Originally posted on my assessed study blog.
This morning over an Americano and an almond biscotti at the Coffee Bean I was reading the Straits Times (Singapore's main newspaper) and came across an article originally published in the Vancouver Sun by Michael Geller:
While we often hear people ridicule the country for its public prohibitions – new chewing gum, no spitting, no littering – Singapore has to be the cleanest country in the world.
During my stay I did not see any litter on the streets, despite the daily handout of flyers and the presence of numerous fast-foot outlets.
There is no graffiti; the streets are beautifully landscaped and maintained. Singapore is also one of the safest cities in the world. I think there’s a connection.
He goes on to talk about the automatic electronic toll systems, urban planning and so forth; suffice to say from the viewpoint of someone who as lived here for more than a decade nothing that was said surprised me, but it made me think a bit more about what I took for granted here.
As with the article on the opposite page about New Yorkers and Londoners having a low environmental impact because of their use of public transport, I believe a large part of Singapore's success stems from it's very dense urban structure. As a country with less land than my grandfather's rural town in northern New South Wales, planners here didn't have the luxury of sitting back and allowing urban sprawl because every square kilometre is valuable. The potential opportunity costs for each parcel of land are enormous, and each decision as to what should be done with a parcel of land must be given far more thought.
The end result of this dense urban structure is efficient public transport is made possible, and the micromanagement of public grounds that would be ridiculously expensive in an urban sprawl setting are economically feasible; not to mention the provision of utilities, internet access and so forth.
Singapore and Manhattan are restricted by their physical land space, London by its green belt and government control, and other very densely occupied cities for their own reasons by their very nature work because they allow people in a small amount of space to get about their business with much less effort and environmental impact. There's no need to drive for hours to get from your suburban homes to work or shops, because you're living right where your work is!
Some may argue that high density living isn't really living; my father for example longs for the days when we had large houses in Australia, but I for one much prefer it. I'm 21 and I'm still on a learners driving licence, but it by no means restricts where I can go here.
I guess I'll always be a city slicker ;).