S(t)imulating Singapore: Representing the City (-State) in Travel Writing and Urban Planning

Irvin Lim Fang Jau

Chapter Three: Spatial Citizenship

"The island of Utopia...the whole island like the cresent moon...and there surmounteth into a large wide sea...and marketh wellnigh all the space within the belly of the land in the manner of a haven."

Sir Thomas More, 1908.

"Landscape, city or country, look back at the people. They are what people have made them...People own what they are looking at - not on paper - but...in terms of their investment of affection."

Sue Clifford, 1988: 626

The Spatial Imperative

Having delineated the postmodern flaneurian representation of Singapore's urban space as simulation, the analytic shift in this chapter is from a 'scopic regime of disappearance' towards an engagement with the Singapore's state-managed 'scopic regime of appearance' in the stimulation of urban representations. The scopic regime of appearance, in the context of Singapore's urban planning discourses, is principally concerned with envisioning a sense of national community and self-identity in the "ontological security" (Revill, 1993: 129) of a collective homeland. It promotes a geographical and historical narrative of shared identity and destiny in the spatial anthology1 of the Singapore city-state for its citizenry.

In this regard, Singapore's urban space is in recent years, predicated on the ameliorative projects of architectural and aesthetic plans, maps and models, couched ideologically in the life-style rhetoric of a city of excellence. As Simon Tay (1994: 22) suggests, "[g)]eography and ideology intersect. Space is more than physical, it is a state of mind". My interest here is to examine the political and strategic implications of the Singapore's urban development by delineating how the rhetoric and representation of a Singaporean spatial economy in housing policies and urban plannning are particularly consequential to the "abstract proposition" (Lim, 1994: II) of an emergent Singaporean national identity; 'the making of the self', with the "home as a symbol of self" (Thompson, 1993: 152). As Lim (ibid: 11) conjectures and concurs with Tay, "the idea of a city or a country in the minds of its people is actually more important than its 'real' place in geography".

The concern then is with not just "an inventory of things in space", but also with the "ideas and discourse about space" (Lefebvre, 1991: 116). The ideas and discourses about this space are, I would suggest, instrumental to the representation of a utopic and unitary Singaporean national identity premised on the assumption and promotion of a collective social stake in the national homeland, of what I refer to as spatial citizenship. The socio-spatial representation of national identification in the notion of spatial citizenship goes beyond 'abstract propositions' of utopic representations of Singapore's urban space, towards imbricating relations between place and identity, positing the possibility of what Raymond Williams (1983: 19) once called "the emergence of a structure of feeling", and its "topophilic" (Tuan, 1974) connection to Singapore as a place of belonging and dwelling. As Heidegger (1971: 145) once philosophized: "[w]e attain to dwelling, so it seems, only by means of building". This phenomenological dialectic of building and dwelling as be(long)ing is not just a philosophical problematic, but also a perennial preoccupation of the Singapore government's nationalist politics.

The ideology of the nation as the place of 'home' may be commonplace enough, but it remains one that is nowhere more dominant than in official Singaporean urban representations and productions, where it assumes the message of a "live discourse addressed to the dwellers, inevitably shaping their lives" (Calligaris, 1994: 58). Though Lefebvre (1991: 210/16) is convinced that social bodies, not (state) ideologies, produce space, he nevertheless qualifies that ideologies "are in space and, of it". Therefore, ideologies are inextricably linked to relations beyond the 'abstract', towards more viscerally 'affective propositions' which produce social space and inscribe national identity through a scopic regime of appearance.

Such an affective proposition is presented in the glossy 1991 government publication The Next Lap, Singapore's blue print for the future, in the chapter entitled 'Singapore Our Home'. In this connection, the affective proposition here is emblematic of Lefebvre's "abstract space" of political power - of illusory transparency - where "everything is openly declared: everything is said or written" (Lefebvre, 1991: 51). This abstract space outlines the government's promise of a futuristic yet not entirely unfamiliar or unimaginable Singapore urban utopia, promoted as an appealing grandiose economic, if not eschatological narrative of nation-building for its citizenry, to be achieved in the prophetic Year X when Singapore's present population of 3 million reaches 4 million. In this way, the abstract space of the urban planning discourse has an explicit social objective and political agenda of communicating and constructing national ends as goals and "growth consistent with the interests of all 'users'" (Lefebvre, 1991: 375) vis-ˆ-vis 'all' its citizens. As Lefebvre puts it:

We may be sure that representations of space have a practical impact, that they intervene in and modify spatial textures which are informed by effective knowledge and ideology. Representations in space must therefore have a substantial role and a specific influence in the production of space. Their intervention occurs by way of construction - in other words, by way of architecture, conceived not as the building of a particular structure, palace or monument, but rather as a project embedded in a spatial context and a texture, which call for representations that will not vanish into the symbolic or imaginary realms.

(Lefebvre, 1991: 42) (Emphases mine)

For Singapore, this substantial role of spatial representation translates into a strategy of state intervention, with space assuming the principle and political stake of place, values and identity. In short, the politicised spatial imperative of Singapore Our Home, its 'nation-ness', is not about simulation or representations that will 'vanish into the symbolic or imaginary realms', but about material state provisions which are concerned with the representation and production (stimulation) of the Singaporean social habitus as an affective proposition, a familial appearance of 'home': "We have to make Singapore not just a pleasant place to work and live in, but also a home" (The Next Lap, 1991: 29). Though Bachelard believes, "all really inhabited space bears the essence of the notion of home" (1969: 5), his phenomenological idea of home should, in the present context, be destabilized and defamiliarised as a problematic and dialectical project of nation-building. As such, the interesting thing about the national endeavour of 'making Singapore a home' is that there seems to be an implicit assumption, perhaps even anxiety, that Singapore is now somehow not yet a home.2 What this spatially abstract and affective notion of home and the anxiety over its moment of national arrival entails, and how it has been, and continues to be represented and reproduced by official discourses and policies with regard to housing policies and urban planning, will now be reviewed.

Policy Spaces en famille

The political investment in the mytho-poetic space of home, by the creation of a new nostalgia for the national political, is not only vividly represented in official publications such as The Next Lap, but also evident in some key government policies, or what Shapiro (1992: 87) terms "policy spaces". Policy spaces are integral to affective propositions of spatial citizenship and home en famille. After all, as Soja (1989: 234/5) tells us, to be urbanized is to be rooted in a collective ideology of polis (politics, policy, polity, police) and civitas (civil, civic, citizen, civilian, civilization). It can thus be concluded that "[h]ome, nation and family operate within the same mythic metaphorical field" (Bammer, 1992: x cited in Hage, 1993: 79). This metaphorical field constitutes the scopic regime of appearance that is discursively implicated in Singapore's policy spaces wherein the representation and production of an urbanised space of national (comm)unity is foregrounded as always at stake.

