Singapore Ranks 3rd in Singapore-Developed Livability Index. Is this the truth?

The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (Asia Competitiveness Institute) had recently developed a new ranking of world cities – the Global Liveable Cities Index – which ranks Singapore 3rd globally.

This is in comparison to other indexes which ranked Singapore at a lower position – Singapore is not ranked in the top 10 for the Liveability Ranking by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The new index’s creators, as The Straits Times, had put, “tout the index the index as more representative of ordinary city residents’ concerns.” The Straits Times also stated that “the index uses indicators that apply to the ordinary city dweller earning the median income, instead of a member of the social elite or an expatriate, as many other indexes tend to do.”

The new index “covers 64 Asian, European and American cities, is based on five categories: economic vibrancy and competitiveness; environmental friendliness and sustainability; domestic security and stability; social-cultural conditions; and public governance.” [1]

According to the index, Singapore is ranked 3rd among the 64 cities. This index was timed to be launched at the World Cities Summit that was held in Singapore last week.

From The Straits Times as well, The Straits Times had “asked Singaporeans what they would like to see in their city. Most of the 50 surveyed long for a greater sense of home and community. They highlight conservation of green and heritage spaces, a slower pace of life, lower cost of living, better care for the poor and disabled, and avenues for citizens to be engaged in the life of their city. Many also hope for a more liveable city.” [2]

The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy had launched the new index, in a bid to address Singaporean’s aspirations of living in a “more liveable city.”

However, I decided to look at other global comparisons, which would better highlight Singaporeans’ aspirations more adequately.

I looked at the following reports and comparisons:

  1. Human Development Index 2011 (http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2011_EN_Complete.pdf)
  2. 2011 Quality of Life Index by Nation Ranking (http://nationranking.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/2011-qli/)
  3. 2011 Quality of Life Index by International Living (http://internationalliving.com/2010/12/quality-of-life-2011/)
  4. Global Wage Report 2010/2011 http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/@publ/documents/publication/wcms_145265.pdf)
  5. Health Expenditure per Capita (http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.XPD.PCAP?order=wbapi_data_value_2010+wbapi_data_value+wbapi_data_value-last&sort=desc)
  6. Total Health Expenditure (% of GDP) (http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.XPD.TOTL.ZS/countries?order=wbapi_data_value_2010+wbapi_data_value+wbapi_data_value-last&sort=desc)
  7. World Happiness Report 2012 (http://www.earth.columbia.edu/sitefiles/file/Sachs%20Writing/2012/World%20Happiness%20Report.pdf)
  8. World Database of Happiness 2000 – 2009 (http://www1.eur.nl/fsw/happiness/hap_nat/nat_fp.php?mode=6)
  9. Freedom of the Press 2012 (http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/freedom-press-2012There is another report, Freedom in the World 2012, which looks at the overall freedom of a country. However, as it does not rank the countries according to individual countries, but blocks, I wasn’t able to tease out the data. You can see Singapore’s performance at this link: http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2012

Notably, these reports and comparisons looked at Singapore as a country and not a city. However, if we were to be compared as a country, by logic, Singapore would easily ranked comparatively better in the rankings, since it would be easier to manage a small country, like Singapore, than the other bigger countries. This should put Singapore at an advantage.

Let me explain why I had looked at these indexes. They each fulfill an aspect of what Singaporeans “would like to see” in Singapore, as The Straits Times had surveyed.

Unlike the Global Liveable Citiex Index, these reports and comparisons would address directly the aspirations that Singaporeans would want, and would address their concerns better.

As you can see, these reports and comparisons do account for the wants of Singaporeans, as surveyed by The Straits Times. You can take a look further at the methodology of these rankings in their respective reports.

If you look at the rankings, Singapore ranks lowly on some of these comparisons, and we are not in the top 25 of these rankings. How then did the new index from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy derive such a high ranking for their newly-created index?

Understandably, the institute (and the government, by extension) would have developed an index which places Singapore favourably because firstly, they would want to create an impression among Singaporeans that Singapore is doing very well, and we should be grateful. Secondly, it is to remind us that the government’s current growth plan for Singapore is favourable and we should agree with the government’s direction.

However, if we were to look at the other comparisons available, we can see that Singapore has much improvement to make.

  1. The government can afford to subsidise Singaporeans’ healthcare needs better. Our health expenditure per capita, and as a proportion of GDP, is considerably lower, for a country that ranks with one of the world’s highest per capita GDP.
  2. Singaporeans deserve to be happier, in comparison with other countries that have a similar per capita GDP.
  3. Singaporeans deserve to have free and objective access to information and knowledge – our ranking at 150 suggests that the Singapore government has a monopoly over information transfer to Singaporeans. Showcasing this index, whilst pitching Singapore at number 3 is an attempt to ‘brainwash’ Singaporeans.

I would like to quickly point out two other things:

  1. The Global Liveable Cities Index that Singapore had developed claimed to be more representative of the median wage earner. However, if you look at the average wages in the table, Singapore does not even rank in the top 10. The median wage won’t veer too far off. This, by itself, already suggests that the financial compensation of the median wage earner is comparatively lower than that of the countries – what other indicators had the institute used to then make up for the index?
  2. The Global Liveable Cities share many similar indicators used by the other comparisons, yet the ranking of Singapore using this index drastically differs from the other comparisons. If already the median wage earner earns a significantly lower wage than the other top tier countries, how is it that Singapore was able to not only maintain its standing, but move out the rankings in our Singapore-created index?

What does this article hope to achieve? I hope to illustrate that understandably, the government would want to present itself in a positive light. Most governments would. Most individuals would as well.

However, I would like to remind the government that Singaporeans do genuinely aspire to be happier, to have a more equitable and balanced standard of living. The new index introduced suggests that Singapore is performing admirably and we do not need to sidetrack from the current growth strategy.

However, other comparisons have shown otherwise. I would like to remind our government to reassess their current growth strategy and to cater to our needs:

  1. How can we allow a more equitable standard of living, where wealth is not concentrated among the rich?
  2. How can Singaporeans have a more balanced lifestyle where we are able to have a happier standard of living?
  3. How can Singaporeans have easier access to healthcare needs? It is acknowledged that the quality of healthcare in Singapore is top-notch. However, the accessibility needs to be increased.

In conclusion, I am very appreciative of my government’s efforts. The recent efforts to spruce up Bishan Park and the opening of Gardens by the Bay are a clear example of the government’s capabilities and strengths in terms managing the social well-being of Singaporeans. However, I hope that the government will continue to ensure that it meets the citizens’ needs, by introducing pro-social development policies, and not develop the economy, at the expanse of Singaporeans’ emotional, psychological and social growth.

It is high time Singaporeans’ needs are respected, and that we are able to develop holistically as human beings.

Aside, I would like to add that this comparison table showcases a selected set of  data – I will be the first to admit, and I wish that the government would similarly do so, for objective and holistic reporting. You can see the other rankings of Singapore in other global comparisons at this link: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_rankings_of_Singapore#section_3, where Singapore stands in good stead. However, one thing to note is that these comparisons look mainly at economic data, and not adequately on social issues, which this article aims to address.

I had originally posted this article on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/notes/roy-yi-ling-sexiespider/singapore-ranks-3rd-in-singapore-developed-index-is-this-the-truth/10151881399000251

References:

[1] The Straits Times July 3, 2012 New index for ranking world’s cities http://www.eco-business.com/news/new-index-for-ranking-worlds-cities/

[2] The Straits Times June 23, 2012 ‘We want a greater sense of home’: Singaporeans http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_814194.html

http://sggreendrinks.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/we-want-a-greater-sense-of-home-singaporeans/

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