Singapore is more effective at governing than the United States and the United Kingdom : Harvard Professor 

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Singapore is more effective at governing than the United States and the United Kingdom, according to renowned Harvard Professor Graham Allison. 

In an article titled “What the West can learn from Singapore” in US global affairs publication Foreign Policy, Graham Allison, a professor at Harvard Kennedy School, compared three report cards using data from international organisations to assess Singapore against two countries – the US and UK which are holding major elections this year.  

Each report card grades the countries on how well they fulfilled what Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew believed were the function of government: improving living standards and enabling personal freedoms compatible with others’ freedoms in society.  

According to an analysis of citizens’ wellbeing, Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was US$88,500, over 4 per cent higher than that of the US, as shown in Table 1. Dr Allison, a former US Assistant Defense Secretary, noted that when Lee Hsien Loong became Prime Minister in 2004, Singapore’s GDP per capita was about three-quarters of the US’s. Yet, 20 years later, Singapore’s GDP per capita exceeded that of the US. Mr Lee left his successor a population wealthier than Americans – and nearly twice as wealthy as their former British colonial rulers, Allison observed. 

Singapore has substantially reduced inequality over the past two decades, lowering its Gini coefficient from 0.47 to 0.37, while the inequality index in the US has remained around 0.47. 

He noted that Singaporeans tend to be healthier and live longer than counterparts in the US and UK. Life expectancy in Singapore today is 84 years, higher than the approximately same life expectancy in all three countries just 20 years ago. Infant mortality in Singapore has fallen from 27 deaths per 1,000 in 1965 to 1.8 today, considerably lower than both other countries. 93 per cent of Singaporeans express satisfaction with their healthcare system compared to 75 per cent of Americans and 77 per cent of Britons. 

Dr Allison argued that Singapore was best prepared for a major public health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that for every one Singaporean who has died from COVID-19, around 10 Americans or Britons have died. 

Regarding education, he said Singaporean students tend to outperform their peers in the US and UK. In 2022, 41 per cent of Singaporean junior college students were classified as “top performers” on mathematics tests among Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, compared to just 7 per cent of Americans and 11 per cent of Britons. 

Table 1: 

Singapore has one of the most effective legal systems and lowest corruption in the world, according to World Bank data. See Table 2. Citizens have more confidence in Singapore’s judicial system (89 per cent) than in any other OECD country, based on OECD data. See Table 1. 

Singapore also has one of the most stable governments. The World Bank ranks Singapore in the top 3 per cent of countries for political stability and lack of violence or terrorism, up from the top 15 per cent two decades ago. In contrast, the US ranks in the top 55 per cent while the UK ranks in the top 38 per cent. See Table 2. 

He added that multinational corporations generally consider Singapore’s political and legal environment the best in the world for doing business. Singapore rose from No. 5 to No. 1 on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index between 2004 and today, surpassing the US in 2019. 

Table 2:   

However, according to Dr Allison, Singaporeans have less freedom in exercising their political rights. Freedom House classifies Singapore as only “partly free” with a score of 48 out of 100. The World Bank ranks Singapore in the 44th percentile for voice and accountability. These figures are significantly higher – sometimes twice as high – in the US and UK as shown in Table 3. 

He noted that despite this, surveys show most Singaporeans are satisfied with the current version of democracy while recognising the need to create more opportunities for domestic debate. 

Table 3: