Infrastructure for a Resilient Economy

By Er. Dr. Ang Choon Keat
Managing Director
Prostruct Consulting Pte Ltd

Manmade and natural disasters can cause serious damages and disruption to infrastructures and businesses.

The Oklahoma City Bombing on 19 April 1995 led to the progressive collapse of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building (Linenthal, 2020) and subsequent cessation of all operations. The explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate at the port of Beirut, Lebanon on 4 Aug 2020 killed at least 160, wounded 6,000 and displaced 300,000 people from their homes (Reid, 2020). Buildings in a 10 km radius were reported to be damaged (Balkiz, Qiblawi, & Wedeman, 2020). The recent COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions to businesses and the way we work, live and play.

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Kiat has highlighted the importance of a resilient economy in the post COVID-19 world (The Straits Times, 2020). All businesses should consider the resilience of their infrastructure and incorporate the relevant physical measures and institute operational preparedness, to mitigate against possible disruptions to ensure business continuity.

What is Infrastructure Resilience?
The National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) in the United States defines Infrastructure Resilience as the ability to reduce the magnitude and/or duration of disruptive events. The effectiveness of a resilient infrastructure or enterprise depends upon its ability to anticipate, absorb, adapt to, and/or rapidly recover from a potentially disruptive event. Similarly, the Resilient Design Institute defines Resilience as the capacity to adapt to changing conditions and to maintain or regain functionality and vitality in the face of stress or disturbance.  It is the capacity to bounce back after a disturbance or interruption.

For example, the England Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response (EPRR) Framework (2015) outlines the requirements for the National Health Service (NHS) to prepare for emergencies, to have flexible arrangements which can be scalable and adaptable to work in a wide range of scenarios. EPRR aims to ensure that plans are in place to ensure resilience, allowing the community, services, area or infrastructure to detect, prevent, withstand, handle and recover from disruptive challenges (NHS England National EPRR Unit, 2015).

Achieving Infrastructure Resilience
The National Institute of Building Science (2018) in the United States presented four Infrastructure Resilience principles to minimize the disruption to building operations caused by any undesired event and the time taken to return to 100% operability:

Robustness – The ability to maintain critical operations and functions in the face of crisis. The building, its critical and supporting systems can be designed to minimize disruptions.

Redundancy – Backup capabilities are able to provide critical functions when primary sources have failed, reducing the down time of critical functions and their impact to building operations.

Resourcefulness – The ability to prepare for, respond to and manage an ongoing crisis or disruption. It includes effective communication of decisions made, business continuity planning, supply chain management, security and resilience management systems. These contingency measures are to prioritize courses of action to control and mitigate damage and should be adaptable to ensure effectiveness in various scenarios.

Recovery – The ability to return to normal operations as quickly and efficiently as possible after a disruption through the deployment of the right resources to the right places.

The United States National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP): Partnering for Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience (NIPP, 2013) provides guidance to the critical infrastructure community to build and sustain critical infrastructure security and resilience to manage risks. The United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA 452) offers a similar framework. The following methodology was referenced from these frameworks (refer to Figure 1).

Figure 1: Risk Management Process

Set Goals and Objectives of Infrastructure Resilience – Establish objectives and priorities for critical infrastructure that are tailored and scaled to their available resources, operational and risk environments.

Identify Critical Assets – Establish and identify the assets, systems, and networks that are essential to the continued operation, considering associated dependencies and interdependencies.

Assess and Analyse Risks – Risk assessments are conducted to facilitate the owner in decision making.

Implement Risk Management Activities – Implement measures that minimize disruption to operations and reduce time required to return to normal operations.

Loss mitigation and business continuity under disruption are key considerations in Physical Security and Bio-Security and this framework could help in the planning and design for infrastructure resilience.

Infrastructure Resilience: Physical Security
The threat of terrorism to our security remains high. As the current COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the world causing social and economic fallout, security experts are wary of a resurgent and revamped form of terrorism found on extremism and assisted by online connectivity. The resilience of infrastructure against physical security threats can be examined using the Infrastructure Resilience Principles, and the Risk Management framework could be used to develop strategies to frustrate and disrupt an adversarial attack. The infrastructure and its critical and supporting systems could be designed for robustness to minimize disruptions in the event of a terror attack. Backup of the critical functions could be provided for redundancy. Business continuity planning, security and resilience management systems could be developed to prioritize courses of action to control and mitigate damage and ensure effectiveness in various scenarios including terror attack. The infrastructure could also be designed for optimal recovery and return to normal operations as quickly and efficiently as possible after a terror attack. These principles are frequently applied in the Risk Management methodology and further developed into an infrastructure resilience strategy. An example is the following 5 layered strategy deployed to provide a robust prevention and protection system against terror threats (NIAC,2009) (MHA, 2018):

Deter – Deterrence aims to prevent a potential disruption by turning the infrastructure or facility into an undesirable target. It can be achieved via facility design, rules and protocols that prohibit undesired activities or encourage desired practices and awareness.

Detect – Early detection of potential disruption alerts stakeholders, giving them more time to better respond to the disruption.

Delay – This layer aims to slow down the progress of disruption by using obstacles. Stakeholders can use the additional time to better respond to the disruption.

Deny – By creating separate zones within the building, exposure of critical portions of the building to disruption would be reduced.

Defend – This layer focuses on reducing the damage or impact to operations if disruptive incidents occur. It can be achieved by purposeful design of infrastructure and holistic management plans to deal with the crisis.

Figure 2: Protection Plan

Figure 2 above illustrates the Physical Security measures and technologies which can be utilized to achieve these Physical Security principles. First, deterrence via the various security and protection measures is used to discourage any attempt of an attack by emphasizing on the likelihood of failure and capture. It is a psychological battle to ensure that some intended criminal activities never start. Effectiveness of security measures can also be amplified through signages and messages.

Entry into the controlled zone would be denied to unauthorized personnel at security checkpoints. Anti-climb fences, vehicle barriers and bollards are implemented to deny and delay any attempt to enter the controlled zone.

Figure 3: Security Bollards

CCTV systems, intrusion detection systems, electronic access control systems are typical detection systems that alert security forces of any breach of security. The asset can be further defended by hardening the critical sections of the building.

A straightforward method of hardening is to increase the physical size and / or reinforcement details of structural components to improve the resistance against threats such as explosions and blast loads. Alternatively, structural components can also be strengthened by other means such as Fibre Reinforced Polymer composites or steel jacketing. Openings such as doors, windows, louvres etc can also be installed with blast rated protections.

Even with the implementation of prevention and protection measures, it is still possible that the attack was successful at damaging the asset, causing disruption to building operations.

With backup assets and resources, single points of failure can be prevented. The contingency plans enacted during peacetime would facilitate the takeover of critical functions within a short timeframe, returning operations to normal levels.

To mitigate the weaknesses of Physical Security measures and design, there is a need to have an adequate number of personnel with the right competencies to ensure effective security & resilience operations during crisis – including proper response to crimes and terrorist attacks. Depending on the nature of threats, additional external response may be required to mitigate the threats. Resources, standard operating procedures and communication channels should be in place beforehand such that the response can be initiated immediately.

Infrastructure Resilience: Bio-Security
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for the world. Some organisations have realised their lack of Infrastructure Resilience in the face of the pandemic. Significant outbreaks of disease / biological threats can threaten lives and cause disruption to infrastructure and the businesses. This is true regardless of the origin of the outbreak:


  • Pandemic Influenza
  • Emerging infectious diseases


  • Accidental release from scientific or industrial facilities
  • Deliberate biological attack

The UK Biological Security Strategy (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs et al., 2018) provides four pillars in response to biological threats: Understand, Prevent, Detect and Respond. These pillars can be adapted for Infrastructure Resilience.

Understand – Understand the risks of ongoing or possible future biological threats.

Prevent – Prevent the spread of the pathogen through design of the building

Detect – Ability to identify biological threats or carriers through the use of detection systems and tests.

Respond – Reduce the impact of biological threats and enable rapid recovery to normal operations.

Regardless of whether it is ongoing or future biological threats, understanding the threats in areas such as typical transmission methods, symptoms, signs of contamination etc. is crucial for the selection of effective prevention, detection and response methods.

Prevention of the spread of biological threats can be considered during the building’s design phase. Ventilation systems of various sections of the building can be isolated to deny the travel of air borne pathogens from one part of the building to another. Positive pressure rooms prevent outside air from entering, denying entry of the pathogen.

Protective design with isolation of special-use spaces through layout and ventilation system planning can further limit the impact of contaminants in vulnerable spaces on the rest of the building, thereby reducing exposure to the bulk of the building occupants (Persily et al., 2007).

Detection of biological threats before it enters a building can be done via sensing technologies and procedures. Sensors can be deployed at entry points to detect signs of biological threats or symptoms of carriers, preventing possible spread and disruption to operations. Temperature sensors for COVID-19 are examples of sensors that can be implemented quickly during a crisis.

Figure 4: Temperature Screening at Entry Points for COVID-19

The most critical response during an ongoing biological threat incident is to have effective and proportionate strategies to decontaminate any area, to allow a return to normal as soon as possible. Implementation of contingency measures such as staggering of work, meal times, and physical distancing etc. at the workplace combined with wearing of masks can aid in delaying the spread of some pathogen.

Besides the impact to occupants, biological threats may impact the operations of the supply chain, leading to disruptions downstream. Buildings that are able to manage supply chain issues during lock down by implementing business continuity measures and securing alternative sources of supply would be able to quickly recover from the initial disruption. Appropriate stockpiling of resources and material during peace time is crucial to provide effective recovery against a wide range of potential scenarios.

