As he wants Cebu City to achieve a “Singapore-like” progress, Mayor Michael Rama somewhat has extended a laurel of peace to his political opponents when he called for unity.
This as the mayor, now on his third non-consecutive term, said in his inaugural speech on Thursday, June 30, 2022, that he was aiming to transform the city to become “clean, green, orderly and disciplined.”
Sounds like Singapore indeed.
Attaining a Singapore-like status could be done if Cebu City is united, which could mean no more obstruction at the City Council if Rama’s administration and his allies propose certain projects that they deem beneficial for the residents.
Rama’s call certainly echoed that campaign battlecry of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
As for Singapore, the city-state was struggling in the 1960s with “limited resources, a small domestic market, and high unemployment. Living standards were low, with most residents living in crowded, unsanitary slums,” according to a 2016 World Bank article. But now, the city-state is a different picture: it is a success story–a “result of an innovative and carefully executed vision that looks at all aspects of urban development in a cohesive way. Singaporean leaders and urban planners have integrated land use, housing, transport, and natural resources management into one coherent, long-term strategy so they can work in sync and reinforce each other.”
The Singaporean economic miracle was engineered by Lee Kuan Yew, the city-state’s first prime minister, serving between 1959 and 1990.
A 1988 essay by American environmental scientist Donella Meadows is titled “Singapore leads the good life under a benevolent dictator.” The “benevolent dictator” is, of course, Prime Minister Lee, who died in 2015. Meadows, also an educator, wrote: “Singapore just doesn’t fit the world’s categories. It’s a dictatorship with free speech, no fear, and no corruption. It’s an economy that uses capitalist means to attain socialist ends. Singapore University scholars call it a “meritocratic, elitist, Confucianist, bureaucratic state.”
Some of the details shared by Meadows in her essay were about workers being required by Singapore to save 25 percent of their salaries. “Their employers match that amount (after the recession of 1985, the employers’ share was cut to 10 percent). The workers can claim the money only after the age of 55. This enormous forced savings rate is one of the secrets of Singapore’s incredible economic growth. The money goes into a Central Provident Fund, with which the government builds roads, schools, hospitals, and especially housing.”
Rama’s talk about achieving Singapore-like status was full of optimism. He said it is not far-fetched as President Marcos Jr., Vice President Sara Duterte and the incoming leaders of Congress are all his allies.
The mayor’s aim is noble. Residents must support his administration’s projects as long as they can benefit from them but they must not be content with dole outs. Residents must demand projects and services that can bring good to them in the long term.
The mayor must also be reminded that uniting for Cebu City’s progress does not mean the City Council must act like a rubber-stamp body for his projects. Councilor Nestor Archival is right when he said the opposition councilors would support Rama’s programs that they see as beneficial for their constituency; however, he said the opposition councilors will continue serving as fiscalizers—they will continue to check if the programs carry disadvantages to the city and its people.
To reach Rama’s Singapore-like dream, the city does need the voices of fiscalizers in the City Council and all city leaders must put the public interest above themselves—they must heed Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, who said they must be faithful to God and people. No hidden agendas.
Editorial Art by John Gilbert Manantan
July 01, 2022
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