A Singaporean politician Kenneth Jeyaretnam once said: “If George Orwell and Philip Dick had an illegitimate child of a theme park, then this would be Singapore” (Huffingtonpost). As a politician defending privatisation of public assets, this allegory may have different connotations, but it has a point in terms of high level of control of mediation in daily life.
Public Housing Estate in Bishan
Singapore is an interesting city-state with its high-rise housing developments. Most of the population live in housing estates built by the state, and most of them are home-owners. These estates form self-sufficient towns providing services and facilities within their confines. Housing developments in Singapore are famous with successful applications of public housing in term of provision and quality, while being infamous with control over the daily life of the residents through these.
Housing Development Board (HDB) exercises control over every aspect of the system, not only building and selling apartments, but acting as a mortgage lender. The agency can also operate as an arm of the police. According to Phang, the HDB has the power to withhold keys from residents with unpaid parking tickets, and to evict those convicted of more serious offenses. (Miller)
It is not just the practice of HDB, but strict laws control or mediate, everyday life in Singapore; even the chewing gum:
The Economist assesses Singapore, where the PAP has run the show for more than half a century, as a “flawed democracy”. The degree of state power that has enabled such extensive and rapidly executed feats of urban planning has also led to policies that appear to the rest of the world as draconian, such as corporal punishment for acts of vandalism, a ban on the importation of chewing gum, urine detectors installed in elevators, and expression-limiting laws of the kind that put Amos Yee on trial. (Guardian)
But, not all public housing estates are equal. Executive Condominiums are built as a superior form of housing estates developed by the public sector. They are enclosed within a gated area with security and exclusive amenities. They are pretty much like private condos.
Visual from an add for a private condo Sturdee Residences
Glasear, who is working on private cities in US, explicit about his admiration of Singapore case: “Singapore is close to the ideal model of land-use planning in the 21st century” (Guardian).
While being far from in agreement with him, I think, we should ask if we want to live in such an ‘ideal’ world ?