Livable cities don’t require leaders with strong political will

I refer to 3 Jun 2014 Straits Times report “Strong leaders, clear vision ‘key to shaping cities’ Factors for liveability, sustainability highlighted at 3 environment forums”.

Local and global thought leaders supposedly said that leaders with strong political will and so on are the key to shaping livable and sustainable cities.

The following are cities that topped Monocle’s most liveable cities 2014. Most are not characterized by leadership with strong political will.

Monocle Most Livable City 2014 Country
1 Copenhagen Denmark
2 Tokyo Japan
3 Melbourne Australia
4 Stockholm Sweden
5 Helsinki Finland
6 Vienna Austria
7 Zürich Switzerland
8 Munich Germany
9 Kyoto Japan
10 Fukuoka Japan
11 Sydney Australia
12 Auckland New Zealand
13 Hong Kong China
14 Berlin Germany
15 Vancouver Canada
16 Singapore Singapore

The following are cities that topped the EIU’s Liveability Ranking 2013. Again most are not characterized by leaders with strong political will.

EIU Liveability Ranking 2013 Country
1 Melbourne Australia
2 Vienna Austria
3 Vancouver Canada
4 Toronto Canada
5 Calgary Canada
5 Adelaide Australia
7 Sydney Australia
8 Helsinki Finland
9 Perth Australia
10 Auckland New Zealand

Thus, there is no need for leaders with strong political will to shape livable cities.

Minister Khaw Boon Wan said politicians who give voters “goodies” to win elections risk going bankrupt, souring everyone’s view of politics and leading to insolvency and eventually political cynicism. But many authors attest to Singapore practicing its fair share of giving out election “goodies”:

• The PAP’s resounding victory at every general election since 1959 and the practice of giving out ‘election goodies’ through the annual Budget seem to indicate the truth of this assertion.
[Cinema and Television in Singapore: Resistance in One Dimension, Kenneth Paul Tan, page 167]

• Besides some genuine appreciation for the government’s achievements, tight media control, pre-election distributions (popularly known as ‘goodies’), a limited nine-day election campaign, and lingering fears from the past persecution of opposition politicians, explain what in other countries would be considered a respectable vote share for the government.
[Handbook of Emerging Economies, Robert E. Looney, page 222-223]

• In his budget of February 2006, several months before the General Election, PM Lee introduced a massive S$2.6 billion Progress Package that will pay every adult citizen in cash a ‘growth dividend’ of between S$200 and S$800 … Low-wage workers … would also get ‘workfare bonuses’ ranging from S$150 to S$1,200 each … These were in addition to the regular National Service bonus and CPF top-ups.
[Social Policy in Post-Industrial Singapore, Kwen Fee Lian and Chee-Kiong Tong, page 8]

• Election-eve government spending initiatives have also been undertaken by the ruling party (The Straits Times 16 Jun 2006) … However, the spending pattern, and express government statements about disbursements, make full use of the stick-and-carrot approach … On the eve of the 1997 election, the then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong made statements that opposition-held estates risked eventually becoming slums, without the necessary government funding to upgrade the estates …This same carrot-and-stick was used again in the 2006 election (The Straits Times 5 May 2006, 29 Jun 2006). This attracted allegations that the PAP used state funds for party political purposes to obtain political and electoral advantage during the election, especially when such handouts were given extensive publicity by the media in Singapore.
The publicity surrounding the New Singapore Shares Scheme is an example of this extravagant media coverage. Three months before the 2001 election, the then Prime Minister Goh announced the New Singapore Shares Scheme (Business Times Singapore 20 August 2001). Under this scheme, Singaporeans were given between $200 and $1,700 worth of shares linked to accumulated government surpluses, wih the option of exchanging some of these for cash. The shares were available on 1 November 2001, two days before Polling Day (The Straits Times 13 October 2001) … At the very least, this seemed to take the form of using public money to project the government in a positive light (The Straits Times 13 October 2001).
This strategy was followed by the next Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong. Prior to the 2006 general election there was an offer of a $2.6 billion ‘Progress Package’ to Singaporeans. The Budget was unveiled on 17 February 2006. Polling Day was on 6 May 2006.
Where the playing field has already been tilted in favour of the ruling party, however, it is questionable whether tying in estate upgrading priorities and election eve spending to the continued propagation of the ruling party might not raise ethical issues.
[Democracy, Media and Law in Malaysia and Singapore: A Space for Speech, Andrew T. Kenyon and Tim Marjoribanks and Amanda Whiting, page 168-169]

• Since 1997, the issue of estate upgrading has featured in every election as a campaign tactic by the PAP. As an incentive for voters to support the ruling party, he PAP has tied votes directly to the eligibility for Housing Development Board (HDB) estate upgrading plans. As then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong warned, “You vote for the other side, that means you reject the programmes of the PAP candidate … If you reject it, we respect your choice. Then you will be left behind, then in 20, 30 years’ time, the whole of Singapore will be bustling away, and your estate through your own choice will be left behind. They become slums. That’s my message”
[Management of Success: Singapore Revisited, Terence Chong, page 108]

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2 Responses to “Livable cities don’t require leaders with strong political will”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    The forced acceptance of such immoral politics is nothing to be proud of. The disgusting practitioners of these arrogant finger in your eye pronouncements even have the gall to pass themselves as strong leaders with a vision. You could recommend your readers the excellent book, The Myth of Strong Leaders by Archie Brown, now available at Kinokunyia.

  2. dotseng Says:

    You really put shorty in his corner this time.

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