Singapore innovates to offset trade turmoil

Singapore is investing in ideas that could define the way cities are built and run in future, making it a test case for urban innovation.

The city-state has limited natural resources, almost no spare land, an ageing population, resistance to immigration and reliance on global trade, which is dismantling under Donald Trump. More than a third of Singaporean exports go to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, or the US, hitting its latest export figures amid the ongoing trade war.

Singapore is also the world’s second-fastest ageing society after South Korea, according to the United Nations.

Singapore’s growth for this year is forecast at around 1.4 per cent, down from 2.2 per cent in June, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.

However, Singapore has stable, one-party rule, excellent public transport and infrastructure, a sound financial system, low crime and is surrounded by rapidly growing Asean economies.

But the authorities are looking for innovative ways to adapt to a changing world.

Singapore is hoping to keep its senior citizens in employment and health.

It is trying to get more elderly people out of the home and into gardens to reduce time spent alone, as the number of suicides by over-60s hit a high of 129 in 2017, according to Samaritans of Singapore.

Elderly suicides in Singapore have been driven by a lack of social connection and a fear of being a burden on the family, said the suicide prevention charity.

DBS Group Holdings, Asean’s largest bank, has hired 80 senior staff to assist elderly clients to understand digital banking.

Singapore’s median age is forecast to rise to 47 by 2030 from 40 in 2015, making the populace more than a decade older than the global median, according to the UN. The government has set up fitness groups in parks and “digital clinics” at community centres running IT classes.

The government is also considering raising the minimum retirement age from 62.

With 5.6 million inhabitants mostly living in high-rise blocks, Singapore has rooftop football pitches, parks, vegetable gardens and a poultry farm. Pangolins and other wildlife use a 62-metre “ecological bridge” connecting two nature reserves which crosses a six-lane highway.

The plan is to create a “vertical green city”.

The National Parks Board pledged in 2009 to subside rooftop and vertical greenery to cut carbon emissions by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. The policy also aims to produce 30 per cent of the Singapore’s nutritional needs.

Singapore is increasingly verdant. Picture credit: Wikimedia