The metaphor of stake has always been implicit in the Singapore government's avowed policy to provide for 100% home ownership amongst its citizenry, a scheme first introduced in February 1964 to help lower income and middle income groups own their own homes. In what the government has described as a "home-owning democracy", the policy gives the "people a stake in the country" (Chua, 1991: 34), on the one hand by increasing their personal asset portfolios which can be expected to appreciate in value and serve as a bulwark against inflation, while on the other, "a large percentage of the population possessing their own homes contributes to the overall political, economic and social stability" (Wong & Yeh, 1985: 231). There is little doubt then that the government's active promotion of home ownership is based on the assumption that the provision of subsidised public housing is "an important pillar of nation-building" (Tyabji & Lin, 1989: 25). In this sense, 'Housing' (provision) presumes and promotes an affective proposition of 'Home', that necessarily concerns yet transcends that of mere property ownership.

Semantically and spatially, the private domicile of home is co-extensive and conflates with the public domain of Land; hence, the affective proposition of a distinctive and diasporic Singapore Home(land). This incipient nationhood myth of homeland is set against the 'ancestral memory' of a primordial Motherland; the latter conception of which is reserved for the multifarious genealogical and geographical progeny of the multiracial Singapore citizenry.3 As Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew (1993: 42) would like to argue: "[W]e must be honest and recognise the fact that at the end of the day, our fundamental loyalties are to our home, not ancestral, countries...Our stakes are in our home countries, not...where our ancestors come from". The provision of housing represents one such stake in the affective proposition of home(land). Presently, with more than 87% of Singaporeans, residing in government public housing, the idea of an 'affective homeland' is popularly defined in political parlance as 'electoral heartlands'; the bedrock of popular votes come every general election. The representation and production of space in Singapore is therefore first and foremost an ideologically-significant political event, and its attendant concern with the stake of national identity cannot be emphasized enough.

The 100% home ownership policy comes under the purview of the Housing Development Board (HDB) formed in 1960 to provide government-subsidised housing. In its 35 years of existence, the HDB has built more than 700,000 flats with many Singaporeans buying them up with mortgage loans over a maximum period of 25 years, payable through their compulsory savings from their Central Provident Fund (CPF). The HDB operates as a statutory board, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of National Development and has been successful in implementing the policy primarily because of the government's active role in influencing land-use in Singapore. The government's instrumentalist role is canonised and legitimised in the Land Acquisition Act 1966 which empowers the state to acquire land and "expropriate people" (De Koninck, 1992: 81/8) in Singapore for public or housing development purposes. This landmark Act of direct and blanket land acquisition4, coupled with the Land Aquisition Ordnance 1955, Property Tax Order 1967 and the Control Premises Bill as administered by the Land Office, work favorably in tandem with the ambitious housing, industrialisation and urban renewal policies of the government to control and manage the efficient use of land resources. A further index of the Singapore government's influence over its land resources is seen in the increase of state land "from only 31% of the total land area in 1949 to 76.2% in 1985" through land transfers from the colonial British, land acquisition and reclamation projects (see Lim et al, 1988: 79/100). The present land area of Singapore will further increase by 15% with the government's ambitious plan to reclaim more land "on the mainland and offshore islands to the limit" (The Next Lap, 1992: 77), which is already in progress. The present relationship between state and society in Singapore is one in which the HDB has become the "largest national landbank" and "most powerful landlord" (De Koninck, 1992: 88) to its 'tenant' citizenry.5

The internationally-acclaimed success6 of the HDB project and the government's ambitious home ownership policy is evident in that 90% of Singaporeans now own their own homes as compared with 50-60% in many developed countries. Though some analysts (see Lim, et al, 1988) have recommended that the 100% target for the home ownership policy be reviewed in favour of maintaining a healthy rental housing market for economic reasons of efficiency, the 100 % home ownership objective endures, with Prime Minister Goh making the qualification in his maiden 1989 National Day Rally speech that he regarded 95% as the level of full home ownership for Singaporeans. In a recent interview, PM Goh again reiterated the government's commitment to meet the housing needs of its population: "I am prepared to say that every Singaporean will be able to own a three-or-four-room flat. Whatever the cost, we will make it possible" (Singapore Bulletin, July, 1994:1). 'Making it possible' is the political promise that has been translated into the so-called Singapore-style 'state welfarism' with $S 60 million subsidies a year to enable Singaporeans who now rent HDB flats to buy their own flats, providing $S30,000 housing grants for Singaporeans who choose to buy resale flats near their parents' flats, as well as building new no-frills four-room 'Budget flats' to keep basic housing affordable. In addition, the government recently announced (in June 1994) that the HDB will for the first time, buy three-room flats on the open market (eg. $S70,000-100,000) and sell them at subsidized rates ($S33,000-$70,000) to lower-income families. This benevolent and altruistic wealth-sharing programme coupled with the provision of no-frills four-room Budget flats enfranchise lower-income citizens and accord to the government a high degree of political legitimacy, in not only delivering the goods to the majority, but also extending a helping hand to the needy by state intervention in levelling the p(l)aying field. Columnist Tan Sai Siong describes these wealth-sharing policies as "poverty to property the Singapore way": "the poor here will be assured of owning one of the most hotly sought assets in Singapore - a home" (The Straits Times, 14 May 1994: 35).

Besides handsome home ownership policies, the government has also recently introduced new programmes for the discounted sales of HDB shophouses and hawker stalls, between $S75,000 per shop and $S14,000-22,000 per stall.7 The intention behind such sales is staked again on the economic logic as well as the affective proposition of ownership: "to protect shopkeepers from rental hikes and to allow them to have a greater stake in the running of their businesses" (The Straits Times, 15 June 1994) (my emphasis). On top of these initiatives, the government also plans to release more land to assuage the growing demand for private residential development; up from 6,000 to 8,000 private homes annually. The Acting Minister for National Development, Lim Hng Kiang, has revealed that the government's long-term target was to "quadruple the number of private homes from the present 120,000 to 460,000 by Year X (when Singapore's population reaches 4 million), which based on the current annual growth rate of 2%, is estimated to be 2010. By 2010, the government assures Singaporeans that private homes will make up 25-30% of all housing units when compared with the present 10%. As Minister Lim promises: "We have set aside land to get to that position. We will get there" (The Straits Times Weekly, 1 0ct 1994: 20).