Redundancy of personnel can be achieved with split team arrangements as they prevent the spread of pathogens across teams, with each team acting as the respective backup of the other. Telecommuting can be implemented to restore operations in a lockdown, allowing for the rapid recovery of normal operations for certain services and industries.

Figure 5: Telecommuting (Rawson, 2019)


The Infrastructure Resilience Principles and Risk Management framework presented here provide building owners, security designers, engineers and architects with a structured approach to planning and designing for Infrastructure Resilience. Effective strategies can be developed to minimise disruption to operations and ensure business continuity, for example, when faced with physical security and bio-security threats.

In the building of a resilient economy, the resilience of the infrastructure would be essential to assure investors and business owners that supply chain would not be disrupted and business could continue, and people operating the infrastructure and occupants of the buildings are confident that they would be effectively protected and it is safe to work, live and play.

** End **

Connect with Us
Ang Choon Keat


Balkiz, G., Qiblawi, T., & Wedeman, B. (2020, August 05). Huge explosion rocks Beirut, injuring thousands across Lebanese capital. Retrieved August 28, 2020, from

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Department of Health and Social CareHome Office (2018). UK Biological Security Strategy. Retrieved from (Accessed: 27 August 2020)

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (2005). Risk Assessment A How-To Guide to Mitigate Potential Terrorist Attacks Against Buildings.

Linenthal, E. T. (2020). Oklahoma City Bombing: The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Retrieved August 28, 2020, from

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). (2018). Guidelines to Enhancing Building Security in Singapore. Retrieved from

National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC). (2009). Critical Infrastructure Resilience Final Report and Recommendations. Retrieved from

National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP). (2013). Partnering for Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience. Retrieved from

National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS). (2018, August 1). Building Resilience. WBDG.

NHS England National EPRR Unit. (2015). NHS England EPRR Framework. Retrieved from

Persily, Andrew & Chapman, R. & Emmerich, Steven & Dols, William & Davis, H. & Lavappa, P. & Rushing, A.. (2007). Building Retrofits for Increased Protection Against Chemical and Biological Releases.

Rawson, R. (2019, August 2). Software to Manage Telecommuting Employees. Biz 3.0.

Reid, K. (2020, August 18). Lebanon: Beirut explosion facts and how to help. Retrieved August 28, 2020, from

The Straits Times. (2020, October 5). Parliament: Resilient economy and going green can boost Singapore’s growth after Covid-19, says DPM Heng Swee Keat.


Protecting Infrastructure Against Terrorist Attacks

Ang Choon Keat
Managing Director

Lin Yadong
Senior Consultant, Security and Blast

Andrew Tan
Senior Consultant, Security and Blast

Prostruct Consulting Pte Ltd (Member of the Surbana Jurong Group)

With the real possibility of terrorist threats, Singapore implemented the Infrastructure Protection Act (IPA) from December 2018, to provide a clear regulatory framework for protection against such threats. Selected buildings will have to undergo a security-by-design (SBD) process before they are built or renovated. This article gives a brief introduction of the IPA, the SBD process, as well as some common mitigation strategies to enhance building protection.

Mitigating the threat of terrorist attacks has always been a challenging task. It is difficult to predict how, where and when such an attack will happen. A terrorist attack is an extremely disruptive force which can destabilize the normalcy and unity of a society. Historically, bombings have been among the favourite tactics by terrorists, as it is often the more effective way to gain media attention and create panic or shock to the public. Attacks can be carried out in forms of suicide bombers or by the detonation of vehicle borne explosives. Vehicles can also be driven at speed into groups of unsuspecting people.

Past terrorist incidents reflected that critical infrastructures are preferred target choices for terrorists. On 22 March 2016, three coordinated suicide bombings occurred in Belgium – two at Brussels Airport and one at Maalbeek metro station in central Brussels. The incident resulted in more than 30 fatalities and more than 300 injuries. On 10 December 2016, a car bomb and a bomb carried by a suicide bomber exploded in Istanbul killing 48 people and injuring several others. More recently, in November 2019, a suicide bomber targeted the Police Headquarters in the Indonesian city of Medan and blew himself up at the police station, killing himself and injuring several others in the process. In recent years, deliberate vehicle-ramming into crowds of people is becoming a major terrorist tactic, because it requires little resource and skill to perpetrate and has the potential to cause significant casualties. On 17 August 2017, a single perpetrator drove a van into a popular tourist pedestrian street in Barcelona, Spain killing 13 people and injuring at least 130 others.

Closer to home, a group of six militants were arrested after a planned attack to fire a rocket at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands from Batam Island was foiled by the authorities in Aug 2016. If the attack was not uncovered and prevented, the consequences can be disastrous. Over the past few years, there has also been many arrests of individuals, either associated with terrorist groups or self-radicalised.

The Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report, released by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in June 20171, indicated that terrorism threat remains the highest to Singapore, in recent years. The potential terror threat has underscored the need for a more systematic way to protect key infrastructures. In response, the Infrastructure Protection Act (IPA) was passed on 2 October 2017, and came into force on 18 Dec 20182,3 as part of Singapore’s counter-terrorism efforts.

The IPA is intended to form a clear regulatory framework and comprehensive strategy to fight terror. Under the new law, MHA could designate new buildings as “special developments”, and existing buildings as “special infrastructures”. The designated buildings include those that provide essential services, have heavy human traffic or iconic or symbolic significance.

These identified buildings will be required to go through a “security-by-design” process to integrate security measures such as video surveillance, vehicle barriers and protection against blasts in their design before they are built, and for selected existing buildings to incorporate such measures in their renovation plans.

Security-By-Design (SBD)
Incorporating physical security concepts in the initial design of a new building or renovation plan for an upgraded building is often the most efficient and cost-effective way to achieve the required security level at minimal cost. In doing so, security can be effectively incorporated without compromising other objectives such as the functions and aesthetics of the buildings.

The main stages in SBD consist of the Preliminary Facility Design Development (PFDD), the Risk Assessment (comprising of the Threat, Vulnerability and Risk Assessment (TVRA) and the Blast Effects Analysis (BEA) and the development of a Security Protection Plan (SPP).The Security & Blast (S&B) Consultants commence the SBD study with the PFDD and the risk assessment. At this stage, S&B consultants will do a site appreciation to develop a preliminary security protection plan and to share applicable good security design practices.

The S&B Consultants will then work on the Threat, Vulnerability and Risk Assessment (TVRA) to determine the risks faced by the facility and specify the protection requirement. This is a systematic process to identify and analyze risks associated with applicable threats against the identified critical assets and how the threat scenarios may affect or impact the operations of the critical infrastructure. A BEA study will be conducted to determine the effects of a blast event and highlight any vulnerabilities.

Based on the results from TVRA and BEA, a Structural Resilience Study (SRS) will be conducted to recommend any mitigation measures required before putting up an SPP to achieve the necessary safeguards against identified threats.

The SPP will include layers of security protective measures that integrate physical & structural measures, technological measures and operational measures to mitigate the relevant security risks. A localised and outcome-based approach is usually adopted to determine the most appropriate security measures to mitigate those threats based on current capabilities and resource requirements.

Layered Protection Concept
Typically, a layered protection concept or “Defense-In-Depth” that involves layers of measures is adopted to enhance the security of buildings. These layers consisting of “Deter, Detect, Delay, Deny, and Response”4 complement each other through a combination of physical, operational and technological measures and provides a coordinated protection for a building. A multi-layered defense system is harder to penetrate as compared to a single layer of defense and it also gives security forces sufficient time to detect and respond to the incident as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Layered Protection Concept


The deterrence layer provides the first impression of security level of the facility by making it clear to an adversary that the risk of failure or getting caught is high. It is an effect of visible physical security measures and making it an undesirable target.

Delay aims to slow down a perpetrator by using access control measures such as fence or physical barriers to make it difficult for the perpetrator to penetrate further into the facility.

Perpetrators who are not deterred must be dealt with. The detection layer facilitates the identification of threats, so an alert can be raised. Typical detection measures include video surveillance systems, electronic access control systems, magnetic contact and passive infra-red motion sensors, etc.

Deny ensures that only authorized persons are allowed entry into protected areas. This can be achieved through card access systems or deploying security guards at access control points.

Response refers to the means taken to counter an attack, so as to protect important assets. Response measures can include activation of security systems, including but not limited to, alarm system and dispatching of security personnel.

Risk Management Approach
A risk management approach as shown in Figure 2 is recommended to ensure appropriate security measures are in place to address relevant threats. Risk management approach involves assessment of threat scenarios and consequences against existing security baseline measures. Then, further protection measures to mitigate these risks such as operational measures, technological measures and hardening of critical assets can be calibrated for implementation.

This Security Protection Measures and Plan should be reviewed periodically to ensure that the security measures are sufficient to mitigate emerging or evolving threats as the security climate change in the future.

Figure 2: Risk Management Cycle

Increasing Standoff Distance

Protection of a building from an explosion occurring outside the building is achieved by increasing the standoff distance from the bomb threat and strengthening the building against blast and other effects of an explosion5. Some of the common measures include traffic flow and access control by setting up anti-ram vehicle barriers or bollards to increase standoff distances, hardening of structural components to withstand blast loadings, locating critical assets away from public areas to reduce their vulnerabilities, and hardened protection at vulnerable openings that are exposed to blast threats.

Increasing standoff distance between the building and potential bomb threats is perhaps the most effective strategy of mitigating damage to the building. As standoff increases, the blast loads generated by an explosion decrease and the amount of hardening necessary to provide the required level of protection decreases. In addition, the cost to provide asset protection will decrease as the distance between an asset and a threat increases, as shown in Figure 36.

