Archive for August, 2013

Comments on LKY’s reflections on Singapore’s economy in a global world

August 17, 2013

I refer to the 11 Aug 2013 Straits Times excerpt “Singapore’s economy in a global world” from Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s new book [1].

Mr Lee said that Singapore inequality is due to the enormous supply of Chinese and Indian workers in China and India. Does it not occur to him that most Western nations have far less inequality despite being exposed to the same enormous supply of Chinese and Indian workers in China and India? Why does the enormous supply affect Singapore so much but not Western countries?

Mr Lee said that the gap will widen to the disadvantage of those without skills. But it isn’t just the unskilled that are affected; the PMETs have also been affected. So what if they have skills but aren’t as cheap as their foreign counterparts?

Mr Lee asked how many small and medium sized companies (SMEs) will pack up if foreign workers are cut. But in the case of restaurants and eateries, can they pack up and go to another country and still serve Singapore customers?

Mr Lee said that government is slowing down foreign labour force intake because Singaporeans feel uncomfortable, not because of economics. Mr Lee should take note that between 2007 and 2011, Hong Kong outgrew us economically with a much smaller foreign labour force intake. So slowing foreign labour intake need not necessarily go against economics.

Mr Lee said that from an economic perspective, we should grow. But do we just grow numbers only or should we grow quality instead?

Mr Lee said if we raise tax rate too much, our best people will leave and that we are already losing our best students to America. Does Mr Lee not realize that America already has higher tax rates than us but that doesn’t stop our best from going to America? If lower tax rate doesn’t bring back our best, surely something else matters more? Any Singaporean going to America will realize that housing and cars are on average much cheaper than they are in Singapore that more than compensates for higher tax rates. Their higher tax rate also pays for social security so they have a better bargain overall.

Mr Lee said the middle aged and beyond stay in Singapore because they have no choice. Does Mr Lee not realize this is the kind of nation he has created? One where people stay not because they love to or want to but because they have no choice?

Mr Lee said that Singapore won’t be the same without top quality Singaporeans. George Yeo is top quality and he has left for Hong Kong. Has Singapore’s standing or GDP fallen because of that?

Mr Lee said without his generation there would be no present Singapore. He must not forget that Singapore didn’t start with his generation and that there were generations that came before his. Without those generations, there wouldn’t be Mr Lee’s generation either. Mr Lee’s generation built upon the work of previous generations.

Mr Lee said his compatriots Goh Keng Swee, Rajaratnam and Lim Kim San would probably go to America to work for Microsoft in today’s world. He could be right but we are not so sure if Microsoft would have wanted Mr Lee. He might instead be advised to teleport to the Al Capone era where his knuckle dusters can be put to better use in cul-des-sac fights.

Mr Lee said he could not have stayed on as a lawyer in Britain because he wouldn’t be able to make a living as he didn’t do his chambers in Britain. But if it is a simple matter of doing his chambers in Britain to become a practicing lawyer in Britain, then isn’t it his choice not to do his chambers in Britain and hence his choice not to stay on in Britain as a lawyer?

When asked the question “Maybe Singapore is a special part of the oyster (globalised world)?” Mr Lee gave the non-answer “No. The World was not globalised now. It is now.” It appeared as though he gradually lost his ability to make sense of what was being asked as the interview went on.

[1] Straits Times, LEE KUAN YEW ON… Singapore’s economy in a global world, 11 Aug 2013

The less than half-past-six special one

August 16, 2013

I refer to the 16 Aug 2013 Straits Times letter “Mr Lee is indeed Singapore’s ‘special one’” by Mr K. Kalidas.

Western leaders generally do not contest for power beyond two, three terms even though they can if they wanted to. Choosing to step down after three decades in power means Mr Lee far overstayed his time in office by Western standards. Only autocrats and despots tend to stay in power for that long.

Furthermore, his so-called stepping down wasn’t complete as he retained such roles and positions as Senior Minister and Minister Mentor which allowed him to continue influencing cabinet decisions like the use of dialects in the media which he recently revealed.

Dr Winsemius wasn’t just one of the brains behind Singapore’s industrialisation and economic development, he was the chief architect and planner. The scale of the plans was such that no one person could possibly have executed them all by himself or herself. That would be most unfair to Dr Goh Keng Swee and others who more than Mr Lee deserve that recognition. There can be no doubt that in the economic arena, it was Dr Winsemius and Dr Goh who mattered, not Mr Lee.

