By Romesh Navaratnarajah: Despite Singapore's dense population, the government has been working hard to enhance the country's liveability standards so that it can be recognised as "one of the jewels in the tropics", said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
"Our efforts to make Singapore our best home never end. We have a population which is growing and is now more exposed to beautiful cities elsewhere. Our expectations are higher and there are more interests to balance."
He made these remarks during the combined opening ceremonies of three major global events – the inaugural CleanEnviro Summit Singapore, the third World Cities Summit and the fifth Singapore International Water Week, held simultaneously at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.
According to PM Lee, transforming a city requires long-term planning, careful execution, disciplined implementation and enforcement.
"It's easy to sacrifice long-term environmental or urban planning objectives for short-term advantage," he said, but it was difficult to get political support for the right policies.
"Enforcing planning norms is not easy, acting against polluters is equally hard, and pricing resources like water and electricity which affect the lives of millions of people is even harder."
He also highlighted the government's efforts to transform Singapore over the decades, which included building and upgrading housing estates, integrating more green spaces and providing better public transport links.
Meanwhile, there are on-going measures to strengthen the country's social fabric.
"Integrating Singaporeans and newly arrived immigrants and foreign workers, preserving ethnic harmony and building a more compassionate society. This is what we have to do to make Singapore the best home for us all," Mr Lee said.
"This is what we will do year after year, continuing to improve as we raise our standards step by step."
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