This article can be found in the current issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs regarding Examining Public Private Partnerships and the Production of Urban Space.
State domination in Singapore’s public–private partnerships, by Susan S. Fainstein
Within U.S. cities, public–private partnerships (PPPs) consisting of government agencies and property developers have been dominated by the profit-driven goals of the private partners. In sharp contrast, Singapore’s PPPs are state dominated and aligned with general policy goals. As elsewhere, they are project specific and oriented toward promoting economic development as well as housing construction. This article discusses Singapore’s governance model and examines 3 examples of PPPs there. It shows that state land ownership and investments limit the leeway of the private partners and that the impetus for the project as a rule comes from public agencies. In relation to principles of justice—defined here as equity, democracy, and diversity—the projects ensure that gains will be realized by the public sector and that housing will be socially integrated. Failures of equity, however, are involved in the lack of rights for the foreign construction workers building the projects, while the exclusion of the public from the planning process constitutes a failure of democracy. In sum, then, PPPs in Singapore show that public land ownership gives the public sector control over the distribution of benefits within PPPs but, at the same time, the government’s decision making, for better and worse, is relatively unchecked.