Mr Lee has always been a shrewd politician and the political risk of the Land Acquisition Act was clearly not very high because the number of people who would benefit from it would outweigh the number who would suffer from it. The act was in essence the expropriation of land from land owners much like the collectivisation of farms by the communists. It was nothing to be proud of and we should consider the suffering and loss of pig farmers who lost their livelihood overnight. While it did contribute to nation building, the land acquired on the cheap then is today leased out for 99 years at such a high price that a discount is considered a subsidy by the government. Where is the justice to those people whose gift of land to the nation has become a subsidy by the government today?

It wasn’t Mr Lee who defeated the Barisan Socialis but the British instead. Whether it was Lim Yew Hock or Mr Lee, both depended on British might to destroy the Leftists.

Mr Lee could shut down Nanyang University because he had gained absolute control of the population and the economy by then. It wasn’t something creditable but regrettable because Mr Lee forever wiped out Chinese medium schools in Singapore. While Malaysia still has Chinese medium schools today, Singapore no longer has Chinese medium schools, something Malaysian PM Najib quite rightly pointed out recently. Singapore’s second university, NTU is not Nantah. Nantah forever vanished after Mr Lee closed it down.

If someone else had been in charge, we might still have Barisan and Nantah and the nation would have been richer for it. But regardless of whether or not he was in charge, it was clear that the Singapore economic engine would have roared just the same with the brain of Dr Winsemius and the execution of Dr Goh Keng Swee plus countless other people. Even our bilingual system today was first introduced by Mr Lee Kong Chian, not Lee Kuan Yew.

Mr Kalidas is just one out of more than 3 million Singaporeans. If only 60% are like Mr Kalidas in regarding Mr Lee as the special one, wouldn’t that make Mr Lee a less than half-past-six special one?

[1] Straits Times, Mr Lee is indeed Singapore’s ‘special one’, 16 Aug 2013, K. Kalidas

Stop-at-two successful but not responsible?

August 12, 2013

I refer to the 6 Aug 2013 Straits Times report of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s views extracted from his new book “One man’s view of the Word”.

Mr Lee claimed that he would introduce a baby bonus equal to two years of the average Singaporean’s salary to prove that super-sized monetary incentives only have a marginal effect on fertility rates.

Our average monthly earnings per employee were $4,433 per month in 2012 (Singstats) or $106,392 over two years. According to another Straits Times report [2], the cost of raising a child in a two-children-family is $500,000 per child. The supposedly ‘super-sized’ monetary incentive Mr Lee proposed is only about a fifth of what it takes to raise a child, is it any wonder only a marginal effect should be expected? Such an experiment would prove nothing other than the wide disconnect between what the elites consider to be super-sized generous and what the ground experiences to be the cost of raising a child.

Mr Lee claimed that low birth rates are due to transformed lifestyles and mindsets that the government is powerless against. But the governments of France and Scandinavia have successfully overcome low birth rates [3] despite transformed lifestyles and mindsets. So at best, Mr Lee can only say that some governments are powerless against low birth rates. He cannot deny that other governments have been more powerful against low birth rates.

Mr Lee tried to absolve responsibility by claiming it absurd to blame the lowering of fertility rates on his “Stop at Two” campaign in the 1970s. He instead blamed falling fertility rates to the global phenomenon of women’s emancipation and participation in the workplace.

The following graph obtained from an NUS study [4], shows that much of our fall in total fertility rate since 1970 occurred squarely within the ‘Stop at Two’ policy era. So if Mr Lee thinks that his ‘Stop at Two’ policy didn’t cause low fertility rate today, he must accept that it was a totally useless policy that did nothing more than what would have occurred naturally anyway without his policy.


But that’s not how another NUS academic sees it. Instead, she sees our birth control policies and programs as successful [5] and that we very much achieved our birth rate targets in each five-year plan [5].

Targets Achievements
First 5-Year Plan (1966-70) Reduce crude birth rate from 32 per 1,000 in 1964 to 20 by per 1,000 by 1970 Crude birth rate reduced to 22.1 per 1,000 by 1970
Second 5-Year Plan (1971-75) Reduce crude birth rate from 22.1 per 1,000 in 1970 to 18 per 1,000 by 1975 Crude birth rate reduced to 17.8 per 1,000 by 1975

Many authors also disagree with Mr Lee [6] and are of the opinion that our rapid fall in birth rate can be attributed to the success of the “Stop at Two” and other birth control policies and campaigns. So if Mr Lee refuses to accept responsibility, we will end up with the strange situation where ‘Stop at Two’ and other birth control plans and campaigns had been successful but had not been responsible for reducing our fertility rate.

