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Friday, June 5, 2009


1. WEDDING

THEN: A couple emerges from a mass wedding ceremony organised by the Hokkien Huay Kuan at Thian Hock Keng Temple in Telok Ayer Street.

The clan association, founded in 1840 to look after the welfare of immigrants from China's Fujian province and educate Hokkien children, was famous for organising iconic mass weddings in the 1950s for couples on a tight budget. Telok Ayer Street also used to face the sea.

NOW: A couple poses for wedding photos at the Marina Barrage. Some, in search of a novel venue, even hold their wedding reception there.

The barrage, opened last year, is a dam built across the 350m-wide Marina Channel to keep out sea water and turn the bay into a freshwater reservoir to provide for Singapore's growing water needs.

2. HOUSES

THEN: These flats in Upper Pickering Street are built by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), set up in 1927 to house lower-income residents living near the city centre. The flats have since been torn down, but SIT flats can still be found in Tiong Bahru.

NOW: These flats in Jalan Besar are built by the Housing and Development Board (HDB), which was formed in 1960 to deal with the dire housing shortage. It took just over three years to outbuild the 23,019 units the SIT completed in its 32 years of existence. In the next few decades, the HDB resettled Singaporeans from urban slums and rural kampungs areas into spanking new towns across the island. A total of 82 per cent of residents live in public housing today.





THEN: These flats in Upper Pickering Street are built by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), set up in 1927 to house lower-income residents living near the city centre. The flats have since been torn down, but SIT flats can still be found in Tiong Bahru.

NOW: These flats in Jalan Besar are built by the Housing and Development Board (HDB), which was formed in 1960 to deal with the dire housing shortage. It took just over three years to outbuild the 23,019 units the SIT completed in its 32 years of existence. In the next few decades, the HDB resettled Singaporeans from urban slums and rural kampungs areas into spanking new towns across the island. A total of 82 per cent of residents live in public housing today.


3. TRANSPORTATION

THEN: Roads are often choked with vehicles emitting noxious fumes. Traffic jams are made worse by the inevitable roundabout found at the junction of many key roads in the city.

Buses and cars are not air-conditioned. Vehicles are often old and fumes from their faulty exhaust are the bane of pedestrians. But no one seems to notice the harmful smoke polluting the air.

NOW: An air-conditioned MRT train pulls into Lakeside station in Jurong West. Like many stations, it has an adjoining bus stop. making for swift and seamless travel.

Few cabs and public buses are without air-conditioning. Many roundabouts are gone. But Electronic Road Pricing gantries have come up. They are to prevent congestion on popular roads, so motorists are charged for travelling on them during peak hours.

4. SCHOOLS



THEN: Classrooms like the one in this Chinese middle school in the 1950s are basic, with wooden desks and benches. Many schools are set up and funded by businessmen, clan associations, philanthropists and religious groups. Education is not compulsory, but classrooms are often overcrowded.

NOW: Classes like this one at Kranji Primary School have shrunk from 40 to 30 children in a class. This allows teachers to devote more time to the children.

With fewer desks and chairs in a classroom, there is more space for group activities for learning. Education is compulsory and the Government will spend $8.7 billion on education this financial year. By 2013, it expects to spend $11 billion.

5. MARKETS



THEN: Street markets in areas like Chinatown are where most residents in Singapore buy their daily necessities. Individuals run mobile stalls that sell a range of fruits, vegetables, meats and dried goods.

The market is at its busiest in the morning. If hygiene is an issue, it is lost on everyone.

NOW: Late-night shoppers at the 24-hour FairPrice Xtra Hypermart in Jurong Point, one of Singapore's largest suburban retail malls.

Late-night shopping is a hit with Singaporeans, with major supermarket chains introducing round-the-clock outlets to cater to night owls and a 24/7 lifestyle. Also, every Friday and Saturday, many shops and department stores in the city stay open late, till 11pm.

6. HONG LIM PARK


THEN: Crowds at the first pre-election rally held by the Liberal Socialist Party on March 15, 1959, at Hong Lim Green. The park is the first public garden, created by Hokkien businessman and philanthropist Cheng Hong Lim in 1885. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was the venue for many spirited election rallies and political speeches.

NOW: Mr Tan Kin Lian, former chief executive of insurance co-operative NTUC Income, addresses more than 500 people at the park's Speakers' Corner on Nov 15 last year. Mr Tan took up the cause of disgruntled investors in financial products linked to now-bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers, which have since become worthless.

Speakers' Corner, set up in 2000, is for citizens to make public speeches without a permit. Since last September, outdoor demonstrations and events can be held there too.

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