The Next Lap

Singapore Infopedia


The Next Lap is a plan for Singapore’s long-term development. It includes ideas and proposals to make Singapore a nation of distinction. The term has also been used to refer to the period of time when Goh Chok Tong took over the premiership from Lee Kuan Yew in 1990, and pledged to keep Singapore ahead in the world.1 The government document was launched on 22 February 1991 as the principal addendum to the presidential address. It was published as a 160-page book titled Singapore: The Next Lap.2

The Long Term National Development Committee was entrusted with the task of setting the direction for the nation’s development over the next generation. Formed in 1989 by then Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and chaired by then Acting Minister for Information and the Arts George Yeo,3 the committee consisted of: Yeo Cheow Tong; Tay Eng Soon; Lee Boon Yang; Peter Sung; Mah Bow Tan; Seet Ai Mee; Ngiam Tong Dow; Low Sing Leng; and Paul Cheung.4 The committee drew on ideas put forth in the past by government and private groups. Included were those from Vision 1999 (1984), the Economic Committee (1986), Agenda for Action (1988), as well as the 1989 reports of the six advisory councils on the disabled; the aged; sports and recreation; youth; culture and the arts; and family and community life.5 On 28 November 1990, the phrase “the next lap” was mentioned when Goh Chok Tong was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Singapore at the City Hall Chamber. During his speech, Goh briefly outlined his plans for Singapore and announced that a report on his government’s long-term plans for Singapore would be released in subsequent months. At the end of his speech, he called on Singaporeans to join him and “run the next lap together”.6

Release of Singapore: The Next Lap
On 22 February 1991, Singapore: The Next Lap, a book outlining the long-term plans for Singapore’s development into a nation of distinction, was released as a principal addendum to then President Wee Kim Wee’s presidential address for the opening of the third session of the seventh Parliament.7 The book is a compilation of the plans and ideas for Singapore’s long-term development for the next 25 years, gathered from various discussions by governmental and private groups. It looks at how the physical and social assets in Singapore could be utilised to meet the needs and aspirations of Singaporeans for the future.8 The book was released in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil.9 It was subsequently released in other languages such as Japanese and German.10

Plans for the eight focus areas highlighted in the book include:

1. People
In order to sustain Singapore’s growth and development, studies suggested that the population should be grown to 4 million. Besides encouraging singles to marry and have children, another way to increase the population was to draw talents from other countries to Singapore.11

2. Education
The quality of and access to education would be enhanced. Schools would be upgraded, and would operate in single sessions where possible.12 More university places would also be made available when the Nanyang Technological Institute becomes a full-fledged university named Nanyang Technological University later in 1991, and through a proposed third university, which could be one with a programme for adults to continue their education.13 Local schoolchildren would also be provided with an annual sum in their Edusave accounts which can be used for school-related activities.14

3. Economy
Singapore would become a hub city and the business hub of Asia Pacific. To achieve this, it would be necessary to upgrade workers’ skills and knowledge, focus on establishing institutes for research and development in niche areas, and, by enhancing information technology infrastructure, transform Singapore into an “intelligent” island. Additionally, local companies ought to continue venturing overseas. Singapore would also continue to partner Malaysia and Indonesia in the Growth Triangle to share resources and capabilities and bring growth to the region.15

4. Home
A revised Singapore Concept Plan would be mapped out by the Urban Redevelopment Authority to develop the country into a “tropical city of excellence”. Plans to be included were: the upgrading of older estates; the establishment of a new city hub around Marina Bay and regional centres in Jurong East, Tampines and Woodlands for commercial purposes; the extension of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system to Woodlands, Hougang and Punggol; and the development of Singapore into a hub for “world-class cultural and artistic performances”.16

5. Arts and sports
Existing theatre spaces would be enhanced, and new ones would be built. A Fort Canning Museum Precinct would be formed with the National Museum at its centre, surrounded by other museums and galleries. Plans for a new National Library building and more branch libraries were made. It was also proposed that a National Arts Council be established to oversee cultural activities in Singapore, and that more facilities for sports and recreation be built.17

6. Community
The government would adopt a “many helping hands” approach for the less fortunate, including the provision of financial assistance, health care and care services. This approach was structured on the basis that it is better to have many sources of help, and that aid recipients should eventually become self-reliant.18

7. Singapore International
The Singapore International Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, would be established to establish close ties with Singaporeans overseas, promote the retention of their Singaporean identity, and to encourage Singaporeans to work overseas.19

8. National security
Since 1984, Singapore has adopted Total Defence as a means of achieving national resilience.20

In a keynote address delivered during the Pre-University Seminar on 17 June 1991, Mah Bow Tan, then Minister of State for Communications and Trade and Industry – one of the members of the LongTerm National Development Committee – stated that the plans outlined in The Next Lap were not meant to be “cast in stone”; instead, they could be changed according to the circumstances. The theme for that year’s seminar was “Singapore: The Next Lap”.21 In August 1991, it was revealed that in preparation for the general election to be held at the end of that month, the People’s Action Party had based their election manifesto on The Next Lap.22