But already, costs of 'getting there' are exemplified in the bullish run of the 'herd instinct' amongst buyers eager for a stake in private property before they are priced out of the market. There is also a fast growing trend of HDB home owners who choose to stay in public housing, but who purchase private housing for investment purposes. Despite the phenomenal rise in property prices, the commodification of space through real-estate speculation and property investment continues unabated, resulting in a greater gentrification of the Singapore home(land), creating what Lefebvre (1991) might have called, not just a space of consumption but a pro-actively acquiescing and collective consumption of space by the citizenry. As compared with 1970, private housing prices have shot up by 23 times, and public housing by eight times (The Straits Times, 22 Aug 1994: 25). And as the 1993 Cost Review Committee Report shows, it is likely that both private and public housing prices will remain high, and the government will have to find new ways of protecting property prices from the dangers of asset inflation by keeping them affordable in order to fulfill the political promise of supply they had staked on spatiality. With space at a premium in Singapore, the increasing investment in real estate and interest in property ownership creates "a mass of surplus value" in an 'over-heated' property market which Lefebvre (1991: 336) had warned against : "Investment and speculation cannot be stopped, however, nor even slowed, and a vicious circle is thus set up".8

To be sure, notwithstanding the more exhorbitant private housing as opposed to public housing, the former continues to be the social status symbol par excellence in land-scarce Singapore and the government has openly assured prospective property buyers that private housing will continue to be within the reach of the top 20% of its income earners. This 20% of the high income earners are by and large excluded from buying cheaper new government HDB housing - except for those on the resale market - due to the household income eligibility ceiling, which is currently set at $S8000 for a single family nucleus, and $S12,000 a month for an extended family.9 Prime Minister Goh defends the government's rationale for the creation of a new class of property owners amongst small businesspersons and asset enhancement initiatives like the $S12-15 billion public housing upgrading programme as follows: "When they own their properties, they will better understand, the link between the value of their assets and economic growth. They will support good government and policies which generate growth" (The Straits Times Weekly, 27 Aug 1994: 1). In this sense, we might conclude that the entire space of Singapore becomes endowed with exchange value (Lefebvre, 1991: 336/7) premised on the economic logic of growth that ostensibly reinforces political legitimacy. A capitalist mode of spatial production, initiated and sustained by a political system which privileges and prides itself on the circulation, consumption and commodification of space, as a tangible exchange value of property investment and home ownership, depicts an economic relation of spatial production to spatial consumption quintessential to contemporary Singapore, so much so that it is exceedingly relevant here to reproduce Lefebvre's observation that

[t]oday, what are bought (and less frequently, rented) are volumes of space: rooms, floors, flats, apartments, balconies, various facilities (swimming pools, tennis courts, parking spaces, etc.). Each exchangeable place enters the chain of commercial transactions - of supply and demand, and of prices. (Lefebvre, 1991: 337)

Though this account is by no means specific to Singapore's urbanism, what is apparently salient is the articulation of this capitalist practice of spatial production and consumption with the project of nation-building. In many respects, the continued emphasis on home ownership and ameliorative provision of housing amenities apart from promising the material enrichment of all Singaporeans, also constitutes an integral social contract between the government and its citizenry, directly affirming the policy practice of, what Prime Minister Goh (1990b: 29) calls, sharing "participation prizes" for nation-building: "We intend to let as many people as possible who participate and help in the nation's growth, get a participation prize". The pact of spatial citizenship in the form of "participation prizes" through nation-building and economic growth is, to be sure, a socially significant policy space of Singapore's spatial economy, wherein the scopic regime of appearance is focussed on home ownership. Another socially significant policy space of nation-building which highlights the instrumental social planning logic and pre-emptory tendency of the HDB vis-ˆ-vis the government10 is the Ethnic Integration Policy officially introduced in March 1993, though it has been implicit in HDB's housing allocation and sales principles since the 1970s. The official raison d' tre of the policy is to prevent ethnic enclaves from forming in HDB public housing estates by setting ethnic quotas for each block of flats, precinct and neighourhood based broadly on the national level of ethnic composition:

Chinese: 84% (neighbourhood) and 87% (block); Malays: 22% (neighbourhood) and 25% (block); Indian and Others: 10% (neighbourhood) and 13% (block). (see Quah, 1990:50)

Though the objective of national integration through a spatial dispersion and distribution of the citizenry is controversial and problematic (see Ooi, Siddique & Soh, 1994; Chua, 1991: 36/7; Bello & Rosenfeld, 1990: 323-6), it has been politically justified in terms of a communitarianist discourse of promoting intercultural interaction and social unity. This promotion of a scopic regime of appearance predicated on the multiracial harmony of the city-state via the Ethnic Integration Policy is ideologically buttressed by a subliminated "discourse of crisis" (Birch, 1993), interminably staged by the Singapore media, which harks back to the race-riots of the 1960s, and legitimises further calls for more government action to foster synergistic ethnic ties amongst the multi-racial citizenry that go beyond "superficial" spatial arrangements.11

'Superficial' spatial arrangements may not promote intimate and genuine inter-ethnic relationships overnight, but they are nonetheless pursued with much political will. This trenchant political will is best exemplified in the direct and overt promotion of the family institution in the domain of public housing schemes. As mentioned earlier, housing grants and priority allocation are available for young families who choose to live near their parents. Again, the pre-emptory logic in the exclusive promotion of the family unit in public housing policy is aimed at reducing, if not preventing the breaking-up of extended family units. Ironically enough, what sociologists call the 'nuclearisation' of the family unit has been exacerbated to a large extent by the success of government's resettlement policy and public housing programme precipitating three decades of rapid economic modernisation and industrial development; which by corollary, threatens the preservation of 'traditional' values based in extended family structures.

The pro-family policy has not been above discrimination or dissatisfaction. The eligibility of only family household units in the purchase of new and resale public housing, effectively excludes individuals from purchasing affordable public housing, leaving them with the expensive alternative of private housing. This policy is clearly directed at preventing what the government perceives to be the undesirable development of narcissistic individualism and hedonistic lifestyles amongst the younger generation (see Chua, 1982: 330-2; 1991:37/8), in favour of fostering a communitarianist sense of national identity based on family and patriotic (often patriarchal) values: "When the son [sic] cares for his parents, it is but a short step to the flat-dweller showing his concern for his neighbour, the manager his employer, the worker his company, and the citizen his country" (The Straits Times, 22 Feb 1981).12 Though there has been a recent relaxation of the policy which reduced the minimum eligible age for the purchase of resale public housing flats by single individuals (both men and women) to 35 years13, the family emphasis still stands. For example, the loophole in housing policy which previously allowed 1,000 unmarried mothers to buy flats direct from the HDB has been tightened. They can now only buy flats from the resale market (The Straits Times, 22 Aug 1994: 1).

