“Creating a distinctive Singapore for the next 50 years is an endeavour that all of us need to be a part of,” said Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for National Development at the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum 2016, held at University Town on 11 August. During his two-hour long session, Mr Wong focussed on four areas that he believes are important in national development — building a distinctive global city; homes for Singaporeans; preserving greenery and biodiversity; and creating a distinctive culture and identity.
Mr Wong shared government plans to consolidate all ports in Tuas, thus freeing up significant prime waterfront land for commercial and residential uses. To be known as the Greater Southern Waterfront, the area is estimated to be three times the size of Marina Bay. The government is also planning a second Central Business District in the Jurong Lake District.
On housing, Mr Wong spoke on the extension of Punggol New Town. There will be a new creative cluster comprising Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and the Business Park, which will help facilitate exchanges between businesses and SIT students.
The conservation work in Pulau Ubin is an example of increased focus on preservation of biodiversity. Space has been set aside to ensure the safety of oriental small-clawed otters which are critically endangered animals. Said Mr Wong, “We can be a modern city, but also a modern city that is green and friendly to the environment.”
Calling the culture of Singapore the “soul of our nation”, Mr Wong celebrated the increased support for Singapore content in terms of local movies and bands. He reminded the audience that the development of arts and culture has to be organic and ground up, and cannot be done top down.
During the question and answer segment, Mr Wong took questions on a range of topics, from preventing stratification and people falling through the cracks to the impact of different ideologies.
Mr Wong spoke on some measures that the government has taken to prevent people from being left behind, including investing more in preschool as well as allocating more resources at the primary school level to increase support for academically weaker students. He also emphasised the government’s commitment to inculcate and develop the mindset of life-long learning.
On a student’s comment that public buildings and economic icons must be made more available to every citizen, Mr Wong agreed, saying, “That has always been our basis of developing our city; that it cannot be stratified, we don’t want a city that is exclusive or where only some people feel it’s for them and others feel left out.” He pointed out that even in high-end places like Marina Bay Sands, there are common spaces available for all Singaporeans. He further added that the government is looking into building HDB flats in the city centre.
Addressing concerns that differing ideologies on emotional subjects such as sexuality and LGBT could shake cultural development, Mr Wong acknowledged that those fault lines exist, not only in matters of sexuality but also in race and religion.
“Be patient in allowing things to evolve but at the same time work at enlarging our common space,” he said. “Work at building an inclusive society, so that everyone regardless of race, language or sexual orientation has a space in Singapore [and] everyone can lead a meaningful life.”