The following table shows the average 2000-2011 total fertility rate (TFR) for all nations with at least 40% women employment between 2000 and 2010 and with at least 90% girl-to-boy ratio in primary and secondary education [7]. These are the nations that supposedly experienced what Mr Lee called the global phenomenon of women’s emancipation and participation in the workplace. Out of these 79 countries, Singapore has the 4th lowest TFR. Global emancipation and employment of women doesn’t explain why Singapore is 4th from the bottom in total fertility rate [8].

Country Name TFR 2000-2011 Share of women in employment 2000-2010 Ratio of girls to boys in primary and secondary education
Macao SAR, China 0.95 49.2 99.8
Hong Kong SAR, China 1.01 47.4 99.6
Korea, Rep. 1.21 41.6 99.3
Singapore 1.27 44.4 #DIV/0!
Ukraine 1.28 54.5 98.8
Slovak Republic 1.29 48.2 100.5
Latvia 1.30 53.1 99.2
Hungary 1.30 48.6 99.0
Romania 1.30 45.9 99.8
Poland 1.30 47.1 98.5
Czech Republic 1.32 46.5 100.6
Belarus 1.32 56.1 97.8
Japan 1.34 41.3 100.2
Spain 1.34 42.6 102.3
Italy 1.34 42.3 98.6
Slovenia 1.36 47.6 99.9
Germany 1.36 46.6 98.1
Bulgaria 1.36 51.3 97.2
Greece 1.37 41.2 100.0
Russian Federation 1.38 50.8 98.7
Lithuania 1.39 53.3 99.0
Austria 1.40 46.1 96.7
Portugal 1.40 47.3 100.9
Croatia 1.41 46.4 101.9
Switzerland 1.45 47.0 97.3
Serbia 1.47 43.6 101.7
Liechtenstein 1.49 40.2 91.4
Moldova 1.50 54.1 101.8
Estonia 1.50 52.3 100.2
Macedonia, FYR 1.51 42.5 98.8
Barbados 1.53 50.7 107.2
Cyprus 1.55 48.0 100.7
Cuba 1.55 43.3 98.6
Georgia 1.58 48.3 98.3
Canada 1.58 49.4 99.0
Trinidad and Tobago 1.63 41.8 102.1
Luxembourg 1.63 42.9 102.6
Thailand 1.64 44.8 101.5
Antigua and Barbuda 1.70 50.6 95.9
Armenia 1.72 42.6 102.6
Montenegro 1.73 44.5 101.2
Netherlands 1.74 46.2 97.9
Bermuda 1.76 49.0 107.7
Belgium 1.76 45.2 100.9
Aruba 1.77 48.5 97.9
Puerto Rico 1.78 41.5 103.8
Sweden 1.79 50.4 104.2
Denmark 1.80 49.0 101.8
Finland 1.80 50.8 103.2
United Kingdom 1.81 46.3 101.2
Australia 1.83 46.9 98.5
Norway 1.87 49.0 100.3
Dominica 1.90 43.8 103.5
Bahamas, The 1.91 49.8 100.4
Azerbaijan 1.92 45.5 99.0
France 1.96 48.6 99.8
Ireland 1.98 48.3 102.8
United States 2.03 47.6 100.3
New Zealand 2.04 50.2 103.1
St. Lucia 2.04 47.7 101.3
Brazil 2.06 41.2 102.9
Uruguay 2.06 46.6 104.3
Iceland 2.07 51.6 101.7
Costa Rica 2.07 40.6 101.7
Kazakhstan 2.29 49.2 99.3
Argentina 2.30 44.6 103.1
Mongolia 2.32 50.8 106.4
Colombia 2.44 47.9 103.8
Jamaica 2.45 45.9 99.9
El Salvador 2.48 48.5 98.3
Panama 2.61 43.0 100.9
Venezuela, RB 2.64 41.4 103.0
South Africa 2.65 42.2 99.9
Kyrgyz Republic 2.69 49.0 99.7
Israel 2.93 49.0 100.2
Botswana 3.02 41.9 100.9
Philippines 3.45 41.5 102.5
Honduras 3.49 41.7 106.7
Namibia 3.57 41.6 104.0

Mr Lee claimed that Japan is strolling into mediocrity because of its unwillingness to accept immigrants like Singapore has. But Japan’s average fertility of 1.34 over the last 11 years is higher than South Korea’s average fertility of 1.21 over the last 11 years. Yet higher fertility Japan is considered strolling into mediocrity but not lower fertility South Korea even though both societies are relatively homogenous. The recent South Korean success through largely indigenous effort shows that success need not depend on immigration but can count instead on indigenous effort or talent.

