Comparison of Singapore’s and Victoria’s (Australia) Planning System


Key Demographics and Statistics

Population of Victoria: 5,938,000[1]
Population of Singapore: 5,535,000[2]
Land mass size of Victoria: 237,639km2
Land mass size of Singapore: 791.1km2
Density/persons per km2 in Victoria: 25.79/km2
Density/persons per km2 in Greater Melbourne: 1600/km2[3]
Density/persons per km2 in Singapore: 7,697/km2

What is currently happening in Melbourne/Victoria?

Road congestion has been steadily increasing within Melbourne and its suburbs since cars were first introduced, it has reached a level whereby it is comparable Sydney. Especially when road works occur on major transport routes such as the West Gate Bridge.[4][5] The radial pattern and wide-spread nature of Melbourne results in outer suburbs being heavily reliant on cars with long driving times.[6]
Major projects are currently underway for both road and rail across Melbourne. The Western Distributor is the largest road project currently being undertaken, the Metro Rail is the largest new rail infrastructure to be built and the removal of 50 level crossings across Melbourne by The Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA) is the most wide-spread, and largest rail enhancement project (by area covered) that Melbourne has undertaken.
Melbourne, and other cities across Australia are also seeing never seen before increases in house prices having increased 13.9% in Sydney and 9.6% in Melbourne from December 2014 to December 2015.[7]

What is currently happening in Singapore?

Mass Transit Railway (MRT) systems have been subsequently built on a continuous basis since 1987, whole new lines have opened in 2003, 2009, 2014 and other lines are progressively being built and made available to the public.
One example of a line currently being built is the Thomson-East Coast Line, which will add 22 entirely new stations and open in 2021.[8]
Other lines such as the Cross Island Line are currently being studied for where subway alignments should occur,[9] this is planned to open in 2030.
In total, there are currently 9 projects either being studied or built right now, this includes entirely new lines and major extensions of existing lines.[10]

What are the benefits of Victoria’s system?

Victoria’s system, much like other areas across Australia allows, generally, for strategies, developments or even new planning regulations that are developed to be vetted and appealed against by stakeholders who are affected, or feel affected, by these developments. By advertising with billboards, with the exception of the Capital City Zone[11] locals are able to be made aware of particular developments that are occurring and thereby respond.
Victoria’s system also allows for international investment to be made into Australia, with the Foreign Review Investment Board (FIRB) reviewing applications made and determining if they would be in Australia’s interest. As a result of the free trade agreement made with Singapore in 2003, a helpdesk was set up to assist investors for more “certainty and tangible assistance” in the foreign investment application process[12] Australia’s system, as it is a capitalist one, also allows for Public-Private Partnerships (PPP’s), these systems are argued to reduce inefficiencies and provide the market with increased flexibility.[13]
Good examples of currently existing, infrastructure public-private partnerships include Southern Cross Station and CityLink.

What are the negatives of Victoria’s planning system?

As our system is a democratic one, it allows individuals to be reimbursed for land that is compulsory acquired with the intention of using it for public use. Property owners are offered a market price for the land determined by the Valuer General, which can then be rebutted by an independent valuation and further negotiation can occur.
Of course, opposition to particular projects can and does occur from residents and within the Government itself.[14]
The democratic system can take time, and comes with an inherent requirement to work with all stakeholders involved in fair and reasonable manner. Not everybody will necessarily be happy with the agreed and negotiated outcome.

Foreign investment into residential properties and land banking can be seen as not in Australia’s interest as it doesn’t allow for local residents to purchase land against investors, who may have much larger amounts of money. This can lead to speculative land purchasing where investors don’t know what they will do with the property.[15]

Finally, public-private partnerships can multiple issues with communication between different parties, in particular, the Government and the business. Both groups can have different understandings to the goals of the project and the nature of the funding involved.[16] Further to this, hard infrastructure projects can be built with materials to only last the minimum amount of time required.[17]

What is Singapore’s system?

Singapore’s political party in power, the People’s Action Party (PAP) has been in power since 1959, due to how the voting tallying works, the party only needs to receive 23.8% of the popular vote to form Government[18] In the last election it received 69.86% share of the votes, which resulted in 83 or the 89 seats, or 93%.
Unlike Australia’s system, where the majority of land is held by private interests, 80% of residents in Singapore are estimated to live in public housing.[19] This results in land acquisitions where the land is bought off residents relatively uncommon, when compared against changing the land to different use, such the creation of road or subway entrance that is held by the government. (All new mass rail lines are generally built underground).

Public-private partnerships within Singapore liaise with the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE), an independent Government organisation set up to deal with and work with private companies when they want to begin an investment in Singapore. Most investments created through the SCE are hard infrastructure projects with the purpose of bettering commuter systems.

What are the benefits of Singapore’s system?

Singapore’s system allows for very efficient, large scale projects to be undertaken relatively easy when compared against opposition within Australia. A large project undertaken was the Merlion Park redevelopment undertaken in 2002.[20] Further to this, the creation and continuous expansion of the Mass Rail Transit (MRT) system has been undertaken in a relatively short period of time with relatively minimal opposition, across the entire country, however, it should be noted that, Singapore is 12km2 smaller than Adelaide and has a density twenty times as high.
The Government, being centre-right has also allowed for a very large amount international investment into the country, with relative ease. Australia’s investment in Singapore is close to $22 billion AUD.[21]

What are the negatives of Singapore’s planning system?

