We are number what?

October 30, 2002
Singapore Democrats

This post is at least a year old. Some of the links in this post may no longer work correctly.

When asked why he reacted so robustly to a recent article by Bloomberg News alleging nepotism of his family, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew said that every survey had put Singapore on top of the list for transparency and other anti-corruption measures. It is a hard-won premium that has to be defended if it is questioned, he added.

What the interview failed to mention is that in a survey by the World Audit which pits the level of corruption (CPI) against democracy rankings (DR), Singapore sticks out like a sore thumb.

Indeed, Singapore is 4th on the index of least corrupted countries. But when one looks at the democracy rankings, Singapore came in at 69. Lest you think the curtailing of political and civil rights is a prerequisite of eliminating corruption, this list reveals that Singapore’s 69th position in the democracy ranking is the lowest amongst the top 29 least corrupted countries.

Countries that outranked us as being least corrupted – Finland, Denmark and New Zealand – are also the most democratic nations on planet earth – all falling into the top three in democracy rankings. Sweden, who is on par with Singapore as the 4th least corrupted countries, is also 4th on the democratic scale. Further down the corruption index reveals that top 15 countries like Canada, Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Switzerland and the United States are also in the top 10 most democratic nations.

The next least corrupted Asian country, Japan, is at 17th with a corresponding democratic ranking of 18th. Singapore’s 69th position in the democracy ranking is worse than Chile (CPI:14 th, DR:40th), Israel (CPI:15th , DR:42nd), Botswana (CPI:21st, DR: 43rd) and Namibia (CPI:25th, DR:44th). Democratically, we are smack in the league of 3rd World Nations, alongside countries like Honduras, Ecuador, Guatemala, Lesotho, Mozambique, Kuwait, Niger, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the Freedom House ranking of political and civil liberties, Singapore is in the “partly free” category. Our level of civil and political liberties pales in comparison with our neighbours Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia.

The standard mantra of the PAP over the years is that if we were to flush out corruption, civil and political rights are necessary sacrificial lambs. From the relative rankings above, this line is obviously untrue. Being seen as “least corrupted” while squatting amongst the “least democratic” league of nations is nothing to be proud about.

And for those who think that it was because of the PAPs no-nonsense (code for self-serving autocratic rule) that has made Singapore into such a fine, safe, well-managed, and livable country, in may come as a shock that among the cities ranked for its livability, Singapore ranks at number fifty yes 50! (See following story: Best cities are democratic cities)

Democracy Rankings http://www.worldaudit.org/democracy.htm
Corruption Rankings http://www.worldaudit.org/corruption.htm
Freedom House’s Comparative Measures of Freedom http://www.freedomhouse.org/research/freeworld/2001/table1.htm