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Date [ 2014-04-03, 12:13 ]

Sound planning and a humanistic approach has landed this city the impressive prize.

Jingji Lake Central Business District

(Singapore=Koreanpress) Kim Kyoung-Tae =Jiangsu Province, China,has been conferred the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2014.This was for its demonstration ofsound planning principles and good urban management. Despite facing numerouschallenges through China’s rapid industrialisation and urbanisation processes,Suzhou has overcome difficulties through several stages of transformation toachieve remarkable economic prosperity, and the preservation of its celebrated culturaland historic heritage.

The biennial Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize is jointly organised by the UrbanRedevelopment Authority (URA), Singapore’s land-use planning and conservationauthority, and the Centre for Livable Cities, to honour outstanding achievementsand contributions to the creation of livable, vibrant and sustainable urbancommunities around the world.

The award seeks to recognise and celebrate effortsin furthering urban solutions and sustainable urban development.This year’s Prize Laureate was selected from 36 nominated cities, through a rigorous two-tier process comprising a Nominating Committee and a Prize Council.Chairman of the Nominating Committee, Kishore Mahbubani informed, “Suzhou hasalways been one of China’s most beautiful cities.

It could have been destroyed bymodernisation and industrialisation. Instead, Suzhou’s leaders took a holistic approach and sought to achieve the triple goals of economic and social progress as well as the preservation of its significant historical heritage. It has been spectacularlysuccessful in meeting these goals and it richly deserves the Lee Kuan Yew WorldCity Prize.”

Mayor of Suzhou, Zhou Naixiangreplied, “We are honoured to receivethis award. This is an affirmation of our effort in striving for excellence in urbanplanning and development. Winning this award is an enormous encouragement forus to push for more innovative solutions for Suzhou to develop in a sustainable way
while preserving our treasured historic and natural heritage.”

Loh Chin Hua, CEO of Keppel Corporation, while congratulating the Mayor also affirmed the company’s commitment and extension of sponsorship towardsanother five cycles of the Prize from 2020 to 2028.

The winning ingredients of Suzhou

The key to Suzhou’s rise is its strong leadership and good governance in implementinga comprehensive Master Plan to develop the city. It has carried out good urban management practices, such as implementing a balanced and holistic urbandevelopment, achieving economic vitality while ensuring the preservation of itsculture and heritage.

Investments in physical infrastructure are complemented byeffective social integration that has made the cityundergo remarkable transformation over the past two decades. The significance of its transformation lies in the city’s success in meeting the multiplechallenges of achieving economic growth.

This meant creating jobs and a betterstandard of living for its people; while balancing rapid urban growth with the need toprotect its cultural heritage. There was also the issue of coping with a large influx of migrantworkers while maintaininga viable social framework.

Suzhou had initially benefitted from Singapore’s experiences and contributions in the 1990s when it set up its first industrial estate and prepared the master plan of an industrial township and city centre. However, since then, Suzhou has independentlyput in place many initiatives that have propelled the city forward.

Firstly, it has successfully made the transition from an agricultural, manufacturing, export-orientedeconomy to that of an innovative, high-value, service-oriented one. The citycarried out proper planning and made deliberate efforts to invest in physicalinfrastructure to support its economic objectives.

Coupled with a combination ofinnovative incentives and international marketing, the city has attracted keybusinesses from around the world to take up residence in the Suzhou Industrial Parkand Jinji Lake Central Business District. The citycontinues to invest in needed infrastructure even as it expands. A new Metro system will now serve the whole city and link its core with key industrial zonesand other new development areas.

Second, Suzhou recognised the importance of cultural conservation on a citywidelevel, even as the drive for modernisation gained momentum. In order tomaintain and preserve Suzhou’s old city which comprised its historical and culturalcore, Suzhou redirected urban growth pressures to a new Central Business District,a mixed-use centre reflective of 21st century norms.

At the same time, the city continued toinvest in its rich heritage, making it come alive for residents, small businesses, andtourists. The UNESCO-designated regions, such as the PingjiangHistoric District, are being preserved while continuing to serve asattractive neighbourhoods for its residents.

In its development of specific projects, Suzhou should be commended for continuousenhancement of the living environment. The Stone Lake Scenic District project is one such example. This district demonstrated Suzhou’s innovativesocial policies in the re-settlement of rural farmers to urban areas.

Pig farming activities were relocated as these were contaminating the existing lake.The farmers were resettled in a short span of four months by utilising the innovative‘1-for-3’ relocation housing policy.

Here farmers were offered three units of urbanhousing in exchange for their one unit of farm residence. They are thus able to enjoy thefirst unit for themselves, the second unit for family members, and the third unit asincome property. The city protected and made more accessible their water-richlandscape which is consistent with the Chinese value of ‘water’ forming linkages andconnections between water and settlements.

Third, a significant achievement of Suzhou is its inclusionary policies in thetreatment of migrant workers. Faced with a surge of these workers flocking to thecity for jobs, Suzhou’s economic growth is complemented by innovative socialpolicies that advance community integration.

Migrant workers are given equalopportunities to access health and education benefits as the local residents. Thesepolicies have facilitated the integration of workers into the city and brought aboutgreater social stability.

Throughout the period of continuing rapid growth, Suzhou has maintained its specificand distinctive local identity and culture, creating a high quality of life for its residentsand workers and attracting tourists to share in its past and future.

However, in viewof the rapid pace of development, it is noted that more attention could be given to theurban design of the city to guide individual development projects. In addition, qualityarchitecture and more appropriate form massing of suitable human scale should beencouraged.

On the whole, the city leaders of Suzhou have demonstrated strong leadership andcommitment to develop the city, guided by good governance and structuredprocesses. The clearly articulated long-term vision and planning approach thatSuzhou has put in place, combined with competent leadership and strong politicalsupport, have enabled the city to tackle urban challenges effectively. Suzhouprovides many good lessons for the many rapidly urbanising cities in China as wellas in other developing nations.

john@koreanpress.net

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