The ideological work of nation-building, concerned with inculcating a sense of communitarianist belonging and familial identity, as it occurs in Singapore's spatial management, is also about fostering a scopic regime of appearance in active citizenship. This is encouraged by forms of 'self-management' committees within public and private housing estates, such as Citizen's Consultative Committees (CCCs), Residents' Committees (RCs) and Civil Defence Co-ordinating Committees (CDCCs). In addition, the inauguration of the Town Council Act in 1988, creating local Town Councils to take over estate maintenance functions from the HDB is also another feature of recent self-management initiatives. However, self-management initiatives of localisation and privatisation should not be mistaken for liberalisation or depoliticisation. Though self-management committees do indicate a certain level of autonomy at the grassroots level, they are nonetheless "Government Linked Grassroots Organisations" (GLOs) (Siddique cited in Ooi et al, 1993), charged with what Prime Minister Goh calls the "National Challenge" of "sustaining Singapore's long term prosperity" by playing "a better bridging role between the government and the people" (The Straits Times, 4 June 1994: 1). Consequently, the quid pro quo and modus operandi of the self-management initiatives qua parapolitical organisations, is for them to provide two way feed-back or what Siddique (cited in Ooi et al, 1993: 47/50) calls "nerve centres" or "communication nodes" between the government and the grassroots. In addition, ensuring multiracial representation amongst the leadership of the GLOs is another significant policy space in the overall spatial management of ethnicity in Singapore. To be sure, GLOs function as avenues of mobilization and political participation for the multiracial populace, while concomitantly socializing participants "to accept basic values aimed at creating a consensual political base in the country" (Seah, 1973: 118/9). In this regard, it can be concluded that the political character of these residentially spatialized "communication nodes" is one of state-sanctioned and sponsored community development; parochial administrative autonomy notwithstanding.

All in all, the Singapore government's housing policies, which spatially mix income, ethnic and family groups, foreground class, ethnicity and patriarchal familial propinquity relations as continuously at stake in the development of an integrated Singapore national identity; contingently rooted in an affective proposition of home and 'a stable meaning of place'. This is best reflected in Prime Minister Goh's speech on 'Collective Ownership and Responsibility' where he encouraged grassroots leaders to get Singaporeans "to develop this [sic] sense of belonging, that what belongs to the country also belongs to them" (1991: 17). The policy spaces I have discussed invariably and implicitly consolidate and reinforce the wider national issues of constructing a distinctly Singaporean identity of spatial citizenship through the socially instrumental role played by the HDB in creating what Lefebvre (1991: 53) calls a sovereign "space of geniality and gratification". As such, the "space of geniality as expressed in the family cell and its insertion into the piled-up boxes of 'modern buildings', 'tower blocks', 'urban complexes, and what-have-you' " (Lefebvre, 1991: 53), ideologically complements the Singapore government's material promise and provision of qualitative public housing as spaces of gratification to meet increasing housing demand and rising expectations. Ultimately, the creation of a state-sanctioned familial space of geniality and gratification in Singapore is enframed by the scopic regime of appearance which underpins the nation-building policy spaces of the HDB, directly implicating and imbricating the state as the 'guarantor' and 'guardian' of its dominant communitarianist meaning and value systems.

Affective Spaces - la stimulation

The desire to make Singapore a home, a familial community place, goes beyond the basic provision of public housing, to the now popular concerns of upgrading, preservation and conservation. Extensive urban development projects are in the pipeline and underway island-wide. The ambitious 1990s' Concept Plan outlines a long-range strategy for land-use and transport development towards "a city that offers diversity and choice, a city with a rich variety of environments, a city of character and grace" (The Next Lap, 1991: 77). Undertaken principally by the Urban Redevelopment Authorities (URA) first established in 1974 to oversee the development of the Central commercial area, the new mission statement of 1989 is a commitment towards the development of Singapore as "a tropical city of excellence", with the URA managing the twin roles of national planning and conservation authority. The ameliorative and aesthetic foci of the urban authorities has shifted from the basic provisional realm of infrastructural quantity in the early years of development, to the utopic rhetoric of upgrading spatial quality in contemporary Singapore. Environmental planning becomes the abstract space of the urban planner, whose project is nonetheless ideologically piquant - albeit in "a peculiarly artful way" (Lefebvre, 1991: 318) - with regards to the stimulation of Singapore's urban space as a place of civic pride and participatory citizenship.

The rhetoric of spatial quality in The Next Lap, based largely on the revised Concept Plan14 completed in 1991, promises that the utopic urban "Singapore our home will be a city that is pleasant to live and work in, a city which has something to offer everyone, whether resident or sojourner" (1991: 99). In many repects, this scopic regime of appearance in a "city for all seasons", regularly publicised in the local media and promoted in The Next Lap, can be encapsulated under the popular official slogans which I shall outltine as follows:

Small can be Beautiful. Singapore is an insular state with a small land mass of just 641 square kilometres (including that of small islets) and a high population density of almost 3 million. Land reclamation from the sea and off-shore islands, coupled with careful land-planning strategies will increase Singapore's land area by 15% and provide more space for commercial and industrial expansion as well as the improvement in the environment and quality of life for all Singaporeans.

The People's City. To meet the affluence of the increasing citizenry by providing new quality homes with distinctive designs promoting architectural identity located in prime locations (ie. waterfront housing), as well as upgrading and landscaping older HDB estates to aesthetic and amenity standards comparable with private housing developments. The average Singaporean household space of 20 square metres per person will be increased to about 35 square metres per person, despite the expected doubling in the number of Singaporean households. Innovative methods of vertical expansion will be maximised and the resultant increase in floor space compensates for the limited land space. More communal facilities such as community clubs, retirement villages, places of worship, public libraries, day-care centres for the elderly and children, and flats for senior citizens will be built.

Business City. The creation of a new vibrant city hub, regional centres and Business parks, thereby increasing the percentage of office floor spaces as well as the space necessary for the expansion of convention and exhibition industries. The creation of four regional centres with a multi-subcentric development pattern supplanting the traditional concentric development pattern, is intended to bring workplaces closer to the homes of Singaporeans located in and around the nodal regions, and also indirectly minimise traffic convergence and congestion in the Central City Area. Commercial floor space for the Orchard Road area will increase by 60% from the current 1.65 million sqm to 2.66 million sqm by the year 2010. The development of an external wing to the Singapore economy has also gained momentum in recent years with the state's encouragement for local entreprenuers to venture overseas into the surrounding regional markets like China, India, Vietnam, Burma et al as well as global markets like Europe. Linked intimately with the idea of a regional and global business city, is the National Computer Board's IT 2000: A Vision of an Intelligent Island, whereby business performance and quality of life, facilitated by new information technologies, link business communities locally and globally in an integrated commerce network, with Singapore strategically positioned as the global hub.15

Transit city. Upgrading and expansion of roads and expressways, the building of more overpasses, underpasses and road tunnels, the development of an integrated transport network (Bus-Mass Rapid Transit-Light Rail System) and the computerised network of an Electronic Road Pricing System for motor traffic to operate in the city area by 1997 and islandwide by 2000, complementing the existing Vehicle Quota System and Area Licensing Scheme, to prevent traffic jams and make commuting more comfortable and convenient. More pedestrianization of urban spaces will also be encouraged with the creation of a more sheltered system of walkways, open-air piazzas, plazas and shopping malls. Plans are also underway to look into the possibility of developing an all weather underground shopping mall for pedestrains in the city area.

