When Mr Samuel Ng heard in 2007 that the Government had plans to transform Punggol Town into a vibrant waterfront town, he could not wait for the makeover.
Yesterday, Mr Ng, 52, a Punggol resident for the last seven years, glimpsed the future at the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Punggol Waterway.
'The waterway will breathe new life and add vibrancy to this sleepy town,' he said. 'It will just be a stone's throw from where I live.'
But the waterway could have been a lost opportunity - if not for the spirit of innovation and teamwork between the Housing Board and Public Utilities Board, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.
Indeed, he said the growth of Punggol, like Singapore itself, shows how citizens working as one with 'vision, determination and innovation can overcome the odds to build new communities and radically transform our living environment'.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, Mr Teo said the transformation of Punggol, an old fishing village, mirrors the experience of Singapore. The nation itself was a fishing village before it made the quantum leap to global city.
In the case of Punggol, the waterway was initially meant to be a 'drain' connecting Sungei Serangoon and Sungei Punggol at each end of Punggol Town.
But when the PUB engineers and the HDB planners discussed the town's development in the Punggol 21 masterplan, they spied an opportunity to build Punggol around this new waterway, he said.
The result? A 4.2km waterway which will flow beside 21,000 units of new public and private housing.
Cutting right through Punggol Town, the waterway is expected to be completed by the end of next year.
Then residents in Punggol and around Singapore can dine alfresco while overlooking the waterway. They can jog on scenic routes, and enjoy watersports such as kayaking.
Praising the HDB and PUB, he said the Government's long-term planning and ability to act on these plans is a key reason for Singapore's success.
'Anyone can have big plans,' he said. 'But working our plan, getting it executed effectively and efficiently is not so easily accomplished.'
Also important is the readiness to modify a plan to suit changing circumstances and to seek synergy, he said, 'while remaining connected to the ground - listening to and attending to our people'.
Indeed, yesterday he invited the people of Punggol to name the waterway.
He was joined by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan. Also present were Mr Teo's fellow Pasir-Ris Punggol MPs - Mr Charles Chong, Ms Penny Low, Dr Ahmad Magad and Mr Michael Palmer - plus Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Lam Pin Min.
Mr Teo said the new-look Punggol is part of the larger transformation of Singapore's physical landscape that will take place over the next few years.
With the Double Helix Bridge at Marina Bay, the Gardens by the Bay and the integrated resorts being planned and built, the downtown will be rejuvenated.
Similarly, the heartlands will be spruced up, he said. Amenities will be added, such as bigger shopping malls, new hospitals and more luxurious public housing.
On Friday, Mr Mah invited Singaporeans to discover the changes all over the island, including Punggol. They can join a series of events named My New Singapore.
Said Mr Teo: 'We will press on with our efforts to remake our homeland, thus ensuring that Singapore will emerge stronger from the economic downturn when the global economy recovers.'Source: Straits Times, 19 April 2009