Singapore is a father deprived country

I refer to the 19 Nov 2014 Straits Times report “Honoured for contributing to S’pore-China ties”.

Singapore is a father deprived and father crazed country. Everything must have father. Liu Thai Ker is now our latest “father of urban planning” even though Liu was hardly involved in any of Singapore’s earliest urban planning milestones.

Singapore’s first urban planning milestone was the Jackson Plan for the Town of Singapore in 1822. Liu’s grandfather wasn’t even born yet.

Singapore’s second urban planning milestone was the 1958 Master Plan. Liu was still studying in Australia then.

Singapore’s third urban planning milestone and our first post independence was the 1971 Concept Plan. Liu had barely joined the HDB for two years then. In any case, Concept Plan 1971 was produced by a team from the United Nations. It would be nearly 20 years later before Liu became involved in Concept Plan 1991.

Singapore planning milestones Liu Thai Ker career
Jackson Plan of the Town of Singapore, 1822
Master Plan 1958
1969 : Joined HDB as Head of Design and Research Section
Concept Plan 1971
1975 : Chief Architect, HDB
1976 : Deputy CEO, HDB
Master Plan 1980 1979 – 1989 : CEO, HDB
Concept Plan 1991 1989 – 1992 : CEO and Chief Planner of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA)
Concept Plan 2001
Master Plan 2003
Master Plan 2008
Concept Plan 2011
Master Plan 2014

Singapore’s Concept Plan 1971 was the work of Mr Henry Wardlaw and his team from the United Nations Development Programme Urban Development and Renewal Project for Singapore between 1967 and 1971 (Centre for Liveable Cities interview with Henry and Bridget Wardlaw on 18 Oct 2013).

Mr Wardlaw credited then HDB CEO Mr Howe Yoon Chong and then Minister of National Development Mr Eddie Barker as key figures who pushed the project through.

One of Singapore’s coordinators for that programme was ex-president Ong Teng Cheong (The Pioneer Club, Service to nation before self,

The persons most involved in Concept Plan 1971 were thus Mr Henry Wardlaw and his Urban Development and Renewal Project team, Mr Howe Yoon Chong, Mr Eddie Barker and Mr Ong Teng Cheong.

Most of what Liu did was subsequent to the creation of Concept Plan 1971. It is thus more appropriate to call Liu the son of Singapore urban planning than the father of it.

Throughout the 1970s, the URA’s work centred around implementing the first Concept Plan, which had been developed in 1971 with the help of the United Nations. The Concept Plan covered many areas, from population growth to town planning, road planning and transport systems, and the port and airport. It was a huge, multi-agency effort coordinated by the Ministry of National Development (MND).

“The Concept Plan required a lot of additional detailed and specific information for the purpose of implementation,” recalls Liu Thai Ker, who headed the HDB and then the URA from the 1970s to the 1990s and is today known as the architect of urban Singapore for his work on public housing. From large-scale land development agencies like HDB and the Jurong Town Corporation, to water management agencies like the Public Utilities Board (PUB), each agency had to provide its plans to the MND in detail and declare their land use needs for incorporation into the Concept Plan.

[The Business Times, Building A Nation: The Early Years, 29 Jul 2014]

It is also inappropriate to regard Liu as the architect of urban Singapore when Liu was just one of many architects and for much of his career was involved in only a subset of Singapore urban planning – HDB estate planning.

Honoring contributions to S’pore-China ties

Isn’t it ironic that Tan Kah Kee who built schools and universities in China was banished for having pro-Chinese Communist Party sympathies whereas Singapore now honors those who contribute to S’pore-China ties?

Isn’t it ironic too that Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce (SCCC) is now being honored for contributing to S’pore-China ties whereas previously it was being persecuted by the PAP?

PAP set about neutralising Chinese schools, which were powerful auxiliaries to labour unions and the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce which is the major funding and controlling body for Chinese education in a bid to control education

PAP quite often levelled the charge of “chauvinism” on prominent businessmen of the SCCC to destroy them.

[Carl A. Trocki, Singapore: wealth, power and the culture of control”, page 150]

Lee Kuan Yew wrote: We had decided to make an example of prominent figures who had acted as front men for the communists, believing that their wealth and standing in the Chinese-speaking community gave them immunity. Number one on the list was Tan Lark Sye, then honorary president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the founder of Nanyang University.

[The Business of Politics and Ethnicity: A History of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sikko Visscher, page 155]

Straits Times, Honoured for contributing to S’pore-China ties, 19 Nov 2014

A prominent master planner-architect, a singer-songwriter and a local business chamber have all been honoured for contributing to Singapore-China ties.
Now in its fifth year, the Business China awards were jointly presented by Business China and OCBC Bank at a gala dinner at the Shangri-La Singapore last night to recognise businessmen, professionals and organisations.
The Business China Excellence award went to Dr Liu Thai Ker, Singapore’s “father of urban planning” who has shared Singapore’s urban development experience with China since the 1980s. He is also a planning adviser to more than 30 cities in China.
“I believe this is the first time they have given the award to a professional, instead of a businessman or entrepreneur. I’m more than happy to be recognised for my contributions to bring China and Singapore together through my profession.
This award won’t go unnoticed by Singapore and Chinese developers and government officials. I hope I will continue to have inquiries from these people to help them with projects in China,” Dr Liu, 76, told The Straits Times.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean described Dr Liu as a “front runner” in helping deepen collaboration in services between the two countries.
“In the first half of 2014, Singapore had become China’s third largest foreign trading partner for trade in services.
As we develop higher value-added services in areas including urban solutions, logistics and information and communications technology, our companies can seize opportunities in these areas, and create a ‘win-win’ situation for both countries,” Mr Teo said at the awards.
The Business China Young Achiever award went to JJ Lin, 33, an influential figure in the Chinese pop music scene.
Mr Teo said he hopes the success and popularity of Mr Lin will “inspire many more of our young people to learn the language well, and to spark off more such modern cultural exchanges between our young people”.
The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI), which won the Business China Enterprise award, has helped Singapore businesses by tapping its extensive networks in China.
For instance, the International Enterprise-SCCCI Singapore Enterprise Centre in Shanghai provides a one-stop service centre to help Singapore’s small and medium-sized enterprises develop market contacts, competencies and knowledge in China, Mr Teo said.
Business China was set up in 2007 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, and former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao to create a network for Singaporeans who can connect to China economically and culturally.


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