Developers within Singapore have no legal requirement to advertise that they are undertaking a development; this can result in grievances being raised after development has occurred. However, because of the large nature of individuals living within public housing, a lot of developments are usually more public apartments within residential areas.

Because of the voting system, the same political party, The People’s Action Party, has been in power since 1959. This can be seen as both a good factor, for businesses, as it gives a very strong confidence to investing within the country as political conditions will largely remain the same, however, for individuals this can be large issue when wanting a representative democracy. Singapore is not seen to be a “free” democracy.

What is Singapore currently doing to combat the road congestion problem?

In the early 1970’s Singapore had very heavy congestion and increasing issues with a growing middle class that were buying cars for the first time. Due to its relative dense nature of being an island, the Government in power, named the People’s Action Party (PAP) chose to introduce an Area Licencing System (ALS) in 1975, it was initially introduced in areas with high levels of congestion, such as the CBD. With the installation of gantries around the restricted zone and being enforced by auxiliary police officers, drivers had to purchase a pass, which was displayed on the car windscreen, permitting entry and use of the restricted zone. This system was surpassed with an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system which charges up to $6 Singapore Dollars, per gantry (comparable to Australian dollars) according to the time and location of a car.[22]
There is also a wide-ranging tax system in place for cars that includes a registration fee (RF) of $140 an additional registration fee (ARF), where the amount paid will be relative to the amount the user pays for the car much like stamp duty on houses, an import duty (as almost all cars are made internationally), GST, much like in Australia, a registration fee and a road tax. However, the largest ‘tax’ by far is the Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which has users bid, for the right to drive a particular car, within the Government set Vehicle Quota System (VQS), for 10 years, followed by either bidding again after 10 years, or scrapping the car for metal.[23]

Tax or charge Summary[24]
Registration Fee (RF) $140
Additional Registration Fee (ARF) Much like stamp duty on houses within Victoria, where more is paid depending on the price of the car, however, it can, and often does cost more than the cost of the car itself.
Import Duty Paid by the user, if cars are bought new from overseas.
Used Car Duty $10,000 for used cars that are imported (and can only be up to 3 years old).
GST Much like in Australia upon purchase
Road Tax A very detailed and complicated tax, dependant on emissions produced for that particular car, per year.
Certificate of Entitlement (COE) A certificate that is bid on, allowing for 10 years of car use.

There is also a petrol tax of 64c per litre for premium petrol and 56c per litre for regular unleaded.[25]

Could have Singapore’s Government have developed mass subway transit for the country if the planning system was more like that of Victoria’s?

Arguably, different factors such as population density play a major role in how desired, by the general populous and politicians, the installation and expansion of mass transit systems would be. With large areas and low density suburbs, roads are primarily used as the main preferred mode of transport. High density suburbs can result in road congestion, which can make commuting for work and leisure much harder. If Singapore’s Government was more like that of Victoria’s, it could very possibly be that cost, for example the Thompson-East Cost line at $749 million[26] would be rejected and argued against by opposing parties if it were to be proposed. This can be seen coming from the current opposition when it comes to the amount being spent.[27] Which is much like that of the current existing subway channels existing in Singapore at the moment.

Would there be a massive change in how government works in Victoria/Australia for this to work?

The Singapore Government and the Victorian Government are very different in nature, regardless of both being ‘democratic’ electoral systems. Because of the nature of the main political party never changing within the Singapore Government large scale, long term, infrastructure projects are able to be undertaken with little to no opposition by the other parties. This is unlike in Victoria where the East-West Link contract was both purposely signed by the outgoing Liberal Government in the 11th hour and then cancelled by the incoming Labor Government, both parties have been criticised for this in a recent Infrastructure Victoria report. For this very reason both Infrastructure Victoria and infrastructure Australia have been created, with the purpose of taking the politics out long-term infrastructure plans and ultimately building.

Is there something we can take from Singapore’s example?

A stable, consistent Government gives confidence to international investors, this may or may not be in the local person’s interest necessarily, but with the right regulations set by Government investment can benefit both the individual local person as well as the large investor.
Large mass transit systems do benefit the Government as well, with the Metro Rail proposal showing that it would make $1.10 on every $1.00 invested, or $1.50 if wider economic benefits were included.[28][29]
Governments can ultimately act in the interests of its citizens or in their own self-interests, it’s up to the Government to act in a responsible manner, by self-regulating with laws and allowing for free and open elections. Large mass-rail subway transit systems have massively increased the liveability within Singapore since they first began in 1987. Rail systems within Victoria have also benefited our economy since they were installed many years ago. Ultimately, it appears to come down to how dense areas are and what travel patterns already exist, thereby justifying the construction of new public transport routes.


