An age old myth that has been drilled into the heads of every Singaporean from birth is the notion that we owe Singapore’s success to our model of governance. Or to put it more bluntly, the one-party domination of the PAP that made such progress possible. This myth is constantly being expounded by the political establishment and the mainstream media.
The latest politician to do so was none other than Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education, Second Minister for the Ministry of Defense and a potential 4th generation successor to PM Lee. At the Institute of Policy Studies’ flagship conference Singapore Perspectives on Jan 23, Mr Ong Ye Kung asserted that the PAP’s continued one-party rule is the best course for Singapore’s future. Mr Ong went on to warn the audience that “divisive” forces could pose long-term risks to Singapore under a multi-party system.
“Political parties are essential in representing the diverse views of the people they represent, and elections a necessary and peaceful discourse in finding compromise, finding a common path forward. This is the essence of democracy. But the same essence can take a nasty twist, sowing discord, dividing societies,”
So far, the PAP establishment has injected fear mongering and fancy rhetoric in this debate without having any empirical evidence to show for. But what does the facts say? Overwhelming evidence would challenge the very basis of the PAP’s age old assumption.
1. Multi-Party Democracies enjoy the highest standards of living
To present the argument that Multi-party Democracies work, I will use the reputable Democracy Index. The Democracy Index is an index compiled by the UK based Economist Intelligence Unit, that measures the state of democracy in 167 countries, of which 166 are sovereign states and 165 are UN member states. Each country’s score and ranking on the Democracy Index is determined by their performance in the five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation, and political culture.
Currently, Singapore ranks at 70 with a score of 6.38 out of 10. This puts us in the “Flawed Democracy” category. Unsurprisingly, it is our electoral process and pluralism (or lack thereof) that has pulled our score down.
The top 5 countries on the list are:
- New Zealand
But how do these countries fare when it comes to standard of living?
According to the UN’s Human Development Index ranking this is how the top 5 most democratic countries fare;
Norway (1st), Iceland (16th), Sweden (14th), New Zealand (9th), Denmark (4th). Singapore, by comparison, ranks in at no. 11. All of the top 5 most Democratic countries in the world fall within the top 20 most developed countries. And 3 of those 5 countries have a higher standard of living than Singapore.
2. Multi-Party Democracies are some of the most competitive economies in the world
Every year, the World Economic Forum releases its Global Competitiveness Report on the state of the world’s economies.
The WEF looks at data on areas as varied as the soundness of banks to the sophistication of businesses in each country. It then uses the data to compile a picture of the economy of almost every country on earth. Here is how the top 5 most democratic countries fared.
Norway (10th), Iceland (27th), Sweden (6th), New Zealand (13th), Denmark (12th). While Singapore ranked 2nd, the overwhelming majority of countries within the top 30 are Multi-Party Democracies.
3. Multi-Party Democracies have low corruption
The level of corruption is a key measure that determines the integrity of governance. Transparency International (TI) has published the Corruption Perceptions Index(CPI) since 1995, annually ranking countries “by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.” The CPI generally defines corruption as “the misuse of public power for private benefit.” How do the top 5 most democratic countries fare in terms of corruption? The results speak for themselves.
Norway (6th), Iceland (14th), Sweden (4th), New Zealand (1st, Tie), Denmark (1st, Tie)
With the exception of Iceland, every other country achieved a better ranking than Singapore (7th).
4. Multi-Party Democracies tend to be the most peaceful
The Global Peace Index (GPI) is an attempt to measure the relative position of nations’ and regions’ peacefulness. It is the product of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) and developed in consultation with an international panel of peace experts from peace institutes and think tanks with data collected and collated by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
And how do the top 5 most democratic countries fare?
Norway (17th), Iceland (1st), Sweden (14th), New Zealand (4th), Denmark (2nd)
All 5 countries aren’t just within the top 20 on the Global Peace Index, they all achieved higher rankings than Singapore (20th).
No doubt, Singapore is performing well on the world stage, whether it’s economic competitiveness, low corruption or standard of living. No one can deny that we are better off than much of the world. But is our success attributed to the sacrifices that were made in the area of human rights and democratic processes? While the PAP would like to assume that Singapore can only succeed under one-party rule, the data from other successful Multi-Party Democracies suggest otherwise.