A problem of Space
It’s been awhile since I have been really upset about something. Granted, I consider myself a pretty angry person whenever something turns my emotions upside down, or pushes all the wrong buttons within me, or just doesn’t sit right in my head, but it’s been a long time since those things happened.
I wouldn’t have imagined myself getting upset over this, however, and that problem is the seemingly endless problem of overcrowded buses and trains.
There is no surprise that Singapore is becoming more congested by the years. An increasing number of foreign workers and immigrants in the country doesn’t look like it’s letting up, and there is no doubt that has contributed in some sense to the lack of space on public transport vehicles. But it seems there’s a deeper issue at work here, something not easily solved by one single policy or measure.
For years, the Government has been promoting the merits and advantages that an increase in population would provide to the nation. Not least of which, it has pushed the agenda of increasing foreign talent as a contributor to building just a sheer number of people within our shores. It is a logical progression and, to be rather honest, consistent with current practices of modern governments. In order to fill up desperately needed gaps within the ‘engine’ of Singapore’s industries that local people can’t fill, foreign talent must come into the picture.
What gaps are those? For one, the information technology landscape looks to be one arena where few Singaporeans have chosen as their battlefield of choice. And if the information technological field is stagnant, the computer programming field is a literal blind spot. Much as the Singapore Infocomm technology federation keeps fostering the community, they have failed to attract the people that would arguably the most integral, the youth and young adults who would otherwise be brought into a information technology career early on, but would not see the appeal.
We shall see how the many scholarships offered to outstanding Infocomm polytechnic students will pan out, but if stories about IT professionals getting salaries akin to pittances compared to the bankers’, lawyers’, the more appealing professions’.
The quality of the work and the sophistication offered by our homegrown IT people will reflect the trend. Companies like the HPs and the Blackberries of the world will then find it hard pressed to find the people necessary for their implementations. Singapore’s much protected and precious endeavors to build the proverbial Global Village will severely go the way of the Titanic.
In order to keep maintaining these integral industries, of which many others hinge on for the technological edge, there is an active need to fill these posts with external support aka foreign talent. These IT professionals with a deep, entrenched struggle for career opportunities back in their home countries will be more than happy to oblige.
Now, what about lower income job positions, like construction work, shipyard and offshore work? That’s a different consideration, given that it’s even more unlikely Singaporeans are not going to flock to these jobs. Higher educated Singaporeans are getting pushed to do the higher level jobs like Administration or Sales, largely because of the disparity of linguistic and literacy ability. This leads to an insatiable demand for foreign workers, and they aren’t going anywhere in the near future.
The main question is with management, a wise and effective way to equip for or at least be future-proofed for a heavier populated country.
There are two ways (out of many) we can lead ourselves ahead in that regard:
1. Bigger trains, bigger flats, bigger public areas, bigger event halls, bigger everything… What better way is there to combat overcrowding than to make everything more spacious? It is clear our current infrastructures aren’t going to last any longer if four or more totally filled buses can pass by and not stop for passengers. That is not acceptable and a clear sign that our buses aren’t enough. Same goes for the trains.
Some other places aren’t as bad, but the critical places where the masses are at aren’t fitting the bill. Places at prominent spots in Orchard Road should be bigger, with corridors and lobbies that are appropriately designed to fit more than double the numbers we see today. The nation’s population is doubling but the public places just aren’t.
2. What about more frequent public transport services?
Buses and trains coming often should be the rule and not the exception. If private businesses can adjust the frequency of their services and the length of their hours, why can’t public transport companies. They get a chance at higher revenues and the number of jobs could also be further expanded. More buses would mean more drivers, and that would certainly be an outlet for more foreign drivers to step in.
What can be faulted when there could be no downside other than a larger cost of employing and maintaining a greater number of drivers. If that means less frustration for commuters and congestion within public transport, there’s a good chance critics would have one less issue to make a fuss about.
The thing about employing policies to achieve one’s objectives can be a myopic approach to things, however. But more often than not these small measures are beneficial. It is these things that help smooth out all the rough edges, and soon, bigger and more substantial solutions will start to surface.
New bottlenecks will come forth, I’m sure, but they will be inevitable given the scarcity and exhaustive nature of land space. There just isn’t enough space to rise together with the exponentially increasing economic richness of our nation. But I guess those things will be next on the agenda. The Government should be ready to prove their worth soon enough.