Figure 3: Relationship of cost to stand-off distance (Source: FEMA 426)

Where possible, this can be achieved via measures such as bollards (Figure 4), barriers, landscaping, etc. The bollards/barriers need to be anti-crash, in order to withstand crash impacts and prevent entry of offensive vehicles.

Figure 4: Bollards to create additional standoff

A properly designed anti-crash system7,8 denies a vehicle from getting nearer to the protected building. It can also serve as a psychological strategy which reduces a threat probability and vulnerability by making it clear to an adversary that the risk of attack failure is high. This deterrence and denial layer form a protection layer that is away from the protected asset. It provides a visible physical security measures and clear warnings that the building is protected. The bollards/barriers can be further complemented by other protection measures such as detection technology along the perimeter/barriers, coupled with adequate lighting and response measures such security personnel, to form a complete layered protection for the building.

Structural Hardening
In some cases, increasing standoff distances is insufficient or unavailable to mitigate the blast effects. It may be necessary to adopt designs to prevent progressive collapse of the entire building. Progressive collapse is defined as the spread of an initial local failure from element to element, eventually resulting in the collapse of an entire building. The Oklahoma City bombing (April 1995) is an example that illustrates the importance of designing buildings to prevent progressive collapse. In that incident, most of the deaths resulted from the collapse of the building, as opposed to the bomb blast itself.

Preventing progressive collapse through structural hardening is also crucial in protecting the interior inhabitants and critical assets to ensure minimal casualties, and continual operations of essential services to minimize disruptions to operations.

Structural hardening measures could come in various forms. The straight forward way is simply to increase the physical size of the structural components and/or the reinforcement details until they are sufficiently thick and can therefore resist the blast loads. Alternatively, the strength of structural components can also be increased by other means such as external strengthening with Fiber Reinforced Polymers (FRP) composites (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Strengthening of structures with FRP composites

Protection of Openings
Openings refer to locations in a building, that provide access for equipment and personnel, and which are covered by doors, roller shutters or windows. When an explosion occurs outside the building, these openings become the vulnerable points where blast and flying fragments could enter and cause damages to assets or injuries to occupants.

Conventional mitigation solutions involve installing blast resistant doors (Figure 6). Due to certain operation limitations of blast doors, blast roller shutter doors (Figure 7) have also been explored by the industry in recent years for protection of larger openings.

Figure 6: Blast door, commonly installed at protected building openings

Figure 7: Blast Roller Shutter door, for protection of large openings

In summary, the IPA was implemented in Dec 2018 as part of the nation’s counter-terrorism strategy to keep Singapore safe and secure. It means selected buildings would have to go through a vigorous SBD process to incorporate security measures upfront.

This article introduces the strategies and common mitigation measures to protect buildings from explosions.  A multi-layered defense system which includes creating standoff distances, hardening of structural components and protection of vulnerable openings are commonly adopted measures to mitigate the relevant security risks. However, one should note that these common measures shall be customized and may not be applicable for all scenarios as threats and protection criteria are unique to every different building.

In many cases, it is often necessary to combine several solutions to achieve full protection. At times, it would require the industry to innovate and offer new protective technologies that are more effective and/or economical.

This article was first published in “The Singapore Engineer (April 2018)”.

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Connect with Us
Ang Choon Keat

Lin Yadong

Andrew Tan

[1] Ministry of Home Affairs (2017, Jun 1). Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report 2017 [Press release]. Retrieved from:

[2] Ministry of Home Affairs (2017, Sep 11). Infrastructure Protection Act to Take Effect from 18 Dec 2018 [Press release]. Retrieved from:

[3] Zaihan Mohamed Yusof (2017, Oct 5). Industry welcomes new law to protect buildings against attacks. The Straits Times. Retrieved from:

[4] Ministry of Home Affairs (2018). Guidelines for Enhancing Building Security in Singapore. (2018).

[5] Security Council Report (2017, Feb). Counter-Terrorism: Protection of Critical Infrastructure. Retrieved from:

[6] FEMA 426. Risk Management Series, Reference Manual to Mitigate Potential Terrorist Attacks Against Buildings, December 2013.

[7] Paul Forman et al. (2009) “Vehicle-borne threats and the principles of hostile vehicle mitigation”, Blast effects on building, 2nd Edition

[8] C. K. Ang et al. (2016) “Design and testing of a crash bollard system”, The Singapore Engineer Magazine, 2016 December.

Landscape Architecture – Is It a Walk in the Park?

 An Interview with:
Oliver Ng Boon Lee
Director, Landscape Architecture
Surbana Jurong Group

Apart from the brick and mortar of delivering urbanisation, infrastructure and engineering solutions for our clients, Surbana Jurong’s (SJ) Landscape Architectural team provides the competitive edge with a suite of solutioning services, and explores multi-dimensional areas of ecology, biology, botany, tourism, horticulture, fine arts, architecture, soil sciences, geography, urban & natural resources, and water engineering.

Oliver Ng Boon Lee, Director of Landscape Architecture, gives us the low-down on how Landscape Architecture helps project owners fulfil their journey of building a sustainable living and work environment, and its pivotal role in end-to-end design and build.

Q: What does the Landscape Architect perform in the design and build sector?

First and foremost, we need to debunk the myth that the role of the landscape architect is purely designing the landscape for commercial and residential properties. The truth is actually quite different. Landscape architects do work on large scale projects, most of which are public urban and natural environmental spaces.

These range from the creation of different hierarchy public and nature parks, to master planning for new cities and township developments, and major green infrastructure projects such as streetscapes, public parks, rivers, waterfronts, green building solutions and ecological habitats.

More often than not, the landscape architect is faced with the challenge of  working on or around structures with limited external spaces, while integrating ecological sustainability. At the design stage of the project, there is an exchange of valuable inputs based on the complexity of technical challenges. Ideas are then generated, and design created based on the organisation and use of space.

The landscape architect adopts and conceives the overall concept and prepares the master plan, of which promotes innovation by developing regionally scalable but locally contextual solutions that increase resilience (refer to Illustration A for an example of a Landscape Concept Masterplan).

Illustration A – Landscape Concept Masterplan for one of SJ’s project “Ecological Wetland, Resilient Riverfront Park and Coastal Belt at Yazhou Bay, Sanya China”

Q: Please give examples of some project successes that involve the works of Landscape Architecture.

Singapore’s very own “Garden City Vision” was first mooted by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1967 – to transform Singapore into a city with abundant lush greenery and a clean environment to make life more pleasant for the people. The Parks and Trees Act1 in the 1970s mandated Singapore government agencies like the Housing Development Board (HDB) and the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), as well as private developers, to set aside spaces for trees and greenery in projects such as the development of housing estates, and construction of roads and car parks.

Currently, Singapore’s greening policy is guided by the “city in a garden” vision. Unveiled in 1998 as the next phase of the “garden city” vision, the new concept aimed to integrate greenery into not just the built environment, but also into the daily lives of Singaporeans.

A subset of the “City in a Garden” concept, My Waterway @ Punggol is a 12.25 hectares waterfront park located in the north-eastern part of Singapore. Designed with these thematic zones in mind – nature cove, recreation zone, heritage zone and green gallery, SJ Landscape Team undertook the challenge of transforming a piece of bare land into a 4.2km waterway that meanders through a new town, a Light Rail Transit (LRT) viaduct, two reservoirs and a beautiful waterfront living experience for the residents.

My Waterway @ Punggol (refer to Illustration B) was developed with an aim to bring people closer to water, amongst shared communal spaces, coupled with water-based recreational activities. The residential blocks were even built with an ABC water systems – where rainwater is collected and distributed to the parklands around the waterways.

Illustration B – My Waterway @ Punggol

On global playing field and a project undertaken by the team, Yixing Water Ecology in Jiangsu province of China aims to restore the ecology of the area, particularly in the water system, integrated with landscape design (refer to Illustration C). For years, water pollution in the area is a major deterrent for social and economic activities to be carried out. This ‘W-ECO3’ project aims to create a resilient space integrating the surrounding landscapes and water management based on Green & Blue infrastructure design, which emphasizes on sustainable and low-impact development. The team adopted the concept of “001” as guiding principles for the project:

  • Zero (0) contribution to water pollution – potential water pollutant discharge to any public water system will be stringently controlled and removed;
  • Zero (0) impact on flood control – ensure the flood-discharge capacity of all the key flood-discharge channels are not impacted upon in terms of protection and improvement;
  • One (1) clean water source – One Central Wetland with 2.5kmsq area in the masterplan was proposed to produce clean water after treatment. A world-class monitoring technology and Smart IT analysis system has been adopted to manage the cleaned outflow.

Illustration C – Yixing Water Ecology in Jiangsu province of China (Central Wetland with 2.5kmsq area to produce clean water after treatment)

Q: What do project owners look out for when they engage SJ to do landscape design?

We now know that at master planning and design stage, the landscape architect already plays a pivotal role, which often requires him/her to design key open space components such as community urban plaza, social activities spaces, play spaces and park connectors.

For project works which involve the sensitivity of natural habitats & resources, landscape architects are required to conduct deep research into local people, their culture and lifestyle. The outcome includes well-constructed wetlands, coastal environment, riverfront and green infrastructural projects. The design of such spaces contributes to local identity which brings upon economic, social, and environmental benefits to the local people.

With economic and social viability on the forefront, Ya Zhou Bay in Sanya, China – another recent global project win by SJ’s Landscape Architectural Team – aims to achieve solutioning to urbanism whilst protecting existing ecology (refer to Illustration D). A key criteria of the design concept is to mitigate the risk of ecological extinction caused by natural disasters, pollution and soil erosion.

