Politics — Active Executive Power and Economic Precedence Eased Singaporean’s Stress

How Singapore government changes the passive condition on the political agenda?

Singapore faces a lot of difficulties during its independent governing (mentioned below). It first needed to stabilize social tensions during that era while securing its strength and resources for future development. Most importantly, it needed to bypass the old political agendas by providing a new system which should be less conservative and more immediate with absolute priority.


(fig.1 Singapore’s historical timeline)

Singapore gained independence as a national state in 1965, before that, it was under Britain’s control from 1819 to 1963. Under the leadership of the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) during the colonial era, the ruling party tends to accept the cultural diversity and wealth gap between multi-ethnic. [1] This behavior reflected onto the 1958 Master Plan, resulting in scattered urban fabric belonging to different groups and purpose.


(fig.2 1958’s Master Plan)

Two problems emerged — political instability and urban deterioration. [1] For example, 1,500,000 Singaporeans were facing housing shortage and land decayed into slums. There had social tensions between racial majority and minority groups and crimes due to unemployment [2].


(fig.3  Singapore during the colonial era – Old Chinatown Shophouse (left), Old Fishery Port (right))

New Agenda

When Singapore became an independent state, the new ruling party – People’s Action Party (PAP) determined to develop economic first and other issues (eg. Cultural identity) go secondary. Establishment of CBD zones and an increase in office supplies ensured job supply and promised a living standard. ‘Wealth’ became a national ideology driving Singapore society that changes the passive condition during the colonial era [3]. With this immediate priority, many ignored social tensions and dissatisfactions.

Although PAP didn’t target to fight against crimes and unemployment problems directly, the economic advantages provided capital incentives for other parties to solve those problems accordingly [4]. For example, in ‘Golden Shoe Development Project’, Land Acquisition Act enabled Singapore government compulsory took back fragmented land, which was originally held back by shophouse owners, for economic development. With this political move, slums in the shophouse region are cleared and locals were provided with a job opportunity, silent the excuses for crimes. Accordingly, this active action prepared a healthy environment for the urban renewal development (with the help of Urban Renewal Authority (URA)).


The economic policies secured capital gain while showcasing Singapore ’s ruling skills and administrative power as a new independent state. Singapore’s government prioritized its need by intertwining secondary development with the primary economic functions and political agendas.


1. Robert E. Gamer, “The Politics of Urban Development in Singapore.” Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1972, 5.

2. Robert, “The Politics of Urban Development in Singapore.” 7.

3. Peter Herrle and Stephanus Schmitz, Constructing Identity in Contemporary Architecture: Case Studies from the South (Berlin: Lit, 2009).

4. Martin Perry, Lily Kong, and Brenda Yeoh, Singapore: A Developmental City State (Chichester: Wiley, 1997). 20

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