Environmental City. The continued promotion of a clean, healthy and aesthetic environment will be matched by the commitment to preserve and protect the local and global environment, as layed out in the 1992 Singapore Green Plan.16 Conserving bird sanctuaries, nature reserves and the clean-up of waterways, augmented by stringent enviromental pollution controls, contribute to the making of an environmentally-friendly equatorial garden city. Future housing will be sited closer to the green belts to soften the impact of the concrete jungles as well as to serve as green lungs, providing breathing space in between the urban concrete. High technology agricultural activities like scientific prawn and fish farming, and agrotechnology parks will also be developed. City of Culture and Grace. The creation of more cultural, recreational and sports-related spaces promoting the image of an open yet integrated Singapore "playground", of natural parks, themeparks17 and revitalized historical/religious buildings for cultural and recreational pursuits. A total of 5,200 old buildings in Singapore has been gazetted for conservation under the conservation Master Plan. Restoration works to be completed by the year 2000, will give the cityscape old and new architectural expressions. The Singapore river meandering through the central business district has been cleaned up, with its bridges and surrounding business district lighted-up, and currently being redeveloped into a vibrant river bank community of retail outlets, offices, shops and homes. Alfresco-style sculptures have been publicly and privately commissioned to give public spaces a focus and sense of culture. The focus will also be on developing a vibrant cultural environment18 at the community level with conservation schemes in areas like China Town, Kampong Glam, Little India, the Fort Canning Museum Precinct and by the Singapore River, with particular emphasis on preserving Singapore's Asian heritage to serve as cultural moorings in the confluence of new cultural influences.

From the government's utopic urban desiderata above and its 'pre-emptory' approach to housing policies examined earlier, the intimate twinning of the asset enhancement and aesthetic discourses in the creation of an economic and ecological city of excellence heralding what it calls the 'Singapore Asian renaissance' is unreservedly, an affective proposition of community self-consciousness - an ideal identity construct nonetheless - addressed to the Singapore citizenry, if not its visitors:

The result of community self-consciousness is a whole new series of concerns, not all of them in and of themselves deleterious community attractiveness, quality of community life, the impact of the community on the surrounding environment as a matter of increasing population and dollars. 'Development' is now conceived as the production of a consistent, clean and positive image of the community.

(MacCannell, 1992: 102)

In stimulating Singapore through affective ideals of community premised on discursive constructs of communitarian family and Asian values as well as aesthetic ideals of urban vitality, the citizenry is invited to make an emotive and material investment in Singapore, the city of the future, which is in the making today. This teleological and technological investment is not about creating a panoptic environment for simulating docile bodies, but about creating an environment that encourages and stimulates participatory bodies in the spatial citizenship of the nation-state; for ultimately, there is the state recognition that it is the social bodies themselves that generate spaces (see Lefebvre, 1991: 216). The implementation of policies resulting in the formation of Town Councils is one such recognition. Besides endeavouring to create for each public housing zone a distinctive architectural look and environmental identity, residents' involvement in Town Councils present them with opportunities to "make decisions affecting their homes and environment" (The Straits Times, 14 Jan 1995: 32). Therefore, the Singaporean politics of space is concerned with a politics of identity grounded in a place of identification and participation, and in this situation, staked in a place of appearance, of activity and proxemics of affinity; citizenship as an affective matter of spatial bonds. The nationalist search for an ideal community continues to be reflected and 'rationalised'19 in urban planning discourses, with the modernist and instrumental belief that "ideal forms can generate or elicit certain behavioural as well as social and political responses for a community" (Savage, 1992: 192). The affective proposition of Home is not about the four-walled ownership of a house or property per se. Place and identity is portrayed as a permeable spatial nexus and socially interactive cityspace, intimately and inextricably forged between the private home and public spaces20, between the individual and community. Participation in the Home(land) is portrayed and promoted as an available and accessible paradigm of spatial citizenship. The individual citizen is interpellated (to use Althusser's term) as homo nationalis as well as homo economicus in the spatial narrative of nation-building. However, this sovereign space of geniality and gratification, through the scopic regime of appearance promoted by Singapore's spatial managers, represents and assumes as unproblematic the production of a Singapore spatial economy as the "centred space" (Birch, 1994b: 10) of collective national identity. This is an issue that must be problematised.

Ambitious or Ambivalent Spaces?

Urban housing policies and planning representations in Singapore operate within a modernist framework that perceives society and national identity as ideologically plannable, and urban planning as an unproblematic and unambiguous tool of social progress. However, while Singapore's ambitious urban plans and hitherto impressive social achievements signal a sense of national arrival, they also belie an anxiety with the struggle over the meaning of Singapore as a national 'home' for its multiracial citizens. In other words, despite ambitious attempts to make Singapore 'a home', the ambivalence of a scopic regime of appearance in representing Singapore, lies precisely in the lingering sense of anxiety that does not seem to have been removed. This observation tends to explain in part Singapore spatial managers' emphasis on the social role of urban planning in creating a sense of national belonging invested with economic and emotional expression. The on-going stake in Singapore's urban space is about re-establishing a Gemeinschaft sense of community relations and dwelling for a new generation of Singaporeans and their new domestic environment, following three decades of 'revolutionary' urban developments in the name of nation-building. As Prime Minister Goh (1992: 2) argues, the government's policy of upgrading old estates to "keep the community as intact as possible", is one of maintaining familial links: "[o]therwise we lose the community linkages, childhood friendship, familiarity and emotional ties with neighbours and the market fishmongers, vegetable sellers and favourite hawkers built over many years". Contrary to the general perception that community values, personal feelings and emotions are outside the province of planning, Singapore's housing policies and urban representations recognise housing to be "a site for emotional expression, sentimentality, continuity and belonging", and the idea of home to be more than a physical structure, imbued with "cultural and psychological significance for its inhabitants" (Thompson, 1993: 151). This emotional dimension in Singapore's context, relies just as surely on locating the representation of the space of its place within national discourses of cultural values and symbolic identity.

