Urbanization in Singapore

Urbanism is described as a complex of traits which makes up the characteristic mode of life in the city Therefore urbanization can be hence said to be the development and extension of the abovementioned trait. So how has urbanization occurred in Singapore then, since its independence in 1965?


          Singapore can be said to be recognized as one of the most urbanized countries in the world. The huge flux of urbanization is also commonly linked with rapid industrialization, the building of a consumer society, and great openness to the influences of both East and West. These processes in turn are taking place against the backdrop of one of the world’s most pluralistic societies in terms of ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity. The entire of Singapore’s landscape is urbanized; buildings and the like, save for the zones of small forested areas that occupy the different reservoirs. The 620 sq. km. area is inhabited by a population of 2.6 million at a density of 4,207 per sq. km.


          The possibly negative aspects of this very high concentration of people are offset to a considerable degree by careful city planning, the provision of numerous public parks, gardens, and beaches, and the development of a series of “new towns” or satellite settlements of high-rise dwellings currently inhabited by over 80 percent of the population. This extensive provision of relatively cheap, government-built and administered housing is one of the most interesting features of the Singapore urban, social, and physical landscape. Personally, the concept of the HDB (Housing and Development Board) has been a successful one. To its credit, it had a big role to fill, with clearing up the squatters and slums of the 1960s and resettling residents into low-cost government-built housing.


          The policies of the HDB were largely in line of the policies set out by the Singapore government at that time. The government was promoting social cohesion and patriotism within the country, while keeping the balance between the different races. In 1968, citizens were allowed to use the CPF government run pension scheme (Central Provident Fund) to purchase and own the homes they were renting to give them a stake of the country and as an incentive to work hard. In 1980, a quota was introduced to ensure that no particular racial group concentrated together to prevent sectarianism. The housing of different income groups were largely mixed together in estates and new towns, thinking this would prevent any form of social stratification that could lead to potential conflicts. Although largely triumphant, perhaps there is still a sense of alienation within the community, in regards to the lack of proper aesthetic places to appreciate and relax. Urbanization has changed and notably develops on the capatalistic and money-driven society of ours now.


          The notion of an urban jungle is constantly preached by the government, with flora and fauna planted throughout, and a carefully constructed Hort Park.  However, with the building of high cultured places like the Esplanade and the ongoing International Resorts cum Casinos, perhaps, the individual has become slightly more entrapped in a cold, gridded veneer of enjoyment. Already flooded with buildings, the urban landscape may be unforgiving and constricting to some.


          Arguably, thanks to the government’s implementation, we can consider ourselves lucky not to be  living in any favelas like the people in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, infamous for their size, poverty and crime. It is generally agreed upon that the first favela was created in November 1897 when 20,000 veteran soldiers were brought to Rio de Janeiro and left with no place to live. Subsequently, till today, one in every four cariocas (as Rio’s inhabitants are called) lives in a favela. The lack of a solid government backed plan can be said to be at fault to this ailing plight. The explosive growth of favelas triggered countless government removal campaigns. A program in the 1940s called Parque Proletário destroyed many people’s original homes in Rio and relocated them to temporary housing as they waited for the building of public housing. Eventually little public housing was built and the land that was cleared for it just became reoccupied with new settlements of favelas. The favela eradication program became paralyzed eventually because of the resistance of those who were supposed to benefit from the program (as a result of their reliance on the criminal nature of favelas, i.e drug trafficking and abuse) and a poor distribution of income did not permit the poor to assume the economic burden of public housing that was placed on them.

So perhaps I should not be complaining about the lack of aesthetic space myself, if I consider the trepidation of others.

References and Citations

“Favelas in Brazil”, retrieved from [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Favela#cite_note-3]

 Sernau, Scott. Global Problems: The Search for Equity, Peace, and Sustainability. Boston: Pearson 2006

“Singapore”, retrieved from [https://www.strategicnetwork.org/index.php?loc=kb&view=v&id=15692&fto=1563]

“Housing Development Board, Singapore” retrieved from [http://www.hdb.gov.sg/]


~ by shawnang on October 13, 2008.

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