Partners in success: Singapore and Brisbane share high-growth urbanomic model

Partners in success: Singapore and Brisbane share high-growth urbanomic model
Above: Graham Quirk, the Lord Mayor of Brisbane (R), with a guest

As a keystone city in Asia, Singapore has been an important contributor to Brisbane's Asia Pacific Cities Summit (APCS), helping to build and benefit from profitable links between Asia's most dynamic cities, says Graham Quirk, the Lord Mayor of Brisbane.

The Asia Pacific Cities Summit (APCS) is an initiative of Brisbane City Council and a pivotal part of our engagement throughout the Asia Pacific and beyond. The 2013 APCS, held last month in Kaohsiung, brought together representatives from more than 100 cities to discuss a theme of particular relevance to Singapore: urbanomics, the means by which cities achieve sustainable growth in an increasingly urban world.

For three days, over 1,000 government and business leaders and young professionals shared their insights into how cities can be shaped to benefit from globalization and drive national economic growth. We explored the roles of business and commerce, trade, innovation, and entrepreneurship. We agreed on the need to build greener and smarter cities to attract investment and enhance living standards and we emphasized careful planning and strong partnerships between city governments, civil society, and the private sector as the building blocks of success.

Singapore is a keystone city in Asia and an important partner of Brisbane, which initiated the APCS in 1996, to help develop a network of strong city-driven economies for our high-growth region.

Singapore and Queensland enjoy a strong relationship. Two-way merchandise trade was valued at more than AUD$2.5 billion in the 2011-2012 year. Our region also presents solid investment and business opportunities for Singaporean companies, such as United Overseas Bank (UOB), which opened an office in Brisbane earlier this year. Furthermore, Queensland is an increasingly popular holiday destination for Singaporeans, with visitor numbers rising 25 percent in 2012.

Singapore is a model of successful urbanomics: one of Asia's most powerful economies with a resilience and prosperity that is esteemed worldwide. As a city state, Singapore is a special case, but it shows what a city can achieve by prioritizing growth and marketing itself well.

At the same time, though, Singapore can benefit from doing business with and learning from other cities in the Asia Pacific Cities Summit network.

Crafting our plans together

From my discussions with the Dr Teo Ho Pin, Mayor of Northwest Singapore in Kaohsiung, and my many interactions with government and business leaders from Singapore over the years, it is clear that our cities share a similar approach. Singapore is a model for urbanomic development in several areas that Brisbane is also prioritizing.

Like Singapore, Brisbane is developing as a transport hub, particularly to support fly-in-fly-out commuters, and investing heavily in the arts and cultural facilities to enhance our economy and our liveability. We are also strengthening our capabilities to serve the international student market and seeking new ways to attract and retain the highly skilled workers we need to support our growing knowledge economy.

Singapore also provides us with an example of a city that has successfully developed as a regional hub of technology, innovation, and venture capital. For our part, Brisbane was the second city in the world to appoint a Chief Digital Officer, after New York, and the first to undertake a full digital audit. As a result, we have now launched a Digital Brisbane strategy to advance our digital economy by mobilizing talent right across our community: from schools to start-ups, civic leaders, small businesses, and multinational corporations.

In a similar way, Brisbane widely consulted the business community in 2011 in order to identify opportunities and challenges ahead, gaining high-level input from more than 200 companies. This helped us develop our comprehensive Brisbane Economic Development Plan, which sets growth priorities to 2031 and beyond.

We believe that a city can best create prosperity by building on its unique strengths and this is a message we want to share with our diverse neighbours across Asia Pacific.

During the APCS 2013, I was privileged to be able to introduce members of my delegation to Mayor Teo Ho Pin of Northwest Singapore. Mayor Teo was particularly interested in how Brisbane engages young people in civic affairs and on the City Council. Two of my cabinet members are aged under 30 and we have made a real effort to value and include young people in our decision-making through social media and face-to-face discussion groups. For example, we currently have a Young People Brisbane Pinterest site to which anyone can pin content. We are also actively eliciting comments on a draft strategy we released earlier this year outlining what the Council will do over the next five years to support those aged 12 to 25 who live, work, visit and study in Brisbane. An integral part of the APCS is the Young Professionals Program, which attracted over 100 young professionals from the Asia Pacific this year. This program is testament to Brisbane's commitment to recognising, fostering and growing young talent and will play a considerable role in the 2015 APCS in Brisbane.

Another key area for Brisbane is in building stronger relationships with Asia. The Asia Pacific Cities Summit is an example of our commitment to strengthening business and cultural links with our wider region. Over the past 17 years, the biennial Summit has been held in Brisbane, Incheon, Chongqing, and Seattle, as well as Kaohsiung. It will return to Brisbane on July 8-10, 2015.

The 2015 Summit will be a forum for Singapore's government leaders to build economic, cultural, and civic ties with other cities and address regional issues. It will also be a unique opportunity for businesses from Singapore to network with a range of public and private enterprises and city leaders from across Asia Pacific. Singapore's strengths in healthcare, infrastructure, and education will be of particular interest.

On behalf of Brisbane's friendly and culturally diverse population of more than 2 million, I encourage the businesses and civic leaders of Singapore to join us in Brisbane at the 2015 Asia Pacific Cities Summit and help us together build better cities, better connections and a brighter future.

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