that may not yet be here,” said the Minister.
“We are undertaking this now to create the space we know that our future generations will need.”
A spirit of stewardship
Land’s not just the only part of the reserves the PAP Government stewards. The money in the state reserves remains in good hands too.
“Another critical principle that our pioneers set out was the protection of the State’s reserves, which enabled us to build up a rainy-day fund,” said Minister Lee.
That fund came in exceedingly useful during the perfect storm of the pandemic and inflation.
“We tapped on these recently to fund five Budgets to tide us through the biggest crisis of our generation,” said the Minister.
“It is a principle that we must continue to uphold, especially as we head into a future fraught with challenges such as climate change and greater geopolitical uncertainty.”
He, after all, did explain in Parliament recently (Jan 10) why stewarding Singapore’s land and financial reserves prudently is important for our nation.
So, really, just a big no to raiding the reserves and using them for short-term populist gain.
“This spirit of stewardship is a defining feature of the social compact we inherited that is core to our Singapore identity,” explained Minister Lee to the St Gallen Symposium’s audiences.
“That this city and its resources are not for us to just use and consume in our generation, but that we have a duty to steward it wisely, grow it, for the next generation.”