The Waterfront Eco-Park, which consists of a Coastal Belt Park, Wetland and a Riverfront Park, will be home to a long stretch of windbreak forest with endless coastal entertainment, a wetland reserve preserving ecologically sensitive areas, and an attractive waterfront with large urban and leisure space.

Illustration D – Ya Zhou Bay in Sanya, China

In most, if not all, of our projects, developers are constantly seeking new, sustainable design ideas, and our belief is that no single design solution can be applied across all projects.

Q: What are your views on the future of Landscape Architecture?

It will be dynamic, yet ever-changing – due to the ever-evolving living environment. Climate change also has its effects on how we plan and design our landscape and environment. When the ozone layer is depleting each day, how should we grow our trees and vegetation to ensure we have a holistic cycle to human habitat.

The role of the landscape architect will become even greater, when we move away from the traditional way of planning and designing, and emphasize the importance of green movement and building a resilient environment.

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to achieve landscape analytics, and AI metrics to evaluate spatial impacts of design is the new norm in Landscape Architecture. Amidst combining AI to create sustainable and resilient designs, Green Infrastructure can only be achieved when we start with understanding our natural ecosystem.

** End **

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Oliver Ng Boon Lee


City-Industry Integrated Planning and Development in Singapore

Economic and Industrial Planning Team

Dr Zhang Qingyu

Shao Yong
Senior Executive Planner


City-industry integration is a central tenet of sustainable growth. By integrating diverse land uses, the elements of “industry” and “city” are to be well-balanced within a regional cluster. “Industry” refers to activities involving goods and services producing industries, while “city” refers to residences, commercial facilities and places of leisure, woven seamlessly with nature and waterbodies. On one hand, industrial estates drive employment and attract talents; on the other, towns support and improve the business and living environment of the cluster by providing comprehensive facilities and amenities that meet daily needs of residents.

Singapore has undergone more than 50 years of industrial and urban development, and has achieved considerable success via the adoption of city-industry integration in its planning. The impact of city-industry integrated development model on Singapore’s transformation is exhibited at different scales – Singapore at National Level, West Region and One-North.

City-Industry Integration – Singapore at National Level

Singapore has a clear mission – “to make Singapore a great city to live, work and play in”. This mission was evidently manifested in Singapore’s 1991 concept plan, where the concept of “self-contained cities (regions)-within-a-city” is observed (Figure 1a). Each of the five regions in Singapore was planned to encompass all 3 elements of “live”, “work” and “play”. Employment opportunities from goods and services producing industries was to match job demand from residents of each region, ultimately arriving at a job supply: job demand ratio of approximately 1:1 when the region matures. Meanwhile, an urban transportation system consisting of an integrated road and rail network, has been responsible for the inter and intra connectivity between regions. Figure 1b depicts the latest master plan, which is the result of revisions to previous plans (including Figure 1a) and the translation of broad long-term strategies.

During the initial development stage, goods producing industries constituted the main form of economic activity. With an increase in scale and economic impact, demand for consumer and product services rose to support the entire manufacturing value chain and created a supportive business ecosystem. This facilitated the integration of city functions into industrial-led areas, gradually transforming monotonous industrial estates into vibrant industrial towns with places for leisure activities. Since the 1960s, industrial development, as evidenced by a growth in GDP and GDP per capita, is accompanied by a growth in total constructed land area and total population. As GDP per capita increased from an estimated USD428 in 1960 to USD46,570 in 2010, urban constructed land increased 2.6 times from approximately 162 sqkm to 421 sqkm (of which, industrial area accounts for approximately 76 sqkm and residential area, approximately 91 sqkm). Meanwhile, total population in Singapore grew from 1.65 million in 1960 to 5.08 million in 2010. As detailed in Table 1, each region has varying economic focuses.

Figure 1 – Planning and Development of Singapore

(a) Concept Plan 1991                                                  (b) Master Plan 2014

Planning and Development of Singapore

Table 1 – Increase in Constructed Land Area and Economic Focuses of 5 Regions 

Increase in Constructed Land Area and Economic Focuses of 5 Regions

Note: Figures on constructed land area (including roads) are estimates based on satellite images.


City-Industry Integration – West Region

Spearheading Singapore’s industrial development, the West Region was once a greenfield site that was planned with a port-industry-city integrated development model. Its well-defined land uses allow goods producing industries to enjoy economies of scale while leveraging on a nearby port for cost reduction. Meanwhile, the industries are also being supported by comprehensive residential and commercial facilities, such as shopping malls, banks, universities and hospitals (Figure 2a and 2b). This integrated development advances economic, social and environmental priorities, and has even created a harmonious and conducive wildlife environment. The Jurong Bird Park hosts 400 species, and is Asia’s largest bird paradise; while the western water catchment comprises several reservoirs that harvest urban stormwater for potable consumption. Constructed land in the West region in 1985 was estimated to be 61 sqkm, which increased to 92 sqkm in a decade, and 141 sqkm in 2016 (Figure 2c). The region has proven to be attractive and successful with resident population of approximately 912,000 in 2017, on track to achieving its planned population of 1.13 million.

Figure 2 – Planning and Development of Singapore’s West Region

(a) Port-Industry-City Integrated Development Model                (b) Master Plan 2014 of West Region

Planning and Development of Singapore’s West Region

(c) Development of West Region Over the Years

 Note: Figures on constructed land area (including roads) are estimates based on satellite images.


City-Industry Integration – One-North Development

In line with the 21st century economic focus on knowledge and innovation-intensive industries, the One-North development was conceptualised as a vibrant business park with an integrated work-live-play-learn environment. A microcosm of a self-sustainable city, the master plan of the 200-hectare area integrates industry-centric research, development facilities and business park spaces, alongside lifestyle options and educational institutions, both horizontally and vertically spatially (Figure 3). Residences are provided to meet the needs of employees’ accommodation to the best extent possible. Under the master plan, One-North is to focus on biomedical sciences, infocommunications and media, as well as financial and business services.

With its launch in 2001, One-North has since transformed into a technological and innovation hub that accommodates more than 400 companies with an estimated 46,000 workers (figures is taken as of 2017). Fusionopolis Phase I, designed for the growth of information and communications technologies (ICT), physical sciences and engineering industries, is now an exemplary vertical city. This high-density integrated development has direct access to an MRT station and comprises offices, retail shops, serviced apartments, a health club, and a digital arts theatre. Apart from typical housing options found in One-North and its surrounding areas, the provision of serviced apartments within the building offers high-calibre talents the option for short stays and an array of professional support services.

Figure 3 – Planning and Development of One-North

Planning and Development of One-North


Key Considerations for City-Industry Integrated Development Model in Singapore

Singapore’s journey towards integrating land uses may be summarised into the following key considerations:

Sustainable Industrial Upgrading – Basis of City-Industry Integration

Integrated land use planning is industry-led and industrial upgrading forms its basis and fundamental. Cities grow and increase in population only when industries undergo transformation and upgrading. As industries upgrade, the method of integrating industrial and city functions would need to vary to match the different spatial requirements of different industries. For instance, capital-intensive industries such as the manufacture of machinery and equipment, and petrochemical industries require a larger, continuous tract of land, whereby land parcels are not interspersed with various uses. Meanwhile, knowledge and innovation-intensive industries require space flexibility and more common spaces to facilitate knowledge sharing between professionals.

Matching Employment Opportunities and Job Demand at Different Spatial Scales

To create self-contained regions, an area needs to create employment-generating spaces that offer job opportunities closer to homes. At the regional scale, it is vital to minimally match internal job demand with sufficient job opportunities. This localises daily needs and disperses traffic by reducing the need for people to travel long distances on a regular basis. Set to be the largest commercial and regional centre outside the city centre, the 360 hectares Jurong Lake District in the West Region has transformation plans to create it into a future-ready second CBD. It will not only develop an estimated 20,000 new homes but will also offer more than 100,000 new jobs to residents in the area. For an area of a smaller scale, employment opportunities might not be sufficient to meet job demand but this is to be achieved in its best possible manner.

Attract and Retain Talents by Offering Attractive Facilities and Amenities

City-industry integration is not merely a practical solution to resolving issues such as land scarcity or traffic congestion. It is also about bringing people together, improving their lifestyle and enhancing their everyday experiences. To attract and retain talents necessary to promote sustainable city development, quality and comprehensive public service facilities and commercial services must be provided. From CBD to regional centres, towns, neighbourhoods and precincts, urban functions in Singapore are hierarchically provided to fulfil residents’ living and leisure needs of different age groups. Producer and consumer services are conveniently made accessible to residents within the area, offering great living convenience and sustaining communities for enterprises in the area.

Figure 4 – Comprehensive Facilities and Amenities are Hierarchically Provided at Different Levels

Comprehensive Facilities and Amenities are Hierarchically Provided at Different Levels


Regardless of the economic focus of an area, planning and development in Singapore place great emphasis on integrating its industrial and urban city functions. According to various industry types, different ways of city-industry integration models are adopted to meet varying requirements. The need to balance job supply and demand is also vital in creating a quality and conducive living environment, along with the provision of comprehensive facilities and amenities. As a city lab that constantly reviews its development strategies to fulfill the changing needs of residents, the city-industry integrated development model constantly remains at the core of Singapore’s planning by efficiently utilising available land and reducing the impact of development on the environment, hence strengthening resilience and sustainability of the city.

** End **


Connect with Us

Dr Zhang Qingyu

Shao Yong


  • Centre for Liveable Cities. (2016). Insights from the Development Experience of China and Singapore. In CLC, Challenges and Reforms in Urban Governance.Singapore: CLC.
  • Centre for Liveable Cities. (2018). Urban System Studies (1st Edition). In C. Chow, J. Chia, & M. Zhan, Integrating Land Use & Mobility: Supporting Sustainable Growth. Singapore: CLC.