Consequently, the concern with creating the national home as a space of symbolic, cultural and psychological significance in Singapore is politically contingent on the promotion of its attendent family and 'Asian' values, which are invariably rooted in what Birch (1994a: 5) calls the "Asianising processes" or postcolonial politics of sovereignty.21 This Asianising process, through the reification of both family values and 'shared Asian values', has impacted on housing policies and urban planning discourses, as well as wider political discourses. With the idea of modernity and modernisation often equated with the 'West', Singapore's mythic civilizational claim to an 'Asian' heritage manifests a reaction against "the fear of losing the spaces" (Birch, 1994a: 11) for self-assertion, cultural determination and political control. This 'fear of losing the spaces' is further compounded in a global era of inexorable technological, information and immigration flows, whereby the increasingly crucial politics of sovereignty at stake for the Singapore government is in controlling, if not preventing, the "space of flows [from] superceding the meaning of the space of places" (Castells, 1989: 348 cited in Birch, 1994a: 10). This spatial 'politics of sovereignty' and identity is indicative of cultural anxiety and not just cultural power. More significantly, it represents part of a broader national issue about political control manifested in the form of the 'values debate' between the so-called 'East and West' quarters amongst political and intellectual circles. Singapore's Prime Minister Goh has taken a de rigueur approach, attempting to defuse the polemical issue by rationalising Singapore's promotion of Asian values as an "internal matter": "We [The government] are not interested in changing the West...We are not criticising the West. All we are saying is that these are negative examples, don't follow them...At the right occasion, I would say these are positive values, and let's follow the positive values" (The Straits Time Weekly, 29 Oct 1994: 1).22 Understanding the Singapore government's active and ambitious production of 'the meaning of the space of places' in relation to the on-going discursive formation of asserting so-called 'Asian values' as an 'internal matter' of sovereignty politics, is to recognise that the urban representations of the Singapore city-state as an 'integral matter' of nation-building is beset with much ambivalence and anxiety. Representations of Singapore in urban planning discourses are therefore necessarily contingent. And having a stake in the space of a place is about discursive strategies such as the promotion of a scopic regime of appearance, which actively create and control 'the meanings of the space of places' conflated with that of national identity - Singapore Our Home. In this repect, is also worth noting that the affective proposition of Singapore as home is not limited to urban representations alone. A specially commissioned cinematic representation tracing Singapore's first 25 years of nationhood launched to commemorate the 1990 National celebrations, was aptly titled 'Homeland'. Even the 1995 National Day theme for Singapore's celebration of its 30 years of independence appeals to a place of identity, as evident in the catch-phrase: "My Singapore, My Home" (The Sunday Times, 15 Jan 1995: 26). In another instance, a recent advertising slogan for the 'Green Life campaign' reads : "Let's look after Singapore. It's the only home we have got". This campaign appeal follows from an earlier speech by Prime Minister Goh made on 4th November 1990 during the inauguration of the annual 'Clean and Green Week', emphasizing the necessity for Singaporeans to: "[r]egard every inch of our country as our home. Extend the cleanliness of our home to the entire country. Apply the same self-imposed standards of tidiness in our home to our environment" (1990a: 10). The metaphor of home at stake in such representations invariably portrays and invests the city-state with emotive meanings of ownership, dwelling, belonging and just as surely, personal bonds of citizenship. That is to say, public spaces are represented as civic spaces of common utility and community usufruct: "We may not have title-deeds to the public areas and the environment, but we do own them as Singaporeans" (Goh, 1990a: 10). In this sense, "the city becomes less like visual incarnations of the disciplining state bent on controlling its citizenry through survelliance and more like comfortable sites of civil society" (Jay, 1993: 126). Creating comfortable sites of civil society, contra the postmodern flaneurs' uncomfortable depiction in their travel writings, is what urban planning, through its representations endeavours to convey and achieve.

The politics of identity at stake in Singapore, and the continued stimulation of affinity invested in urban planning policies and representations necessarily entail the promotion of a scopic regime of appearance that should not be underestimated. To be sure, representations of urban spaces in Singapore are mobilized to service and strengthen the Nation-building rhetoric. To simply treat urban space as the axiomatic space of symptomatic abjection, anonymity, anxiety and alienation ˆ la the postmodern flaneur, and therefore urgently in need of an "aesthetic of cognitive mapping" (Jameson, 1991: 51), overlooks the constructive potential of a space of accumulation, accomodation and association, in short, of identity formation imbricated in 'the nation space at stake'.23 Two passages extracted from The Next Lap (1991: 15/29), highlight the long-term political concern for a 'national unity' in Singapore's spatial economy: "We must invest even more in our people and give them a stake in the common prosperity..." and "We will find ways to give Singaporeans a greater stake in this country". And with 'so much at stake', stimulation is not about disappearance but about keeping up appearances24, genus loci, and about how social space is produced for the practice of citizenship. If identity is intimately inscribed into the "social morphology" (Lefebvre, 1991: 94) of space, then urban space in Singapore as a socially commodified and concrete abstraction "asks for nothing better than to appear" (ibid: 340). The ambivalent meaning of the scopic regime of appearance invoked in Singapore's urban planning discourses, then, remains a pertinent and problematic symbolic articulation, paradoxically representing an aspiration as well as anxiety over the political question of Singaporean national identity.


1. Dennis Haskell's (1991) anthological study of Singaporean poems on the differing perceptions of the Singapore city and its urban developments suggests a prolegomenon where an analysis of spatial representations can be further pursued.

2. The assumption that Singapore is not already a home is significant in that the anxiety that ensues continues to characterize much of the popular and political imagination about identity issues of patriotism and spatial citizenship. For example, columnist Koh Buck Siong asks: "Will patriotism or its lack thereof boil down, like most things in this country, to geographical factors such as the island's small size and its lack of natural resources? Are we too small to feel big?...Has enough been done to foster a sense of loyalty and belonging to this land?" (The Straits Times Weekly, 16 Jul 1994: 11). See also The Straits Times, (9 Aug 1991 section 2) for a special feature on some Singaporean perspectives on the sentiment of 'home' and 'place'.

3. Heng, G. and Devan, J. (1992: 357, no. 1.) argue that "Singapore is never imagined, by its government or citizens, as a 'motherland' or 'mother country' (identifications reserved exclusively for the ancestral countries of origin of Singapore's various racial groups - India, China, etc.)". Therefore, my emphasis here on the distinction between the myths of national homeland and diasporic motherland. However, it should be noted that Singapore was never tabula rasa or terra incognita prior to its founding in 1819 by the British, for it has been recorded that there were some 150 inhabitants on the banks of the Singapore coastline, reportedly of Malay and Chinese heritage. See Law et al (1993: 20). Stuart Hall (1993: 362) in discussing national integration, observed that different settler populations "are not and never will be 'unified' culturally in the old sense, because they are inevitably the products of several interlocking histories and cultures, belonging at the same time to several 'homes' - and thus no one particular home". This view remains one which the Singapore nation-state, through its urban planning discourses, seeks to address by the invention of a distinct Singapore homeland of nativity; in order "that [Singaporeans know and feel] that there can be none other a home than Singapore" (The Straits Times Weekly, 27 May 1995: 15) . See also Chua & Kuo (1991: 1-3).

