The current generation of S’pore has a duty to manage resources wisely for the next generation: Desmond Lee


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Like the generation before them, the current generation of Singaporeans has a duty to wisely manage and grow Singapore’s resources for the next generation, National Development Minister Desmond Lee asserted during his speech at the St. Gallen Symposium.

The event took place at the National University of Singapore (NUS) on January 13, 2023.

Management of Singapore and its resources

Lee noted that Singapore has limited resources.

As a result, the government has to make “difficult choices” between “the many needs and limitless wishes of today” and “reserve enough space and resources to meet the uncertain challenges of tomorrow”.

While the popular choice to deplete all land and consume fiscal reserves to meet the needs of the current generation may be tempting, that was not the approach Singapore’s “disciplined and far-sighted” pioneer leaders took, Lee said.

These leaders made difficult compromises and long-term plans, such as the planning for the Marina Bay business and financial district in the 1970s, shortly after Singapore’s independence.

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This was done to set the current generation up for success, even when there were “little resources and a lot of problems” back then.

“This spirit of stewardship is a defining characteristic of the social pact we inherited that is at the core of our Singaporean identity,” said Lee, adding that the current generation therefore has a duty to manage Singapore and its resources wisely by grow them, instead of just using them.

The current generation has to make difficult decisions

To further the point of stewardship in the context of Singapore’s social pact, Lee said that the current generation should also avoid taking on debt in financing their own unique needs, as this debt could unnecessarily oblige the future generation.

While it is fair to expect the future generation to share in the costs of developing key infrastructures such as Changi Terminal 5, as they will also reap the benefits of these developments, the current generation should recognize that the future generation may face a different set of challenges requiring different kinds of resilience and an evolving social pact to suit the context of the moment.

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As such, the current generation must remain responsible, disciplined and make difficult trade-offs when dealing with issues of their time.

Even as Singapore tries to meet growing housing demand, we need to manage land and resources wisely, Lee said.

This is done by maximizing the potential of Singapore’s limited land through greater land use intensification and rejuvenating older estates through redevelopment and prioritizing needs such as new homeowners and providing options for different demographics. categories.

In addition to housing, there are other needs that compete for Singapore’s limited land.

“At the same time, we aim to preserve more green spaces and protect more of our built heritage as Singapore craves greenery in our city and strives to preserve biodiversity in a densely populated city. And to preserve it against competing needs such as healthcare, education, transportation, industry and others.”

All of this must be done without exhausting all available developable land to reserve space and optionality for future generations to dream, grow and develop, Lee said.

“And we usually reserve optionality by keeping spaces available for them and also as the generation matures, the land can be rejuvenated for them with free hand to draw and develop to fulfill their dream.”

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Top image by Desmond Lee/Facebook and by Fiona Tan


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