Perspectives, developed by SJ Academy, is our platform to explore new ways of tackling some of today’s most complex challenges. We draw on ideas and opinions from our staff associates and experts across different businesses. Click here to read more about the Workplace of the Future, Singapore’s Logistics, and Aviation Planning in Singapore.

The Belt & Road Initiative and What It Means for South East Asia

Launched five years ago, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has mobilised much Chinese funds and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) to invest, construct and operate projects in South-East Asia (SEA), South Asia, Central Asia and even further away in Africa. Given that infrastructure in many of these countries in these regions are under-invested, the BRI represents a huge opportunity for these countries to uplift their infrastructure and build strong foundations for economic development.

An example of a BRI project is the development of a US$9b deep-sea port and industrial park in Kyaukpyu. Situated in the western Rakhine State of Myanmar, Kyaukpyu will provide Western China with access to the Bay of Bengal, and is therefore highly strategic to China. To Myanmar, the project will lead to economic development and potentially reduce some of the ethnic tension in the Rakhine state. The project is therefore strategic to both countries. The project is currently still under negotiation between the Chinese consortium leader CITIC Group[1] and the Myanmar Government.

The impact will be positive for China if it is able to develop access points for its manufactured exports and its imports of strategic resources, if the BRI allows its state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to establish their market presence in SEA and if the BRI leads to a stronger global leadership role for China. However, if the projects turn out to be commercially unviable, the economic benefits of BRI for SOEs will be in doubt. Furthermore, if the BRI generates negative media for China, it will lead to a negative image for China.

Second, we look at the impact on SEA countries. If the BRI leads to sustainable infrastructure development without incurring too much financial burden or loss of internal political support, the BRI will have a positive impact on SEA countries. Conversely, if it leads to infrastructure projects that are not well-utilized, too much government debt and too much opposition internally, the BRI will have a negative impact on SEA.

How China and the SEA countries go about securing their own interests and how they react to one another’s actions will be key to how the BRI plays out.

The current backlash against BRI in some countries suggest that the impact for SEA countries may be perceived to be slightly negative today, rightly or wrongly. This is not sustainable. If China is perceived to benefit from the BRI while the SEA countries do not benefit much, then the SEA countries will stop participating. Similarly, if SEA benefits from the BRI while China does not, it is also not sustainable.

In the longer term, the two more likely scenarios are:

  • Silent End – if the impact on China and on the SEA countries turn out to be more negative than positive, both sides will slowly disengage themselves from the BRI and the initiative will fizzle out over time.
  • Shared Prosperity – However, if there are effective efforts by both China and the SEA countries to develop win-win solutions, the BRI may enter a golden phase where both sides enjoy many years of mutual benefits.

The BRI creates the opportunity to build much-needed infrastructure in SEA and for strong economic development in these countries. If we do not take advantage of the BRI, and it ends up in the “Silent End” scenario, it would be an unfortunate loss of opportunity for the entire region. This should be avoided.

Shared Prosperity

To help the BRI move towards the win-win scenario of “Shared Prosperity”, we can consider the following:

Pragmatic Infrastructure Roadmaps

First, the SEA countries should each develop a pragmatic Infrastructure Roadmap. Such a roadmap should have a clear vision of what infrastructure projects are important and should be given priority within the next 10 years. It should estimate the costs of these projects, identify those that are commercially viable and those that require government support. It should examine how these can be financed without creating a budget deficit crisis for the country, including whether private sector companies can be involved in the financing, ownership and operation of such projects. It should also address social and environmental concerns in the community.

Countries with such an Infrastructure Roadmap will be in a better position to decide what projects to be pursued pro-actively under the BRI framework and what projects should be held back. In this way, the SEA countries would be able to leverage on the funds made available by the BRI to advance its infrastructure development plans, rather than take on projects that turn out to be ineffective or too costly. In this regard, glamorous large-scale projects may not always be the most impactful projects.

Principles of Market Forces

Second, principles of market forces should be adopted as much as possible. Feasibility studies should have realistic commercial projections, and reviewed carefully to determine if projects should be pursued. For instance, users of the infrastructure should be made to pay for the services they consume, at full costs if possible. Commercial operators of the infrastructure should be engaged on a Private Public Partnership basis if viable. SEA Governments must be prepared to help overcome political and social obstacles if the projects are beneficial to the countries.

State-Owned Enterprises from China should assess the commercial viability and sustainability of the projects before taking the plunge. While there are strategic reasons for implementing infrastructure projects, we should leverage on market forces and commercial interests to make these projects financially sustainable as much as possible.

High Standards of Governance

Third, more emphasis needs to be placed on the governance of the BRI projects by the Chinese SOEs, the SEA governments and other companies involved. If BRI projects are associated with improper use of funds, the global image of China, the Chinese SOEs and the SEA governments will be negatively impacted. To prevent this, a stronger code of governance should be exercised by the Chinese SOEs and the SEA governments for BRI projects.

Strong Project Leadership

Finally, each major infrastructure project must be supervised by a competent leader. A leader with a clear vision, good management skills, integrity and strong political support will be able to deliver the infrastructure project on time and on budget. Conversely, without good project leadership, even structurally sound projects will be badly implemented and end up as failures.

Making BRI a Multilateral Initiative

It will be useful if the BRI becomes more multilateral in its implementation. This will not be easy. Involving third countries will take time and can be complicated. And not all countries want to be involved in costly infrastructure projects. But if successfully done, this will provide an independent view of the commercial viability and risk management of the project.


When all these considerations are accounted for and proper measures put in place, the BRI will have a much higher chance of success. And the scenario of “Shared Prosperity” will become a likely outcome.

This article is co-created by Surbana Jurong Academy.

[1] Singapore design and engineering firm, Surbana Jurong was also involved in the master-planning of the industrial park.

Perspectives, developed by SJ Academy, is our platform to explore new ways of tackling some of today’s most complex challenges. We draw on ideas and opinions from our staff associates and experts across different businesses. Click here to read more about Digital Technology, Aviation Planning in Singapore, and Infrastructure Investment.

Energy & Petrochemical Parks – Creating Value Through Robust Land Leasing Approaches

BP recently reported[1] that in 2017, global primary energy consumption recorded a robust 2.2% growth rate, outpacing the 10-year average of 1.7% per year.  Oil, coal, and natural gas remained the dominant fuel sources, together accounting for over 80% of all energy consumed whilst renewable power hit a new high but still modest 3.6% by contribution.  Prospects for the downstream petrochemical sector are even stronger. In May 2017, Independent Chemical Information Service (ICIS) forecasted that global petrochemical demand[2] would accelerate to an average annual growth rate of 4% between 2015 and 2025.

Energy & Petrochemicals – A Land-Intensive Sector

This sector is both energy and capital-intensive, and coupled with safety considerations, it is also characterised by its land-intensive nature as well.  Europe hosts many of the world’s most developed and mature petrochemical manufacturing parks. The land sizes of these parks range from a few hundred hectares to thousands of hectares.  For example, Infraserv’s park in Frankfurt occupies nearly 500 hectares of land (equivalent to 610 football fields), on which sits a network of over 500 kilometres of pipelines carrying chemical liquids and gases.

Planning for investment in such specialised parks can be a painstaking process. And decisions are made on the assurance that pre-conditions, such as the ability to secure a plot of land, shall be met. Greenfield investments typically require several hectares of land, and the extent to which production processes and equipment can be re-designed to save land is limited by codes of practice and regulatory considerations.

Therefore, in securing land for the investment, an investor’s priorities would certainly include:

  • Adequacy of land tenure – at a minimum, tenure must exceed the targeted Return on Investment time period, and generally the intention is to stretch the tenure for as long as possible;
  • Securing contiguous land for expansion – a strong investment plan is one that anticipates a sales exceeding supply within a few years from start-up, thus justifying a de-bottlenecking of capacity in the near or mid-term; and
  • Availability of land for long-term growth.

The land owner naturally desires to unlock potential and tap the maximum value of the land, and often also look towards generating growth from a range of consequential economic activities.

This translates into the following priorities for industrial land owner:

  • Sustainable economic activities – existence of sustained industrial manufacturing activities that generate economic benefits;
  • Judicious use of the land – appropriate use of the land that coincides with original plans, and is not wasteful. It should also be compatible and synergistic with its neighbouring activities; and
  • Preservation of its overall environmental climate – the environmental baseline of the piece of land should not go into deep deterioration due to industrial usage.

Robust Land Leasing Frameworks

The importance of the land lease process is often either overlooked or under-estimated.  Rather than being considered a repetitive procedure, land lease management should be viewed as an effective, customisable tool to secure assurances for all parties and shape the manufacturing landscape.

How can a land owner meet an investor’s expectations on land tenure, availability and flexibility, while at the same time, preserving his priorities on the sustainable use of his land?

Land tenure for the manufacturing sector varies across different territories.  For example, in China, the government’s land regulations[3] stipulate a maximum tenure of 50 years for industrial land. While in Singapore, the tenure of industrial land issuance[4] through Industrial Government Land Sales was halved to 30 years in 2012[5]. Typically, industrial land leases range between 20 or 30 years long[6].  In some other countries, industrial land is sold in perpetuity.  For land tenure to be meaningful, it should be long enough and commensurate with the sector’s life cycle, as well as consider the level of capital expenditure on fixed production assets.  At the same time, the tenure should permit park rejuvenation or redevelopment.  Therefore, it would be advisable to first understand such sectoral characteristics. Then, we can determine the standard tenure to be offered to investors in any specialised park.

