Saving Singapore's soul.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Article excerpt

NOW that Singapore is ultra modern and enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes, compared to what it was in 1964, on the eve of its independence from Malaysia, many Singaporeans want something more than just economic prosperity. It is hard to believe that they feel there is something missing in their lives. They are looking for Singapore's identity, for its very soul.

Never has it occurred to me that a Singaporean could have that national identity angst; I thought that was uniquely Filipino. So, it was intriguing to hear Prof. Ooi Giok-Ling's brilliant presentation of Singapore's cultural identity quest at the "Asian Regional Conference on Urban Revitalization and Governance."

As you know, Singapore had to transform itself from a dependent trading post into a high valued added, industrial, financial and modern service center for global business. Inevitably, those developmental imperatives shaped its urban planning policies. Focus was on how the "built environment" could accommodate mass housing, efficient transportation, and the construction of commercial zones. A tiny island bereft of natural resources, Singapore's goals were just as ambitious as those of bigger cities and countries. …