The day started with a student dialogue led by Tan Ching Yee, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health. She spent the first part of the dialogue dealing with the specifics of financing healthcare in Singapore. It was interesting to see how Singapore measures up to other countries in terms of the proportion of its GDP it spends on healthcare, only 4% compared to around 8% in the UK. She then rather frankly went on to say that when it came to measuring the 4 main areas concerning healthcare, she deliberately made sure that the affordability was low, in order to get more money from the government! After this, we spent the morning looking around the Esplanade and the Global Investment Corporation. I found the development of the GIC from a small government department employing less than 50 people to a multinational Sovereign Wealth Fund managing assets of over 100 billion USD astonishing. This was followed by a river cruise, which I was really looking forward to, having seen nothing of the sea thus far into our stay. The sweeping views of the marina did not disappoint.
Having looked at the schedule earlier, I must admit I was rather dreading the morning visits to the Land Transport Authority and the Public Utilities Board. However, my fears were quickly dispelled as Mr Choi began to talk us through the transport situation in Singapore. He made clear that Singapore’s transport network was not always as efficient as it is now, and that it was not viable to build more roads to help ease Singaporean traffic, as 12% of land in Singapore was already used for transport. The solution: more public transport. It was refreshing to hear that the aim of the LTA was to help people to fulfill their aspirations and make transport more livable. This was evidenced by the number of schemes initiated by the government to encourage people to travel at different times. Indeed, I think Transport for London would do well to take note! After this we visited the PUB, which was not, in fact, the place to buy a few beers, but where water is cleaned and refined in Singapore. We learnt how this was done, however more telling for me was the preciousness that is attached to water in this country, with everyone at the end having to make a pledge not to waste water. This was probably a result of the fact that Singapore receives only 2.4 metres of rainfall a year.