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I am a Practitioner of 'The 7e Way of Leaders' where a Leader will Envision, Enable (ASK for TOP D), Empower, Execute, Energize, and Evolve grounded on ETHICS!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Daily Lessons from LIfe 01 December 2015 - Public housing, social integration go hand in hand: DPM Tharman

"Public housing, social integration go hand in hand: DPM Tharman - CNA 01 December 2015

WASHINGTON: Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has suggested that  the country’s experience with fully-integrated public housing can help other nations that are struggling to achieve equality and inclusivity.

He was speaking in Washington on Monday (Nov 30) at a specially-convened symposium that comes at the end of a year of racial and ethnic tensions in several key American cities.

Places like Ferguson, Missouri served as the dramatic backdrop for the DPM’s visit to Washington. The riots that convulsed the St Louis suburb earlier this year following the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown are widely seen as symptomatic of broader problems in the US.

As such, The Brookings Institution in Washington hosted a day-long symposium aimed at finding ways of improving equity and opportunity in some of the country’s most polarised and impoverished neighborhoods.

The keynote address was made by Mr Tharman, who said that through careful design of public housing and ongoing rejuvenation, Singapore had avoided the pitfalls that beset many other developed nations.

“The secret sauce is our neighbourhoods, the composition of them and the way they are designed so as to maximise interactions and give us the best chance of achieving and integrated community. They are designed for that purpose,” said Mr Tharman.

The Deputy Prime Minister argued that housing assets in Singapore appreciate in value through careful stewardship that promotes not just flats themselves, but schools, parks, and tolerance of all faiths.

Public housing that avoids any kind of segregation is, he said, at the core of social policies that have promoted cohesion and economic vitality in Singapore.

Mr Tharman said a country like the US is paying the price for housing policies that are disconnected from any kind of social integration.

“You either do something upstream that is meaningful and provides the right incentives, or you deal with the problems downstream - which are typically more costly to individuals, as well as to the public purse," Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister said.

It is a question that engaged conference attendees, many of whom expressed disappointment in not hearing similar proposals from America’s elected politicians.

Despite the breakdown in places like Ferguson, one audience member told the DPM that America’s politicians pay “nothing but lip service” to the goal of creating opportunity in the country’s most challenged neighbourhoods."

Well, someone got to TELL the Americans what they SUCK at! Better be a Singapore DPM then! :-)

Lessons for me are:

1. social engineering is NOT the cup of tea that the Americans want. No matter how good and effective it can be. The Americans want 'freedom' to live anywhere they like, do whatever they like, and suffer whatever the consequences. e.g. gun controls failed repeatedly and repeatedly some innocent folks get gun down repeatedly too! New York City, and many other cities in the USA has the unique, 'Oh, don't make the wrong turn as you may end up on High Street or in Crime Street where your life and safety cannot be guaranteed!' It is absurd BUT the Americans accept it! OR DO THEY?;

2. Singapore's public housing model is DEFINITELY a very good scheme to promote racial integration. BUT that is just the hardware part. In the ages past, many the neighbours DO KNOW each other from different races and interact a lot MORE than today's residents. Today's most neighbours do not really know each others that well. Rarely do they visit each other flats. I am guilty of this as well and only know the names of my neighbours but never been into their houses and them to mine! So, we have some work to do besides just PHYSICALLY 'forcing' different races to live in the same neighbourhood! Of course, the Resident Committee members should know MOST of the residents in the same block. But even that, I had not met any RC members in my 10 years stay at my current flat. Maybe I am just not very sociable?;

3. as for 'appreciating public housing prices', I won't want to cite this as a measure of success of public housing. Being a 99-year leasehold property, at the end of the lease, the property will revert back to the government. There is ZERO value. Of course, for anyone what sell before that day or much earlier as after 40 years of the lease had run out, no bank will want to give the buyer a mortgage to buy the flat unit with just 55 years left, supposedly.

Public housing MUST be maintained by the residents. The residents MUST make efforts to integrate and interact. Structures like RCs and CCCs, etc. are necessary. Truly we need to create a CULTURE where newcomers are PROPERLY welcome even if they feel their privacy had been intruded when they just moved in.

Start with the next NEWCOMERS to the estate. From there hopefully the tradition will be developed and sustained! 

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