Plans and reports supporting The Next Lap
Several masterplans and reports charting Singapore’s development in The Next Lap were subsequently released. For example: 

Social Services: The Next Lap
On 21–22 June 1991, the Singapore Council of Social Services, Institute of Policy Studies and Community Chest of Singapore organised the Conference on Social Services: The Next Lap in response to the “many helping hands” approach. During the conference, participants mapped future directions for social services for the disabled, disadvantaged families and youths, the elderly, as well as mental health services in Singapore. The discussions and papers were published in a book titled Social Services: The Next Lap.23

Strategic Economic Plan (SEP)
The SEP was formulated by the Economic Planning Committee, which was chaired by Mah Bow Tan (who was the Minister of State for Trade and Industry when the committee began working on the SEP in December 1989).24 It was unveiled at the National Business Forum in October 1991.

The plan was to be the economic blueprint for Singapore in the next 20 to 30 years. It detailed how the objectives set out in The Next Lap could be achieved. Eight strategic thrusts to develop key areas that contribute towards Singapore’s long-term growth were stated, with each assigned to a government agency to work on.25

Living the Next Lap: Towards a Tropical City of Excellence
Details of the revised Concept Plan were released in a publication by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 1991. Titled Living the Next Lap: Towards a Tropical City of Excellence, the book charts Singapore’s physical development in The Next Lap in three stages – up to 2000, 2010, and the year when Singapore’s population would hit 4 million.26 Besides the establishment of  four regional centres in Jurong East, Seletar, Tampines and Woodlands, as well as new  developments at Marina South, the following were also proposed: the expansion of housing and commercial developments along MRT routes, the development of Seletar and Tengah, and reclamation at the southeastern shore.27

IT2000 masterplan
The National Computer Board released the IT2000 masterplan report, A Vision of an Intelligent Island, on 1 April 1992. The report included recommendations from the public and private sectors on how the national information infrastructure in Singapore could increase the country’s competitiveness, improve the quality of life and bring economic growth.28 Prepared in August 1991, the report gathered about 200 senior executives, academics and information technology (IT) professionals to look at how advanced IT could be applied in 11 major sectors in Singapore. The IT2000 plan would contribute towards the vision of transforming Singapore into an intelligent island,29 exemplifying the strategic role of IT in The Next Lap.30

National Technology Plan 1991
To enhance Singapore’s innovativeness and productivity in the future, the National Science and Technology Board (NSTB) came up with the National Technology Plan 1991 to illustrate how NSTB could develop and promote relevant industrial research and development for the next phase of economic growth in Singapore. The report, “Science and Technology – Window of Opportunities”, outlined the recommendations for the National Technology Plan.31

Outcomes of The Next Lap
Among the notable outcomes of The Next Lap were: the start of the Open University Degree Programme in early 1994, which was run by the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), and allowed working adults without a university degree to undertake part-time studies to obtain university qualifications;32 the establishment of Medifund for patients who could not afford medical fees; the extension of the Edusave scheme to include scholarships for students and annual grants for schools; and the Housing and Development Board’s refurbishment programme for older flats.33

The arts and culture-related projects that were rolled out in accordance with plans of The Next Lap included the establishment of a network of five museums in today’s civic district (for example, the Asian Civilisations Museum); the formation of the National Heritage Board, a new statutory board, to manage the museums;34 and the establishment of a new arts centre, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.35

In addition, civil servants were urged by then Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to embrace change and innovation due to their critical role in Singapore’s success as the nation grappled with strong global competition.36 This led to the launch of Public Service for the 21st Century (PS21) on 5 May 1995, a programme to drive the public service towards excellence in the 21st century. PS21 aimed to encourage a change in the values and attitudes of public servants so that they would remain relevant.37

The next millennium: Singapore 21
On 24 April 1999, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong unveiled the report, Singapore 21: Together We Make the Difference, as the successor to The Next Lap which would chart the next phase of Singapore’s development.38

