City planners now listen to what dwellers have to say

City planners now listen to what dwellers have to say
The city of one million had an unemployment rate of 9.6 per cent three years ago that has dropped to 4 per cent, thanks to the city's ability to spruce up its services and attract new business and talent.

SINGAPORE - It may be ironic but city planners traditionally do not place great importance on how city dwellers feel about their surroundings. That bias is slowly, but surely, shifting, thinkers and industry leaders noted at the World Cities Summit yesterday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the summit, Mr Pang Yee Ean, 45, the chief executive of home- grown construction consultancy Surbana International Consultants, told The Straits Times: "Countries in general have evolved such that their peoples now have more power and more channels to speak up. They can even form interest groups to influence government."

Governments that ignore those voices stand to lose talent, that can choose to move away.

At the summit's closing plenary session yesterday, Senior Minister of State for National Development Lee Yi Shyan noted how effective leadership is more complex in a fast-changing, digitised and global world, amid rising expectations from a public with easy access to information.

"Fortunately, a digitised society can also present itself a ready platform for active citizenry and citizen engagement," he said.

Governments hence "need not be the sole solution provider, and neither can it", as ordinary citizens and the private sector can help devise solutions for their cities' problems. And there are problems aplenty, thinkers at the summit noted, with cities mushrooming more rapidly than at any other time in history, and the world's 3.5 billion city dwellers polluting and heating the planet.

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