4. The Land Acquisition Act 1966, Section 5 (1), states that, "Whenever any particular land is needed: (a) for any public purpose; (b) by any person, corporation or statutory board, for any work or an undertaking which, in the opinion of the Minister, is of public benefit or of public utility or in the public interest; or (c) for any residential, commercial or industrial purpose, the President may, by notification published in the Gazette, declare the land to be required for the purpose specified in the notification." See Lim, et al, (1988: 78, no. 9).

5. It was reported that, for the first time in HDB's history, it made a net surplus of $288 million during the 1992/3 financial year, and as at 31 Mar 1993, HDB's assets stood at $36 billion (see The Straits Times, 5 Feb 1994: 25). The word 'tenant' here is used in parenthesis to avoid implying that the citizenry rent rather than own their homes. Public housing and industrial land in Singapore are largely leased at fixed tenure periods (eg. 99 years & 30 years respectively) and not permanently 'owned' in perpetuity (freehold).

6. The Housing Development Board won the World Habitat Award 1992, a prestigious United Nations housing award, for its new town development in Tampines. See Law et al, (1993: 252). In another instance, accolades from The White Paper on International Trade put out by Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry, highlighted "the success of HDB's housing programme, pointing out that 87% of Singaporeans now live in HDB flats and that 82% of the people now owned public housing." The report also singled out Singapore's home ownership and sewage construction, which has outstripped even Japan and the United States for special mention and emulation (see Singapore Bulletin, Jun 1994: 4). The achievements of the HDB have also been the subject of international discussions in fora such as the African Leadership Forum (see The Straits Times, 11 Nov 1993: 25).

7. The response to the HDB sales of tenanted shops has been more than enthusiastic. As of June 1994, the HDB revealed that 90% of its 3465 tenanted shops offered for sale have been taken up. The board had previously announced that it plans to sell 12,000 tenanted shops in six years from 1992 (see The Straits Times, 15 Jun 1994).

8. The vicious cycle that Lefebvre talks about has already spiralled beyond the shores of Singapore. Cash-rich Singaporeans are already ranked as one of the biggest property investors in Britain, New Zealand, China and Australia. In financial year 1992/93, Singaporeans were top real estate investors in Australia, with more than $S500 million invested in commercial and residential properties (see Singapore Magazine, May/Jun, 1994: 10).

9. Since the HDB's income ceiling revision in November 1992 from $S6000 to $S7000, property prices and bank interest rates have continued to rise. Journalist Bertha Henson had proposed that it was time for the HDB to raise again the income ceiling, with a "fuller explanation of how the new ceiling is arrived at", given increased income and property prices (see The Straits Times, 7 Sep 1991: 13). The income ceiling review scheduled for Nov 1994 has since increased the household eligibility by $1000 to the present ceiling. Nevertheless,in terms of class significance and stratification, Chua (1991: 35) argues that the exclusion of high-income households from owning HDB public housing "preserves the social status of this group, symbolically displayed through their private housing", thereby indirectly reinforcing "the normative structure of the developmentalist ideology" of capitalism and its public manifestation as economic rationalism and meritocratic social mobility.

10. Chua Beng Huat (1991: 34) observes that the HDB as a statutory board is formally removed from the political arena, yet is routinely treated as synonymous with the government and public housing flats are equated with 'government housing'. As he continues : "Indeed, the government is not beyond claiming this identity when it is to its political advantage, while simultaneously being able to distance itself from public criticisms and dissatisfactions with the HDB". Recently, in emphasising the importance of Singapore's urban culture, Minister George Yeo referred to Singapore's ruling party (People's Action Party) to be an "urban political party" "from the very beginning" . He stressed that Singapore's urban culture had to be built both "bottom-up" and top-down": "By bottom-up, I mean, whatever happens, keeping the family strong and not allowing it to be undermined by misguided social policies...By top-down, I am referring to urban government and politics, the way we achieve social concensus and effective administration" (The Straits Times Weekly, 27 May, 1995: 3).

11. Singapore journalist Zuraidah Ibrahim (The Sunday Times, 13 Feb 1994) in an article "More needs to be done to promote ethnic ties", reviewing the study carried out by Ooi et al. (1993), emphasizes this point clearly: "It is true that the Government cannot force the people to interact if they do not wish to. But in a society where most changes tend to be brought about by the Government, there is a need for it to act even more concertedly to foster ethnic ties. It can set the tone and enlarge the space for multiracial interaction...The consequence of having ethnic ties that are shallow might not seem to matter now when everything is hunky-dory. In a crisis though, it may prove disastrous. Singaporeans must go beyond the superficial". Another journalist Chua Huck Cheng recently voiced the concern of "superficial contact, no deep communion" in multiracial interaction within Singapore's 'Special Assistance Plan' schools (The Straits Times, 13 May 1995: 11). An earlier report in The Straits Times, (17 Feb 1989: 1) quotes the Minister for National Development, S. Dhanabalan as saying: "Mixing the various communities in proportions that approximate to the general population has given us racial tolerance and harmony for more than 20 years". The government's concern with racial representation is not limited to public housing. In fact, the Group Representation Constituencies (GRC) Bill electoral zoning system was introduced by Parliament in Nov 1987 to ensure minority representation in any electoral zone, and is symptomatic of yet another ideologically significant policy space. However, this policy space is not immune to criticisms of gerrymandering. See also Lefebvre (1991: 33/317) on space of representation, spatial practice and spatial zoning.

12. These public housing policies are socially significant and need to be viewed against the background of the following government pro-family initiatives:

a. The promotion of the Social Development Unit (SDU), Social Development Section (SDS) and Social Promotion Section (SPS) - government match-making bodies inaugurated in 1985 - to encourage more single Singaporeans to marry.

b. The recent setting up of a $S1 million fund in 1994 to help finance projects that further the five officially-sanctioned family core values of love, care and concern, mutual respect, filial responsibility, commitment and communication. Community and voluntary bodies and even commercial organisations with suitable projects to promote the five core values have been encouraged to apply for grants to help finance them.

c. The recent 1994 parliamentary tabling of the Maintenance of Parents Bill which makes it legally obligatory for (unfilial) children to provide financial support for their elderly parents; this policy was first mooted as far back as 1981 (see Chua, 1982: 331). The rationale and necessity for such a Bill is tersely revealed in the comments by a community leader: "[W]e do not live in an ideal environment and have no choice but to resort to the law to compel such unfilial children to look after their parents" ( The Straits Times Weekly, 1 Oct 1994: 3).