Goh Lee Kim

1. “Chok Tong Sets Out His Priorities,” Straits Times, 14 June 1990, 17; “The Next Lap,” New Paper, 22 February 1991, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
2. “Government Unveils Its Vision of a Future Singapore,” Straits Times, 23 February 1991, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Singapore: The Next Lap (Singapore: Times Editions, 1991), 13 (Call no. RSING 959.5705 SIN-[HIS]); “Government Unveils Its Vision.”
4. “Government Unveils Its Vision”; Next Lap, 152.
5. “Government Unveils Its Vision.”
6. Bertha Henson, “PM Goh’s Plan for S’pore,” Straits Times, 29 November 1990, 1; “My Mission: To Keep Singapore Thriving and Growing,” Straits Times, 29 November 1990, 21. (From NewspaperSG)
7. “Government Unveils Its Vision”; Bertha Henson, “President: All Have a Stake in S’pore,” Straits Times, 23 February 1991, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
8. Next Lap, 13.
9. “Government Unveils Its Vision.”
10. “Japanese ‘Must Strengthen Ties with Asian Nations’,” Straits Times, 26 March 1992, 22; “Kohl to Visit Singapore in Late October,” Straits Times, 8 May 1992, 25. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Next Lap, 19–27.
12. Next Lap, 33–36.
13. “Travelling the Road to NTU: Down Memory Lane,” Straits Times, 1 July 1991, 11 (From NewspaperSG); Next Lap, 54.
14. Next Lap, 51–53.
15. Next Lap, 57–72.
16. Next Lap, 77–97.
17. Next Lap, 101–15.
18. Next Lap, 117–26; Tay Eng Soon, “The Conference on Social Services: The Next Lap,” speech, National Productivity Board (NPB) Auditorium, 21 June 1991, transcript, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. tes19910621s)
19. Next Lap, 131–35.
20. Next Lap, 141–42.
21. Ministry of Education, Singapore, Singapore: The Next Lap: Pre-University Seminar 1991: The Report (Singapore: Ministry of Education, 1992) (Call no. RSING 959.57 PRE); Cherian George and Chua Chong Jin, “Plans for Next Lap are Flexible, Says Mah,” Straits Times, 19 June 1991, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
22. “Chok Tong: Give Me Mandate to Lead The Next Lap,” Straits Times, 18 August 1991, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
23. Yap Mui Teng, ed., Social Services: The Next Lap (Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1991), vii (Call no. RSING 360.95957 SOC); Zuraidah Ibrahim and Sumiko Tan, “Govt Still Has Major Role to Play in Social Services,” Straits Times, 22 June 1991, 28. (From NewspaperSG)
24. Economic Planning Committee, Ministry of Trade & Industry, The Strategic Economic Plan: Towards a Developed Nation (Singapore: SNP Publishers, 1991), 2, 16–17 (Call no. RSING 338.95957 SIN); Phua Kok Kim, “Vision 2030: S’poreans to Be as Rich as Americans,” Straits Times, 14 October 1991, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
25. Economic Planning Committee, Ministry of Trade & Industry, Strategic Economic Plan, 56–57; “The 8 Strategic Thrusts in Republic’s Long-Term Economic Growth Plan,” Straits Times, 14 October 1991, 36. (From NewspaperSG)
26. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Living the Next Lap: Towards a Tropical City of Excellence (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1991), 4. (Call no. RSING 307.36095957 LIV)
27. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Living the Next Lap, 12–14.
28. Kenneth James, “Blueprint of S’pore Plan for Intelligent Island Unveiled,” Business Times, 2 April 1992, 1; “Translating IT2000 Plan into a Better Quality of Life for Singaporeans,” Straits Times, 6 April 1992, 32. (From NewspaperSG)
29. National Computer Board, Singapore, A Vision of an Intelligent Island: The IT2000 Report (Singapore: SNP Publishers, 1992), 3–4, Insert. (Call no. RSING 303.4833095957 VIS)
30. “Make IT Easy for Ordinary S’poreans – PM,” Straits Times, 27 September 1991, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
31. National Science and Technology Board, Singapore, Science and Technology: Window of Opportunities: National Technology Plan 1991 (Singapore: SNP Publishers, 1991), i–vii, 2–3. (Call no. RSING 507.205957 SIN)
32. “Chance to Get a Degree,” New Paper, 6 January 1994, 1; “Back to the Books,” Straits Times, 1 February 1994, 1; “A Start That Must Not Stop,” Straits Times, 26 July 1993, 26. (From NewspaperSG)
33. Bertha Henson and Raymond Lim, “What New Parliament Has in Store,” Straits Times, 4 January 1992, 22; “Measures to Level Up Society Announced,” Straits Times, 7 January 1992, 1; “‘We Should Level Up to progress, Not Level Down to Stagnate’,” Straits Times, 7 January 1992, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
34. Julia Goh, “5-Museum Network in the Heart of the City,” Straits Times, 31 January 1992, 1; “Museums to Suit All Ages and Cultures,” Straits Times, 31 January 1992, 27. (From NewspaperSG)
35. Diana Oon, “Theatres on the Bay,” Business Times, 22 July 1994, Tan Hsueh Yun, “Design for World-Class Arts Centre Unveiled,” Straits Times, 22 July 1994, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
36. Chua Mui Hoong, “BG Lee: Civil Servants Must Be Bold, Creative,” Straits Times, 1 April 1995, 1; Chuang Peck Ming, “Civil Service Needs Culture of Service Excellence: BG Lee,” Business Times, 1 April 1995, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
37. Janet Ho, “Coming: Programme to Change Civil Servant Mindset,” Straits Times, 30 April 1995, 3; Zuraidah Ibrahim, “Public Service embarks on Mission of Excellence,” Straits Times, 6 May 1995, 1; “New Code to Boost the ‘Service’ in Civil Service,” (1995, May 6). Straits Times, 6 May 1995, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
38. Singapore 21 Committee, Singapore 21: Together, We Make the Difference (Singapore: Singapore 21 Committee, 1999) (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS]); Irene Ng, “People’s Vision of New S’pore,” Straits Times, 25 April 1999, 1; “PM Goh’s Vision of a New Era for Singapore,” Straits Times, 7 June 1999, 42–43. (From NewspaperSG.)

The information in this article is valid as at September 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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