[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015, ‘Australian Demographic Statistics’, June 2015, cat. No. 3101.0, Austalian Bureau of Statistics, retrieved 19 March 2016, <>
[2] Singapore Department of Statistics 2015, ‘Population & Land Area’, Singapore Government, retrieved 19 March 2016, <>
[3] Davies, A 2010, ‘More myths about Melbourne’s density’, Crikey – Online Blog, April 15, retrieved 31 May from <>
Note: Used because of ABS’s measurement of Melbourne’s land boundary (as explained in the article).

[4] Calligeros, M 2016, ‘Only 389 more mornings to go – Melbourne motorists endure day two of West Gate traffic chaos’, The Age Online, 17 March, retrieved 19 March 2016, <–melbourne-motorists-endure-day-two-of-west-gate-traffic-chaos-20160316-gnl0vk.html>
[5] Staff reporters 2016, ‘Melbourne drivers to endure a weekend of traffic chaos’, The Age Online, 19 March, retrieved 20 March 2016, <>
[6] Lucas, C 2016, ‘Driven out of Mernda by two-hour traffic jams’, The Age Online, 29 April, retrieved 23 May 2016, <>
[7] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, ‘Residential Property Price Indexes: Eight Capital Cities, December 2015’, Australian Bureau of Statistics, retrieved 23 May 2016, <>
[8] Personal photo
[9] Land Transport Authority 2016, ‘Cross Island Line’, Singapore Government, retrieved 23 May 2016, <>
[10] Land Transport Authority 2016, ‘Public Transport’, Singapore Government, retrieved 23 May 2016, <>
[11] City of Melbourne 2016, ‘Advertising planning applications’, City of Melbourne City Council, retrieved 23 May 2016, <>
[12] Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) 2016, ‘Singapore helpdesk’, Australian Government, retrieved 23 May 2016, <>
[13] Akintoye, A, Beck, M & Hardcastle, C 2008, ‘Public-Private Partnerships: Managing Risks and Opportunities’, eds., John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, England, pg xix.
[14] Gordon, J & Cook, H 2014, ‘Labor to dump East-West Link if elected, even if contracts are signed’, The Age Online, September 2011, retrieved 23 May 2016, <>
[15] Zhou, C, 2015, ‘Record sale: Glen Waverley house gains $20,000 every day for the past two months’, Domain (Fairfax Media), 23 August, retrieved 23 May 2016, <>
[16] Babiak, K, & Thibault, L 2009, ‘Challenges in Multiple Cross-Sector Partnerships’, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, edition 38 (1), pg 117–143, doi: 10.1177/0899764008316054
[17] Gudergan, SP & Johnston, J 2007, ‘Governance of public-private partnerships: lessons learnt from an Australian case?’, International Review of Administrative Sciences, December 2007, volume 73, Issue 4, pg 569-582, doi:10.1177/0020852307083459
[18] Xu, T 2015, ‘Singapore Election: Just 23.8 percent of votes needed to form government’, The Online Citizen, 16 July, retrieved 23 May 2016, <>
[19] Chew, V 2007, ‘Public housing in Singapore’, National Library Board, Singapore Government, retrieved 23 May 2016, <>
[20] Khoo, H 2000, ‘A new home’, Skyline, Urban Redevelopment Authority, July/August, pg 6-8 retrieved 19 March 2016, <>
[21] Crean, Simon (MP, Minister for Trade) 2009, ‘Partners in Recovery: Australia and Singapore working together’, speech made at the AustCham Business Awards, Singapore, 20 July, retrieved 23 May 2016, <>
[22] Land Transport Authority, 2016, ‘ERP RATE TABLE FOR PASSENGER CARS, TAXIS AND LIGHT GOODS VEHICLES (With Effect From 02 May 2016 to 31 July 2016)’, Singapore Government, 2 May, retrieved 23 May 2016, <>
[23] Tashkandi, A 2013, ‘Singapore Traffic Congestion Solution: Pricing Pricing Pricing!’, Class blog for USP 456/556 at Portland State University, April 15, retrieved 23 May 2016, <>
[24] Land Transport Authority 2016, ‘Tax Structure for Cars’, Singapore Government, retrieved 19 March 2016, <>
[25] Hong, LC 2015, ‘Singapore Budget 2015: Rise in petrol duty but drivers will enjoy road tax rebates’, The Straits Times, 23 February, retrieved 23 May 2016, <>
[27] Gordon, J 2016, ‘Labor to ramp up debt to pay for major projects’, The Age Online, February 26, retrieved 19 March 2016, <>
[28] Edwards, J 2016, ‘Melbourne Metro Rail Project: Victoria pleads for $4.5b in federal funding’, ABC News, 23 February, retrieved 19 March 2016, <>
[29] Melbourne Metro Rail Authority 2016, ‘Melbourne Metro Business Case’, MMRC, retrieved 19 March 2016, <>

Cite this post (Harvard):
Eager, B 2016, ‘Comparison of Singapore’s and Victoria’s (Australia) Planning System’,, blog-post, retrieved 24 October 2020, <>

This post was submitted as part as an assignment towards my Masters in Urban Planning and Environment. If you use content from it, make sure you cite is as this document was required to be submitted to a plagiarism checker.

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