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Uniquely Singapore

Singapore, high standard of living, country for the people

As I walked passed the colourful Singapore tourism hoarding, screaming ‘Uniquely Singapore’, the travel bug bit me harder. When I finally donned my traveler’s hat with camera in tote, Singapore unveiled a different kind of uniqueness.

As expected ‘Uniquely Singapore’ did its bit of showcasing the best bird’s park, the best zoo, the best amusement park among the other bests. However what met my eye was more than the brand ‘Singapore’ – it was the disciplined behind the scene activities that catered to the masses that kindled my interest.

The city’s landscape is like a neatly drawn bar graph. Symmetry is the key. No asymmetrical monstrosities peep out to spoil the picture postcard. Self sufficient matchbox like buildings called HDB flats seemed to be the character defining structures of the city. Old timers tell me these HDB (Housing and Development Board) flats not only changed the slummy face of Singapore to its current chic look, but also resolved the housing problems of a growing population.

Singapore is the second most densely populated country in the world with a population of 4 million in its 697 sq km of land. Obviously housing problem loomed large. The slums or Kampongs were razed to accommodate smart affordable HDB flats attached with all amenities including community markets, schools, shopping centres and hospital. The idea being the HDB resident does not leave his locale for basic needs.

The allotment of HDB flats is an interesting process in itself. The interested party applies and the allotment is usually on first come first serve basis. However chances of a quicker allotment are high if parents of either spouse stay within 2 kms radius of the applied locality. An ideal way to soft pedal values to the country facing the threat of a rising ageing population. A water tight housing policy ensures no religious or ethnic pockets are created and national loyalty is fostered through social cohesion.

I was also told that the natives can give the littering and spitting Indian a run for his money when it comes to cleanliness, but a strict government and laws cast in stone ensured a complete turn around over the years. 4 million people marching to the same drum beat in clockwork precision is no mean feat to achieve. The metamorphosis from dirty kampongs to a clean nation took a toll on the common man’s wallet and freedom but the effort paid off. Today Singapore has the highest standard of living in Asia.

Quite naturally my mind ran to my own city infested with slums and bursting in the seams awaiting the drumbeat to commence to begin its transformation to Shanghai! A ‘unique’ wish indeed!
Published: 2008-02-20
Author: Maya Das

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