Sunday, 4 July 2010

Strong RP civil society the envy of Singapore

By DJ Yap
Philippine Daily Inquirer
http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view/20100701-278546/Strong-RP-civil-society-the-envy-of-Singapore

SINGAPORE—If there was something ultra-rich Singapore could learn from the still-developing Philippines, it would be how to have a more engaged civil society, a Singapore official here said.

Lionel Yeo, chief executive officer and dean of Singapore’s Civil Service College, praised the Philippines for having such a strong civil society that had taken on some roles traditionally assumed by government.

“When I visited Manila a few years ago, I was struck by the strength of its civil society,” Yeo said in response to a question about the ideal division of roles between government and private sector to ensure the sustainable future of cities.

On the sidelines of the World Cities Summit at Suntec City here held from June 28-July 1, Yeo spoke before reporters from several Asian countries, including the Philippines.

Social infrastructure

In some governments like Singapore, he said the residents expected the government to take a leadership role in providing what he called “social infrastructure,” which included housing, education and health.

In Singapore, Yeo said all residents enjoyed free basic education and heavily subsidized housing and health care.

But the context is different in other countries, like the Philippines, where the civil society has taken a much more participatory role in such social infrastructure programs.

He cited the “massive programs” of Gawad Kalinga, a nongovernmental organization which constructs low-cost houses for indigent families around the country.

“Personally, I would like to see Singapore have the same kind of active civil society,” Yeo said.

Sharing experiences

The official said the summit sought to be a platform in which local government officials and ministers could share each others’ experiences and best practices in urban management.

The goal, he said, was to replicate some of these practices in other countries, while considering their different histories and contexts.

Yeo admitted that no two cities are the same; thus what worked for one would not necessarily work in another, although by adapting these practices with the city’s profile, they could still be of great help.

The event drew several hundred local executives, academics and policy-makers who came to share and discuss practical and sustainable strategies to respond to the challenges faced by an increasingly urbanized world.

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