To ensure that the land is put to good and proper use, the land owner can specify and build into the land lease, mechanisms to motivate the investor to invest and build as planned, intensify land use, and even reinstate and return the land when it is no longer needed. Through the skilful crafting of the leasing process and the lease document itself, issues such as under-development or land contamination (SSI’s site in the U.K.[7]) can be avoided. In certain situations, leasing mechanisms could be designed holistically with other levers, such as incentives, to achieve win-win outcomes.

Ensuring adequate availability of land, especially contiguous land for expansion, is partly an outcome of good master-planning, but also heavily dependent on how robust the land leasing processes are.  The allocation of a land plot for future development does not have to be binary.  Carefully customised land reservation programmes provide investors with sufficient assurance whilst retaining the land owner freedom to commit unused land to other suitable investors when the time comes.

The description of approaches above hopefully provides an insight into the importance and versatility of land lease management.

An Important Differentiating Factor for Land Owners

As Nobel Prize winner Elias James Corey once said, the impact of chemical synthesis “on our lives and society is all pervasive.”  Whether we like it or not, the energy and petrochemical sector is an integral contributor to the lifestyles that we’ve gotten used to.  Energy and petrochemical parks are specialised and complex ecosystems that occupy enormous land masses for long periods of time.  A best-in-class land leasing framework is an essential tool for any energy and petrochemical park to thrive, and is an important factor in differentiating a forward-looking land owner amongst others.

This article is co-created by Surbana Jurong Academy.


[1] Report titled “BP Statistical Review of World Energy”, 67th Edition, dated June 2018.

[2] Made up of major categories Polyolefins, Polyesters and Polyurethanes, Key Elastomers, and Other Key Plastics. From slide 19 of ICIS’ presentation dated 18 May 2017 titled “Accelerated Changes: New Scenarios for the Global Refining and Petrochemical Industries, and the Role of China” at APIC 2017.

[3] Regulations on the Land Use Rights and Transfer of State Land Use Rights in Urban Areas of the People’s Republic of China /《中华人民共和国城镇国有土地使用权出让和转让暂行条例》of May 1990.

[4] In 1947, a ruling known as the Crown Lands Rules was passed, in which Rule 16 proclaimed that 99-year leases would be issued, in place of Statutory Land Grants (which were freehold).

[5] Ministry of Trade and Industry’s press release titled “Launch of Second Half 2012 / Industrial Government Land Sales Programme” dated 11 June 2012.

[6] Channel NewsAsia’s news article, “How Singapore’s 50-year-old land sales programme is evolving” dated 13 December 2017.

[7] In Teeside, Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI) went into liquidation, marking the end of almost 170 years of iron and steel making. A 14-hectare portion of its former site is likely to be highly contaminated by heavy metals due its former industrial usage, and this would affect the future usability of the land. Source: South Tees Development Corporation, South Tees Regeneration Master Plan consultation draft, dated October 2017.

This article is co-created by Surbana Jurong Academy.

Perspectives, developed by SJ Academy, is our platform to explore new ways of tackling some of today’s most complex challenges. We draw on ideas and opinions from our staff associates and experts across different businesses. Click here to read more about Technology & Innovation, Infrastructure & Connectivity, and Design Leadership

Creating a Petrochemical Hub – Vision versus Reality

The petrochemical industry is capital-intensive and has the potential to draw investments of multi-billion dollars. While the industry takes a significantly long period to develop, it also produces the highest economic returns and offers high value-add positions with good remunerations, compared to other sectors. Based on Exxon Mobil Energy Outlook 2018, the global population will grow to 9.2 billion by 2040. And rising living standards and expanding worldwide population means a higher dependence on reliable modern energy.

Global energy demand will continue to be driven significantly by oil & natural gas. As demand continues, many petroleum-rich countries have transformed from a sole exporter of natural resources, to a downstream petrochemical refiner or manufacturer, adding value to their energy exports. For some, their ambition went further. They create manufacturing clusters, with an objective to build a petroleum or petrochemical hub at a later stage. But, having natural resources and the ability to process it for export does not necessarily fulfil the requirements of a hub creation. Based on Surbana Jurong Pte Ltd’s experience in developing Jurong Island Chemicals Hub, and many other petrochemical manufacturing sites and production zones globally, there are critical factors that will influence the success of a petrochemical hub.

Positioning – Where is the Market?

The vision to create a petrochemical hub should fundamentally be supported by market demand (Please refer to illustration 1 for Success Factors in Creating a Petrochemical Hub). The foremost requirement would be to meet the domestic demand of the country which produces the natural resources. When the domestic demand is insufficient to justify the development of the petrochemical hub, then having wider and regional, or even global captive markets would be necessary.

Building petrochemical plants, especially a crude oil refinery, can take between six to seven years to complete. Hence, investors and business owners will need to be forward-thinking, and be able to anticipate future demands and predict trends for a time frame of at least 15 to 30 years.

Targeting the right sub-sectors for the petroleum and chemicals industry are equally critical. Some countries may yield oil and no gas, while others gas and no oil, or both. Identifying the right sub-sectors to focus, and subsequently forming the value chain to synergize with associated industries can be challenging in the absence of good foresight, marketing and in-depth industry knowledge.

The definition of a “hub” does not necessarily mean that it must be geographically built within a single location. The hub can consist of several manufacturing or logistics sites that leverage on their synergistic and strategic natural advantages, bringing benefits to consumers. The availability and ease of obtaining and transporting the natural resources, such as connectivity through pipelines, ports of call, are important factors to consider.

Petrochemical Hub oil & gas
Illustration 1: Success Factors in Creating a Petrochemical Hub

An Implementable Master Plan to Secure Investor’s Buy-In

Considering the huge investment involved in this capital-intensive industry, it will be worthwhile to meticulously plan and chart out the strategies and development roadmap to minimise risk, and ensure success.

We then ask ourselves these questions:

  • Have we understood enough in terms of projecting the market demand and our competitive advantages?
  • Have we identified the different types and capacities of processing & manufacturing plants?
  • What are the logistical requirements needed to ensure sustainability?
  • What are the sub-sectors and supporting industries within the value chain?
  • What are the other land uses, preparatory requirements needed, infrastructure & connectivity, and amenities?
  • Is skilled human capital available, and are safety and environment issues resolved?

These factors shall form the backbone of an overall master plan for any hub. The overall master plan must be comprehensive, sustainable and most importantly, implementable.

Every country, city or district compete for major investments to support economic growth and create employment. The stakes can be high and in most cases, incentives and preferential policies are provided to attract investors. However, when competitors offer similar incentives, the difference in attracting major investments could boil down to having a differentiating and well thought-through overall master plan.

Government’s Role – A Balancing Act

The role of the Government in the development of a petrochemical hub is often contestable. Policies that promote investment and instil investors’ confidence will trigger positive influence on the vision. The Government therefore needs to take on a strategic view to grow the economy, improve employment and employability of the people.

For a hub development, it would be instrumental for initial land preparations and infrastructure investment to be provided by public sources, and preferably to continue through for all basic infrastructure investment. Thereafter, the growth of the hub should ideally be driven by the private sectors operating within a realm of pro-business ecosystem.

The question of whether Government should partake in any business venture, such as processing plants, is often debated. Production sharing agreements between public and private sectors for upstream exploration and production of natural resources can be contested from time to time. The role of the Government in downstream sectors should be preferably limited to creating a conducive environment for businesses to prosper, and at most, participating in a significantly minority stake to instil investor confidence and for risk sharing with investor. Where critically necessary, the Government could also take the lead in developing critical infrastructure necessary to support the growth or attraction of new investment.

The ability to ensure the continuation of policies despite political uncertainties or changes will further improve investment confidence and ensure investors of the political will to realise the vision of a hub.

Closing the Expertise Gap during Execution

Having a comprehensive overall master plan that captures the essence of attracting investment is important, but more imperative is the ability to facilitate subsequent implementation. The most challenging aspect of implementation is the high stakes involved when major public investment in infrastructure should rightfully yield positive impact on attracting private investment.

Creating and institutionalising a platform where functions such as marketing, planning, project management, lease management, customer service, health safety & environment, legal and finance congregate, would help in areas of strategizing and alignment. It also allows efficient servicing of investors and ensure effective implementation of the overall master plan. As there will always be expertise gaps in functions, investing in expertise and capacity building will be the long term solution to support the vision.

The realisation of a petrochemical hub is constantly challenged by market volatility, geopolitics, bureaucracy, new technologies and competitions. Yet, harnessing and leveraging on the wealth of natural resources, and utilising them efficiently and sustainably, is ever more critical in the changing global landscape of digital & circular economy. Ultimately, the petrochemical hub, when realised, should improve the quality of lives of its citizens and bring prosperity to the country.

This article is co-created by Surbana Jurong Academy.

Perspectives, developed by SJ Academy, is our platform to explore new ways of tackling some of today’s most complex challenges. We draw on ideas and opinions from our staff associates and experts across different businesses. Click here to read more about Technology & Innovation, Infrastructure & Connectivity, and Design Leadership

Structural Engineering – Getting Ready for the Future!

Structural Engineers are always in competition with the nature. Every creation has a co-relation with things that we see around us. A simple leaf shows how nature has provided each component its desired position and purpose. A leaf acts like a simple cantilever, the soffit of which is under compression. Figure 1a shows the leaves of a banana plant. The thicker midrib at the bottom very efficiently resists the tension.

Figure 1a: Leave of a Banana Plant (the thicker midrib at the bottom resists the tension)

A top view of the same leaf is shown in Figure 1b. It is clear from this figure that the midrib has a cross-section, like a U beam. This acts as a channel for the rain water to flow from the leaves. With this configuration, the top portion of mid rib can take only tensile forces. It can buckle with compressive forces as the top portion is thin.

