betty August 1, 2022

SINGAPORE – Cities should continue to stay open to investments and talent from around the world, in the face of growing anti-globalisation and populism.

Doing so is key to creating progress and keeping their economies vibrant, thereby providing good jobs and better opportunities for residents, said Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean on Monday (Aug 1) at the World Cities Summit held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

Mr Teo had listed several challenges that cities face, including how to stay open and yet remain cohesive when existing residents have their lives disrupted by globalisation and technological advances.

“The fruits of globalisation are not distributed equitably and may accrue to the new arrivals more than existing residents,” he said, noting this is seen in major cities worldwide and in Singapore.

“Rather than to close ourselves, which will mean that cities will no longer serve their proper purpose of bringing people together, cities should continue to stay open to investments and talents from around the world.”

Cities should thus focus on preparing their people to take up the new opportunities created, he said, adding that this could take the form of a “forward-looking education system”, coupled with continuing education and life-long learning.

This ensures a city can continue to advance, and its citizens are better equipped to compete fairly for the good jobs created, said Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security.

Besides staying open, he also highlighted two other dilemmas that cities face – whether to build in a concentrated manner and how to achieve growth sustainably.

On the density of cities, Mr Teo said good planning, through a “creative combination of centralisation and distribution”, can maximise the benefits of urbanisation. This can be done via a comprehensive transportation system, good organisation of heavy infrastructure like waste treatment facilities as well as digitalistion, he added.

More research and development is needed for cities to tap green growth opportunities, he noted, adding that cities can be “living laboratories” for companies and researchers to develop, test and validate sustainable technologies.

Citing the price of water in Singapore – which reflects the full cost of its supply and production, and includes a conservation tax – Mr Teo said the cost of externalities have to be priced into activities and resources.

This will incentivise consumers and businesses to take into account the real cost of using these resources and avoid excessive consumption or waste, he said, adding that this pricing approach has allowed Singapore to invest in recycling water for potable use.