Archive for the 'urbanscape and environment' Category

Who wants to be a hawker?


Earlier this year, the future of hawker centres was in the news. The chief concern was the sustainability of the institution (if one can call it that), but much of the discussion centred around how to keep food cheap. A side issue was the declining quality, for which a ‘Hawker Academy’ idea was floated. It struck me even then that insufficient attention was being paid to a much more fundamental question: where are hawkers going to come from in the years ahead? All the talk about pricing and training will be meaningless if not enough people want to be hawkers. Continue reading ‘Who wants to be a hawker?’

Time we had real public housing

At last, we have a party that is urging a true public housing scheme for Singapore. It has long been an embarrassment that we do not have real public housing here.

The policy paper put out recently by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) (link) is a bold move in this direction. Leading economist Yeoh Lam Keong called it an “excellent” paper on Tuesday, 6 November, when he was giving a talk — more about this later.

Readers may wonder about my opening paragraph. What do I mean when I say we do not have real public housing in Singapore? Doesn’t the fact that some 85 percent of Singaporeans live in Housing and Development Board flats point to its enormous success? Continue reading ‘Time we had real public housing’

Change we must, by William Lim

Change We Must

William S.W. Lim
12 September 2012


This lecture will be in two parts. The first part will highlight four critical issues why Singapore has to change. The second part will focus on the complex challenges ahead.

Part 1

1.0 Four critical issues

There are four critical issues that Singapore must contend with and are the reasons that it must change. They are:

1.1  Interdependent global conditions today.
1.2  Progress of Singapore not enough.
1.3  Myths and realities of Singapore.
1.4  The misunderstood nature of creativity. Continue reading ‘Change we must, by William Lim’

Middling going on to transport hell

Our mainstream media has a habit of trumpeting country or city rankings that show Singapore in good light. It’s part of their mission to publicise the supreme achievements of the People’s Action Party government.

This ranking below would not make the cut:

Continue reading ‘Middling going on to transport hell’

Haircuts, hotels and photo clubs

You reporters are missing the point — was what I felt on seeing that the chief angle of both stories in the Straits Times was how difficult it can be for teachers to maintain discipline in schools if parents did not cooperate. Yes, that’s a valid news angle, but surely the most striking thing about the story was that of a mother who takes her son to a hair salon for $60 styling jobs.

What kind of values does that instill in children? Continue reading ‘Haircuts, hotels and photo clubs’

On Supertrees, neo-colonialism and globalisation

Guest essay by Joanne Leow

Supertrees, green spaces and urban development: strange yet compelling connections between the impending demolition of Bukit Brown and the public relations blitz accompanying the opening of the new Gardens by the Bay, with their $1 billion Supertrees and cooled conservatories. One space has been made significant by a spontaneous, communal outpouring, newly cognizant of both its historical and environmental specificity – the other has been planned by the government, designed by a British firm and built by (exploited) foreign labour on land that has been reclaimed from the sea. Continue reading ‘On Supertrees, neo-colonialism and globalisation’

Public trashport

A typical day, with me straphanging in a bus, about one quarter the way in. We pull up at a bus stop, a few people get off and a few people board. The last group to come up the front steps consist of a mother, laden with shopping, and two sons, aged around 12 and 8. The bus driver tells her in mainland-accented Chinese that they shouldn’t board because the two boys each have an ice-cream cone in hand.

The mother starts to make a scene. “They are only children, you cannot be so strict with children,” she says, “and anyway I am in a hurry.”

She adds that they need to get home and can’t afford to wait for the next bus. Continue reading ‘Public trashport’

Danger zone: home, part 2

A point made by Carl Siciliano, Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center which helps homeless LGBT youth, may be counter-intuitive, but still true: The home can be a dangerous place for some young people, especially if they are gay, lesbian or transgender.

Tiffany Cocco’s story illustrates this well.

“I wasn’t dealt the best cards in life,” she says with a bucketful of euphemism. “My parents were drug addicts, so I was put in foster care at age four.”

Her mother managed to regain custody, but then died two years later of Aids. Both her fathers too died soon after, and she ended up living with her grandfather. Continue reading ‘Danger zone: home, part 2’

Priorities, priorities

Sometimes, on an ordinary day, minding one’s own business, we cannot help but notice things that make us think beyond our private thoughts and about the wider world. And so it was one evening last month when I visited my father in hospital. I found him bored out of his wits.

“Why don’t you at least turn on the telly?” I asked.

“There’s nothing there.”

I wasn’t going to believe him so easily. So I fiddled with the remote to surf the channels. There were our handful of free-to-air channels (in other words, nothing worth watching), and another 6 or 7 cable channels. With the exception of the Cartoon Network, all the cable channels were Arabic. Three of them are imaged on this page – channels 15, 18 and 14. There were news, drama and even Arabic cartoons. Continue reading ‘Priorities, priorities’

Transport landscape reflects Singapore’s income gap and rightwing ideology

Why are the rates charged by Singapore’s Electronic Road Pricing scheme (ERP) so low? Why aren’t they three or four times higher? This was the intriguing question posed (but not fully answered) by Christopher Tan, the Straits Times’ motoring correspondent in his op-ed 30 April 2012 (Time to rethink COE system?).

Continue reading ‘Transport landscape reflects Singapore’s income gap and rightwing ideology’