Our ‘biggest’ blessing is not a miracle

I refer to the 13th Apr 2013 Straits Times article “Singapore’s biggest blessing: Safety” by Mr Kishore Mahbubani [1].

Mr Mahbubani asserts that Singapore’s safety is a miracle because unlike Switzerland, we are not surrounded by places with the same level of safety. But such so-called ‘miracles’ are quite common place around the world:

• Suriname’s homicide rate of 4.6 per 100,000 people is much lower than that of its neighbours Guyana (15.5 per 100,000) and French Guiana (13.3 per 100,000) and Brazil (21.7 per 100,000) [2].

• Martinique’s homicide rate of 4.2 per 100,000 is much lower than those of many of its Caribbean neighbours including Saint Lucia (22.6 per 100,000) and Dominica (19.1 per 100,000) [2].

• Niger’s homicide rate of 3.8 per 100,000 is much lower than that of its neighbours Burkina Faso (18 per 100,000) and Chad (15.8 per 100,000) and Benin (15.1 per 100,000) and Mali (8 per 100,000) [2].

• Sao Tome and Principe’s homicide rate of 1.9 per 100,000 is much lower than that of its neighbours Equatorial Guinea (20.7 per 100,000) and Gabon (13.8 per 100,000) and Cameroon (19.7 per 100,000) and Nigeria (12.2 per 100,000) [2].

• Djibouti’s homicide rate of 3.4 per 100,000 is much lower than that of its neighbours Ethiopia (25.5 per 100,000) and Eritrea (17.8 per 100,000) [2].

• Uzbekistan’s homicide rate of 3.1 per 100,000 is much lower than that of its neighbours Kazakhstan (10.7 per 100,000) and Kyrgyzstan (8.0 per 100,000) [2].

• South Korea has a low homicide rate of 2.3 per 100,000 people compared to its neighbour North Korea (15.2 per 100,000) [2].

• Finland has a low homicide rate of 2.2 per 100,000 compared to its neighbours Russia (10.2 per 100,000) and Estonia (5.2 per 100,000) [2].

• Poland has lower homicide rate of 1.3 per 100,000 compared to its neighbours Lithuania (7.5 per 100,000) and Ukraine (5.4 per 100,000) and Belarus (4.9 per 100,000) [2].

• Argentina has a low homicide rate of 3.4 per 100,000 compared to its neighbours Brazil (21.7 per 100,000) and Paraguay (13.4 per 100,000) and Uruguay (6.8 per 100,000) and Bolivia (6.9 per 100,000) [2].

• Chile has a low homicide rate of 3.7 per 100,000 compared to its neighbours Peru (10.3 per 100,000) and Bolivia (6.9 per 100,000) [2].

• Australia has a low homicide rate of 1.2 per thousand compared to its neighbour Papua New Guinea (13.0 per 100,000) [2].

• The US has a much lower homicide rate of 4.8 per 100,000 compared to its neighbours Mexico (22.7 per 100,000) and a multitude of high crime rate Caribbean states [2].

• Canada has a much lower homicide rate of 1.8 per 100,000 compared to its neighbour Greenland (19.2 per 100,000) [2].

There are too many such ‘miracles’ happening around the world with some countries facing even greater odds than Singapore does for this blessing to be considered a miracle. Selective comparison using just one example of Switzerland proves nothing.

To say that the best minds in America do not go into lifetime public service is to insult people like Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke [3]. Furthermore, best minds going to public service isn’t necessarily the best thing. If Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, the Google founders, John Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie were to all have gone into public service, America would not have become the most powerful nation in the world it is today. Having our best minds go into lifetime public service has deprived us of entrepreneurial achievements and has rendered us dependent on foreign multinationals even till this day.

The suggestion that we may have a riot or two due to MRT breakdown and decline in trust in public institutions is unsubstantiated speculation. Singaporeans are so thoroughly tamed after 48 years of PAP rule that the only strike in the last 25 years is one organised by foreigners.

A messier Singapore isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the French writer Benjamin Constant once wrote: “With newspapers, there is sometimes disorder; without them, there is always slavery.” So it should be the other way round: with messiness comes the freedom to become happy butterflies; to remain stifled and controlled is to remain an unhappy frog in a well.

[1] Straits Times, Singapore’s biggest blessing: Safety, 13 Apr 2013, Kishore Mahbubani

[2] United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime statistics, international homicide rate
Latest data used where possible as long as all countries compared have data for the latest year.

[3] The word “lifetime” is probably more applicable to Timothy Geithner than Ben Bernanke although the distinction is irrelevant as many of our ministers aren’t lifetime public servants too but came from other professions instead.

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One Response to “Our ‘biggest’ blessing is not a miracle”

  1. jay sim Says:

    food for thought.

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