d. The continuing explicit discriminatory practice of not allowing medical benefits for families of female civil servants, with the official reason being that to do otherwise would alter the balance of responsibility between man and woman in the Singapore family - "we should be careful not to pursue doctrinaire symmetry in the roles of the two sexes" and "[m]any Western Countries have throuch unwise social and welfare policies, unintentionally and irreversibly undermined the basic family unit of husband, wife and children", as the Minister of Finance, Dr Richard Hu puts it (The Straits Times, 19 Nov 1993). Needless to say, the link between family structure and extending medical benefits to a female civil servant's family is a tenuous and arbitrary one at that, and has been strongly criticised in the print media by women groups, but to little avail till date. On its part, the government maintains that it recognises the role of women in Singapore society and has cited revisions in income tax policies and tough punitive measures against wife abusers, as cases in point. Nevertheless, criticisms of "sexual apartheid" abound where women's rights are alleged to be treated as if they were privileges rather than rights (see Chee, 1994: 151).

Some critics such as Devo (1989: 185/6) and Chua (1985: 35; 1991: 37) argue that the pro-family policies and preachments of the Singapore government reduce the government's share of social welfare assistance and responsibilities, especially in times of unemployment and recessionary periods, thereby re-channeling resources and reserves towards economic growth. The provision of social welfare thus becomes largely a domestic and private affair falling within the purview of family and voluntary associations and not the direct responsibility or obligatory social contract of the state.

13. The scheme introduced in Oct 1991 allows those at least 35 years old to be sole purchasers of three room or smaller HDB resale flat in the open market. However, the resale must be in housing estates outside the central and urban areas. The Joint Single Scheme introduced in Aug 1990 allows two single persons of at least 35 years old to own or rent a HDB flat.

14. The Concept Plan, unlike the Master Plan which came into legal operation in 1960, has no statutory status and serves only as an advisory plan to guide and regulate development. The proposals of the Concept Plan form the basis for the review of the Master Plan, which is revised at least once every five years. See Lim et al . (1988: 78/80).

15. Victor Savage (1992: 211) refers to the plugging of Singapore's economy into the regional and global nexus, an "ecological reality" which creates and maximises the potential of what Minister George Yeo calls a "multidimensional space", in view of Singapore's spatial limitations and lack of a territorial hinterland. As Yeo continues: "We need political space to live in peace and to do business. We need economic space for Singaporean capital to move overseas since we are short of land and manpower here. We need military space to train the SAF. We need space for recreation and so on" (The Straits Times, 9 Feb 1990: 20).

16. See Briffett (1993) for action proposals in environmental development and conservation.

17. Singapore's 14 major attractions drew 11.6 million visitors in 1993 or 13.1% more than in 1992, while themeparks and attractions in Asia drew just 2% more visitors in 1993. With more themeparks in the offering, like Asia's first Virtual Reality themepark, Fantasy Island Water themepark, Volcano themepark, Singapore's Minister of State (Trade & Communications), Goh Chee Wee is reported to have noted "that these developments were as important to Singaporeans as they were for tourists" (see The Straits Times Weekly, 1 Oct 1994: 6/20).

18. The Esplanade, a National Arts Centre, will be built by the year 2000 to signify the confluence of tradition and modernity, and has been described by the President of the Singapore Arts Centre Company as follows: "It will be like opening a jewellery box...The Esplanade will be like a bracelet sitting on the waterfront". The vision statement released in 1993 said that "it will be among the first of a generation of new centres in Asia ushering in the new Asian renaissance" (Singapore Magazine, Sep/Oct 1991: 7). On the jewellery metaphor, it is interesting to marry the above remark to the speech given by the then Minister of State (Finance & Foreign Affairs), George Yeo (1989: 86) on the Singapore economy: "Singapore will become quite a splendid city in five to ten years. It is a gem we must polish and re-polish constantly because it is the only one we have". In a recent speech, Minister Yeo described The Esplanade not as an entertainment complex, but as a "cultural temple" expressing Singapore's spirit as a people, forming an integral part of an overall effort to strengthen Singapore's naiotnal culture (The Straits Times , 27 May, 1995: 3).

19. See Yao's (1994: 261) critique of "the fallacy of rationality" in urban planning: "The liberal ethos and belief in rational discourse through community participation makes urban planning an interesting object of its own theoretical gazing".

20. See Chua & Edwards (1992) for an interdisciplinary analysis of Singapore's public spaces. Issues of ownership, access, distribution, underpinning the political and social dimension of space utilisation, foregrounding the ambiguity and problematic dichotomy between the private and public spatial distinctions which often lead to the tensions of what Lefebvre calls "contradictory spaces" between "dominated and appropriated spaces" , lay at the heart of their concerns. See Lefebvre (1991: 362): "the 'private realm' asserts itself, albeit more or less vigorously, and always in a conflictual way, against the public one". See also Lyotard (1989: 19): "Public space is transformed into a market of cultural commodities".

21. See Lefebvre (1991: 279/80) for a discussion of Sovereignty and its implication of space.

22. For accounts of the East-West values and democracy debate see Chan (1993), Lee (1993a) and Chee 1994). See also The Straits Times Weekly, (22 Oct 1994: 14/15) for commentary reports on the East-West debate and the so-called 'Singapore School of Thought'.

23. Chua Beng Huat, a Singapore sociologist, puts it this way : "Singaporeans are culturally conservative and they are prepared to put up with strict laws as the price, for say, having streets free of graffitti and litter...We live on a small island and feel we all share the same destiny, it is easier for the government to sell a communitarian line than it would be in Australia" ( The West Australian , 18 Mar 1994) .

24. On the subject of 'keeping up appearances', Birch's (1993: 112) adroit and anecdotal analysis of the connection between the rulers and politicians in most societies today and the "long gone practice of Hindu Rajas and Mongol Emperors processing once a year before the public, starked naked, and maintaining an erected penis throughout" makes for interesting and insightful reading. See also Lefebvre (1991) for an account of keeping up appearances and space: "the phallic realm of (supposed) virility" (147), "Phallic erectility bestows a special status on the perpendicular, proclaiming phallocracy as the orientation of space" (286/7) and "Abstract space is doubly castrating: it isolates the phallus, projecting into a realm outside the body, then fixes it in space (verticality) and brings it under the surveillance of the eyes" (310). This gendered idea of urban appearance can be related metaphorically to analyse Singapore's urban planning representations of its 'spectacular' skyline. It is also interesting to note Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew's recent comments about the HDB upgrading programme: "Over the next 10 to 20 years, we will make sure that there are no eyesores in Singapore, no dilapidated housing estates growing into slum and ghettos" (The Straits Times Weekly, 6 May 1995: 4).

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