Figure 1b: Midrib of leaf has a cross-section like a U beam

Nature has kept everything in the right place. Similarly, a building is analogous to a tree with its foundation as roots and so on. In this way, engineers are influenced by nature. Each one’s achievement and victory is measured relative to others around them. The same holds true of our performance which is measured against our competitor’s.

A designer’s vision is restricted within such limits, nature and people at the start of a design. As a structural engineer, we need to see beyond what is around us. This would help us stay ahead in race.

Analysing the Past

Throwback to 15 years ago, would anyone have imagined the accomplishments we have made today? From what some of the seniors recollect, no one then imagined that drawings could be completed as fast and easy as one can nowadays. There was resistance from many draftsmen to learn drafting software like AutoCAD (in 2D). The ones who adapted to the change had persisted in the industry.

Today, it is difficult to find an office where draftsmen are involved in manual sketching. In addition to this change, we are in a decade where we move a step ahead and are creating 3D drawings/illustrations which are useful for the engineers to visualize these structures as it will be on-site.

Figure 2: Bridge 3D model – Dedicated Freight Corridor Project India

In structural engineering practice, technology has played a crucial role in solving complex problems, considering the project’s time constraints and the need for accuracy. Previously, engineers used to spend enormous time calculating huge stiffness matrices for multiple elements of structures on sheets spread across the room, and preferred to take a conservative approach to avoid unnoticed errors.

The transition from manual calculation to using simple programmes formulated in FORTRAN and C, to advanced finite element (FE) packages that could analyse the entire structure within a short time is a classic example of our development. The difference between the FE software used then and now could be the level of analysis depth we intend to look at. The 3D visualisation and displacement, and stress plots of the same nowadays make them user-friendly as well.

In a project, the designer and the technician work side by side for two outputs, i.e. a model for analysis and design, and a drawing for site. Coordination between themselves and updating the comments from the reviewer on both these outputs consume more time. As for the future, we could expect a scenario where a 3D print of the structure could be generated simultaneously when the designer completes the analysis. This will help save time, and avoids duplication of the structure modeling.

Value Engineering

The advancement in technology has opened up new opportunities for engineers from non-structural practice. Some work done by structural engineers could be easily automated by any individual with fundamental knowledge about the software. This may give the impression that the presence of structural engineers may be less important when similar work can be automated using a computer.

“As structural engineers, we play a critical role in the projects for which we are appointed. If success is judged simply against the need to provide adequate resistance to collapse, then we are very successful, but the value we can bring to a project goes far beyond that.”

As an engineer, it is our responsibility to help the future stay sustained with the current developments in the society. To achieve this, we need to ensure that the design we propose is optimised and the materials are reusable. Proposing aesthetically pleasing and yet complicated designs may help us stand out in this competitive world. But, are such outcomes really necessary, and if safety standards are compromised?

Figure 3: Marseille Vieux Port, France

Figure 3 shows us a simple and elegant design of a canopy. There is no additional design made to suit the aesthetics that served no purpose. As an Engineer, we need to challenge our client, and convince them of a superior, yet sustainable design that is functional.

By designing elements that could be disassembled after its design life, we not only increase the life span of individual elements, but also help in the easy replacement of those that are damaged.


Inevitable development in transportation like the ‘hyperloop’ would require collaboration of engineers from multiple disciplines. Keeping ourselves abreast with the progressive development made in other disciplines will help us stay on top. With software incorporating Building Information Modeling (BIM), there is a chance of fewer errors when information from various disciplines can be collated on a single platform.

The algorithms which power the Google search engines someday will serve as a background for design. With a large database of designs and clever learning algorithms, we are in a generation whereby just giving a few parameters as input on a design/analysis problem, we could extract the complete design prediction. This can be a useful tool wherein large number of identical structures must be designed.

When such technologies come into existence, we need to move a step forward, and think outside our codal provisions. The existing codes consider an ideal scenario where unforeseen changes in the climatic conditions4 are not considered. For example, the design for earthquake is based on average spectra of all the seismic activities from the past. With increased Global Warming, there is a potential risk that these past records of natural calamities may not be captured. In such cases, we may have to adopt ‘performance based design’ where the capacity versus demand is assessed based on the occupancy level for the design of that structure.

FIB Model codes serve as a basis for future codes with up to date research activities. They help in challenging our understanding of structural behavior from multiple perspectives, supplemented with background information on every formulation and application rule set by codes.


Engineering is a combination of simple physics and little bit of common sense.”

Before the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed, structural engineers never considered the importance of aero elasticity in civil structures. It was the time spent in digging through the lessons learnt that created such magnificent bridges and skyscrapers. We need to be open to interdisciplinary collaboration challenging our wisdom, and strive to work towards a sustainable future.

This article is co-created by Surbana Jurong Academy.


[1] Roger plank, President of the Institution of Structural Engineers (2011), Annual Presidential Address

[2] Roger Ridsdill Smith, Head of Structural Engineering and Senior Partner at Foster + Partners, IABSE Annual Milne Medal Lecture.

[3] Guglielmo Carra- Three ways structural engineers can help create a zero-waste future, Institution of Structural Engineers blog

[4] Caroline Field, Engineering for the future – a resilience based approach, Institution of Structural Engineers resources center

[5] A.D Pandey, Assistant Professor (Retd.), Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee India

This article is co-created by Surbana Jurong Academy.

Perspectives, developed by SJ Academy, is our platform to explore new ways of tackling some of today’s most complex challenges. We draw on ideas and opinions from our staff associates and experts across different businesses. Click here to read more about Technology & Innovation, Infrastructure & Connectivity, and Design Leadership

The Key Success Factors of Special Economic Zones

There are thousands of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), industrial parks, export processing zones and other similar areas globally. Some are successful in generating significant economic activities. But many are not. Why?

I believe that ultimately there are 5 key success factors for SEZs and other industrial parks:-

  • Clear Objectives;
  • Bold Policy Innovations;
  • Good Locations;
  • Customised Designs; and
  • Effective Management.

Clear Objectives

First, it is most important to be clear about the specific objectives of setting up the SEZ. The usual reasons include:

  • Creation of jobs, especially when there is significant unemployment;
  • Promotion of exports to generate foreign reserves, when there is a shortage of foreign reserves and a trade deficit;
  • Development of specific industries, eg the tourism sector;
  • Technology transfer.

While these reasons need not be mutually exclusive, we should recognise that it will not be easy for one SEZ to fulfill all these objectives at the same time. So, it is important to identify the most critical rationale for setting up the SEZ. And given the reasons, the strategies then become clearer. For example: If one should target foreign Multinational Corporations (MNCs) or local companies, should the sector focus be on manufacturing, or services.

For instance, for many developing countries, creating employment for the masses is critical. In such instances, an obvious strategy is to attract labour-intensive manufacturing activities or to promote the services sectors that are suitable given the education level of the population. However, too often, many government authorities become distracted by the glamour of attracting high-tech industries, which have a high degree of automation and may not create many jobs, thus defeating the purpose of setting up the SEZ in the first instance. The lack of clarity of objectives and an inability to remain consistent, often results in a SEZ that did not accomplish the objectives, but is also unsuccessful.

One of the most successful SEZs is the Shenzhen SEZ in China, started in 1980, when China first opened up its economy. At that time, China was in the midst of an ideological shift from central planning to a market economy. The Shenzhen SEZ thus served as an experiment for China to test out market-based reforms. The objectives were clear and the corresponding policies, such as tax incentives and more liberal business policies were implemented to facilitate these objectives. Even today, Shenzhen remains as one of the most dynamic and innovative cities in China.

Another example is the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park (CSSIP) which was set up in 1994 for China to learn and implement some of Singapore’s industrial development policies. Specifically, it was dedicated to developing an export-oriented manufacturing sector in Suzhou targeted at foreign MNCs. A dedicated government was set up to administer the park and various foreign investment-related policies were liberalised based on Singapore’s experience. Today, the CSSIP is one of the top industrial parks in China in terms of industrial output, exports and value-added with more than its fair share of global Fortune 500 companies.

Bold Policy Innovations

Having identified the objectives of the SEZ, the next step is to boldly formulate new policies or liberalise existing regulations. A common failure for many SEZs is to hold back on the necessary policy innovations because of fear of liberalising too quickly. This is unfortunate because the idea of setting an area as a SEZ is precisely to allow for experimentation and liberalisation without affecting the rest of the country. To be successful, the SEZ must inspire confidence that it will be different from other parts of the country. Some typical policy innovations or liberalisations include:

  • Taxation – Tax holidays or reduced tax rates is probably the first policy innovation for many SEZs. The Chinese industrial zones have used the tax policy of “Two years free of tax, three years at half rate” (liang mian san jian) effectively for many years. Besides corporate income tax, other taxes such as GST and personal income tax can also be tools for liberalisation within SEZs.
  • Customs regulations – These refer to the exemption or reduction of import tariffs as well as the simplification of customs clearance procedures on goods imported into the SEZ. This is especially relevant for SEZs that are set up to promote exports. The Airport Logistics Park of Singapore (ALPS) is a good example of how customs regulations can be liberalised to stimulate the growth of the air logistics sector.
  • Labour policies – Where there is a shortage of manpower, labour policies may have to be liberalised to allow influx of migrants, be it from overseas or from other parts of the country.
  • Financial flows – In countries where there are foreign exchange and capital controls, the SEZ may be a location where such restrictions can be lifted. If stronger promotion is required, low interest loans can even be provided in the SEZ.

