The merits of an unfinished city

From being most liveable to being most future-ready, Singapore has been making it into the Top Ten lists of the world's exemplary cities regularly in recent years.

"That is quite amazing in a world with so many large rich countries," says sociologist Saskia Sassen, 64, who is one of the foremost scholars of globalisation, and who famously coined the term "global city".

Singapore is right up there with London, New York and Tokyo because it has all the infrastructure that global firms and households want, from well-built environments to a respected legal system, she says in an e-mail interview ahead of her visit here on Thursday to speak at, among others, the Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) Centre for Innovative Cities.

"Crucially," she notes, "Singapore is a space with many global intersections, you never know who you might run into there."

To her, a global city is one which allows the world's capitalists - bankers, brokers or businessmen - to tap the wealth of a country for profits which they can then use to further their ambitions globally.

Many have credited Singapore's ability to become a global city in less than 50 years to city planners' attention to details.

Indeed, as former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew revealed in an interview reprinted in this newspaper last Saturday, he and his colleagues made sure that living here was as convenient, clean, incorruptible, all-inclusive and green as possible.

What matters most, according to Prof Sassen, is that Singapore is a "working state that ensures widespread prosperity" by "ensuring a large modest middle class and a large business sector of medium-sized modest profit-making firms".

That approach is "the best formula" for a balanced, generally prosperous economy.

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