Good Locations

The location of the SEZ is another important consideration. If a SEZ is meant to generate exports, then its proximity to ports and airports will be crucial. If the SEZ is meant to develop the manufacturing sector, then its proximity to a suitably educated labour force will determine how successful it will be. If the SEZ is meant to develop the downstream processing industries, eg, food processing, then it should be sufficiently near to farms and plantations. If the SEZ is meant to cater to the local markets, then obviously access to the local consumer is key. Other considerations when choosing a location are the availability of supporting industries and amenities such as banking, dormitories, schools and healthcare.

Too often, the SEZ is seen as the answer to raising the standard of living in an area. However, the remoteness of the area, without much access to raw materials or export channels, may mean that the SEZ is set up for failure. A more practical solution may be to set up the SEZ in a more suitable location and allow people to migrate there over time.

Customised Designs

The masterplan and design of the SEZ must be done carefully to compensate for what the location lacks, to cater to what the investors desire, to address the government’s concerns and to integrate with the surrounding area. Too often, this step is overlooked or done too hastily, resulting in subsequent haphazard developments.

First, the masterplan needs to examine the current state and the future requirements of core infrastructure of the SEZ and its surrounding area. For instance, it needs to study the state of connectivity of the SEZ by roads, railways, ports and airports, and determine if more infrastructure needs to be built to enhance connectivity. It also needs to project the future energy needs to ensure that there will be sufficient power as the SEZ grows. And where necessary, plans should be made to develop more power generation and distribution capacity. Other utilities such as telecommunications, water and waste treatment should be similarly examined.

Second, the masterplan needs to cater to the target investor. An automotive park will need large parcels of land, while a logistics park will have big warehouses and an electronics manufacturing SEZ may need smaller built-up factories. For certain SEZs, having access to low-cost utilities is an important consideration and must be designed into the masterplan. For instance, in Singapore, the Jurong Island petrochemical complex has common utilities such as water and gas supplied centrally to the various investors in the complex. The One-North Innovation District of Singapore caters to the bio-medical science and high-tech industries. And it is designed to create an atmosphere of casual vibrancy which stimulates creativity and imagination.

Third, the masterplan and factory design should also take note of the government’s concerns. For instance, in land-scarce Singapore, land productivity is important. Building upwards to optimise on productivity is therefore an important aspect of the design of the factory. Even warehouses can have multiple levels with docking bays on different levels to enhance land productivity in Singapore.

Finally, the masterplan must be well-integrated with the surrounding area and compensate for the lack in amenities such as housing, schools and healthcare facilities. Sometimes, an entire township needs to be master-planned and developed next to the SEZ.

Effective Management

SEZ should last for decades and its benefits may only be felt years after it is built. The long-term management of the SEZ therefore must be efficient and effective. The management team needs to remain true to the vision of the SEZ, adhere to the masterplan and yet have the confidence and flexibility to cater to changes in customer demands, demographics and technology advances.

Increasingly, SEZs are managed on a PPP basis. This implies that the SEZ management may be a private sector company. The contractual agreement between the SEZ management company and the government, and the revenue model of the SEZ management are then important to ensure the long-term sustainability of the SEZ.

The interface between the SEZ management and the government is another important issue for SEZs. A high level of autonomy for the SEZ is usually desirable. This allows the SEZ to be free from the constraints of the other government departments which have regulatory responsibilities in their respective areas but do not necessarily feel obliged to support the SEZ.

Finally, the experience and global network of the SEZ management will be key in determining the success of the SEZ. A management team that has experience dealing with SEZ issues and a large pool of potential investors to promote the SEZ to will be a valuable partner. (Please refer to diagram 1 for a Summary of Key Success Factors of SEZs).

Special Economic Zones
Diagram 1: Summary of the Key Success Factors of SEZs


SEZs can be an effective programme for economic development. However, many fail because of confused objectives, timid policy liberalisation, bad choice of location, poor designs or ineffectual management. On the other hand, if the SEZ has clarity of vision, bold policy changes, a carefully chosen location, clever designs and strong management, then it has a good chance of success.

This article is co-created by Surbana Jurong Academy.

Perspectives, developed by SJ Academy, is our platform to explore new ways of tackling some of today’s most complex challenges. We draw on ideas and opinions from our staff associates and experts across different businesses. Click here to read more about Technology & Innovation, Infrastructure & Connectivity, and Design Leadership.

Persistent Under-development of Infrastructure – How Can We Solve It?

Many infrastructure developments around the world fall into a state of unfulfilled excess demand and derelict, due to improper planning. Teo Eng Cheong, CEO (International), discusses the importance of developing an Infrastructure Roadmap, and what various stakeholders need to look out for when planning for such huge project investments.


By all measures, the demand for infrastructure investment is huge. The Global Infrastructure Outlook estimates that from 2016 to 2040, $94 trillion of infrastructure investment is needed globally, of which about $50 trillion would be required in Asia. An investment gap of about $15 trillion is expected based on current trends.

The benefits of infrastructure are obvious, bringing about an improvement in living standards. It gives a short-term boost to the economy through higher GDP and employment. More importantly, it lays the foundation for longer-term increase in productivity and more sustainable economic growth.

Financing for infrastructure is available from International Financial Institutions (IFIs) like World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, as well as from National Financial Institutions, particularly those from Japan and China, like Silk Road Fund, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Cooperation (JOIN).

Private infrastructure funds are also keen to provide financing for bankable projects. At the same time, many engineering companies have incentives to design, build and operate infrastructure on a commercial basis. The Belt-and-road initiative has further unleashed much capital and technical expertise onto infrastructure development. Yet, in many parts of the world, infrastructure remains sorely under-built, poorly constructed and often accompanied by large amount of wastage.

Reasons for Under-developed Infrastructure

I believe there are a few reasons why infrastructure is often in a state of unfulfilled excess demand. First, the long duration of infrastructure development is a major factor. Infrastructure typically takes a long time to plan, design and build. If it is done on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis, the concession period required for payback will take even longer, usually decades. This implies that whatever legal framework and contracts that the infrastructure developers and operators rely on, they must stand the test of time, even when the counterparties – usually governments – change hands. This uncertainty may result in a risk that is too high for many infrastructure developers and operators.

A second reason is that infrastructure development often requires compromises from various segments of the population. It often requires the acquisition of land from land owners. It may lead to years of disruption for the community as the infrastructure is being built. Even after completion, it may lead to increased pollution or other negative impact for the surrounding areas. The government would need to be persuasive enough to convince the affected parties to accept these compromises for the greater good. Governments without strong enough support from the population may find this difficult to accomplish.

Finally, infrastructure development is often complex, both in its financing structure as well as in its technical designs. It is often not possible to foresee all the complications that may arise in the course of any infrastructure development. It may be unexpected soil condition or environmental issues which are not detected earlier. Or it may be a financial crisis which throws the financial model out of the window. This requires flexibility in government responses during implementation. However, flexibility without adequate governance may also lead to corruption or other fraudulent activities. Unfortunately, some governments are not well-equipped to handle such complex changes, resulting in badly constructed infrastructure with budget overruns and delayed timeline.

All these reasons may increase the level of uncertainty of infrastructure projects to the point where both the government and the private sector investors back off.

Suggestions for Improved Planning

First, each government should develop an Infrastructure Roadmap, clearly identifying what infrastructure is needed to support its economic and social development vision and strategies. The Roadmap should coherently prioritise its infrastructure needs in the short and long term. Please refer to diagram 1 for an example of an Infrastructure Road Map. Besides explaining the benefits of the infrastructure projects, the Roadmap should also explain the necessary trade-offs, be it acquisition of land or co-payment for utilities or imposition of government fees to cover these costs, etc. Such a Roadmap would give IFIs the confidence that the government knows what it is doing and encourage them to finance such projects. The Infrastructure Roadmap should also be widely publicised to the population to get its support and to commit the current and future governments to adhere to the roadmap. IFIs which finance infrastructure projects may want to push for the governments they work with to move towards developing such Roadmaps. Hopefully, in the near future, voters would expect all responsible governments to have thoughtful and implementable Infrastructure Roadmaps.

Singapore infrastructure road map
Diagram 1: Example of Infrastructure Road Map featuring industrial space allocation

Each government should also appoint a group of officials dedicated to implementing the Infrastructure Roadmap. These Infrastructure Officials may include well-trained planners, economists, engineers and managers. These officials may be organised as staff in one agency or they may simply be working in close collaboration across agencies. Whatever the structure, there should be coordination and cross-fertilisation of ideas and learning. The officials should be sufficiently empowered to overcome resistance from interest groups, whether they are government agencies or external parties. And they should be sufficiently independent from short-term political considerations. These Infrastructure Officials must ensure that the government gets its value for money spent on infrastructure. But they must also be pragmatic and recognise that without sufficient returns, no investors will finance infrastructure development.

Finally, the legal framework of infrastructure development, eg, that related to land acquisition, property rights, contracts and investments, must be developed and institutionalised. It is important that the government build up its legal ecosystem and relevant institutions to ensure that its contracts will be honoured, corruption will not be tolerated, and companies and individuals will be treated fairly in courts of law. Certainty in the commercial aspects of infrastructure projects will be strengthened if there is the rule of law in the country.

Only when there is certainty will infrastructure projects take off.

If a government has a coherent Infrastructure Roadmap, which is well-executed by an empowered group of Infrastructure Officials under a well-enforced legal framework, it has a good chance of developing its infrastructure to the benefit of its people.

This article is co-created by Surbana Jurong Academy.

Perspectives, developed by SJ Academy, is our platform to explore new ways of tackling some of today’s most complex challenges. We draw on ideas and opinions from our staff associates and experts across different businesses. Click here to read more about Technology & Innovation, Infrastructure & Connectivity, and Design Leadership.