Mr Lee claimed that if he were a young Japanese who could speak English, he would probably emigrate. Mr Lee should be reminded of a recent survey which showed more than half of Singaporeans want to migrate if given a choice [9]. Mr Lee is therefore mistaken if he thinks that aggressive immigration policies have given Singapore the edge over Japan. The following table shows that while Japan’s stock of emigrants has decreased by 17.9% over the last five years; that of Singapore’s has increased by 29.2% over the same period [10]. So it is not the Japanese but Singaporeans who has greater desire for emigration.

Economy 2005 stock of emigrants 2010 stock of emigrants Percentage change
Japan 940,028 771,400 -17.9%
Singapore 230,007 297,200 29.2%

[1] Straits Times, Money won’t solve low birth rate problem: Mr Lee, 6 Aug 2013

IF FORMER prime minister Lee Kuan Yew were in charge of Singapore today, he would introduce a baby bonus equal to two years of the average Singaporean’s salary.
This is not to boost the country’s abysmal total fertility rate of 1.2. Rather, Mr Lee would do it to “prove that super-sized monetary incentives would only have a marginal effect on fertility rates”.
Writing in his new book, One Man’s View Of The World, Mr Lee makes clear he would offer this huge baby bonus for at least a year.
The experiment will “prove beyond any doubt that our low birth rates have nothing to do with economic or financial factors, such as high cost of living or lack of government help for parents”, he says.
Instead, it is due to transformed lifestyles and mindsets which the Government is relatively powerless against, he argues in the 400-page book that is due to be launched today.
Declining fertility is the biggest threat to Singapore’s survival, he says.
But, Mr Lee adds: “I cannot solve the problem, and I have given up. I have given the job to another generation of leaders. Hopefully, they or their successors will eventually find a way out.”
In a chapter on Singapore, he also says the suggestion that the “Stop at Two” population campaign of the 1970s played a part in bringing fertility rates down is “absurd”.
Rather, falling fertility is a global phenomenon due primarily to women’s emancipation and participation in the workplace, he says.
The chapter on Singapore is one of 11 in the new book, which focuses largely on foreign affairs.
Mr Lee covers regions including the Middle East and superpowers such as the United States and China, as well as issues like the future of the global economy and climate change.
He also writes candidly about his past encounters with world leaders and impressions of countries, but the bulk of the book looks forwards as he sizes up these countries’ strengths, weaknesses and chances of success.
In the Singapore chapter, Mr Lee also reflects on the historic 2011 General Election, young Singaporeans’ desire for a two-party system, and Workers’ Party MP Chen Show Mao.
He returns to the issue of low fertility often, pointing to it as the reason Japan, a country he once considered “peerless”, is now on what he calls a “stroll into mediocrity”.
The demographic changes in Singapore and Japan are similar, he notes; the difference lies in the unwillingness of the Japanese to “shade (the) problem with immigrants” like Singapore has done.
It is this intransigence about accepting foreigners and the deeply ingrained idea that the Japanese race must be kept “pure” that makes their continued decline inevitable, he says.
“If I were a young Japanese and I could speak English, I would probably choose to emigrate,” he concludes bluntly.
Mr Lee’s new book was written with the research and editorial assistance of a team of Straits Times journalists. They are managing editor Han Fook Kwang, deputy editor Zuraidah Ibrahim, Opinion editor Chua Mui Hoong and political reporter Elgin Toh.
Also in the team was a civil servant seconded to the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Mr Shashi Jayakumar.
Mr Lee is due to launch the book officially today at the Istana. About 20,000 copies will be on sale at $39.90 (including GST) at leading bookstores from 5pm today.

[2] Straits Times, The $900,000 Singapore child, 15 Feb 2013

My estimate is about $600,000 in real dollars per child for a one-child family, and about $500,000 per child for a two-child family to raise a child.

[3] Straits Times, Succeeding in Europe, 26 Jan 2013

Europe is providing the world with a model of success in one area: how to reverse declining birth rates. The Scandinavian countries paved the way, turning around their total fertility rate (TFR) in the 1980s from a low point of 1.5. Since then, they have maintained TFRs that hover just below the replacement rate of 2.1. In the last decade, France bucked the trend of other developed countries in continental Europe and steadily raised its TFR from 1.6 to about 2 now. Europe’s latest success story is the small northern European nation of Estonia. After its TFR fell to a catastrophic 1.2 in 2004, a series of bold measures lifted it to about 1.6 in 2010.

• Fertility and the Family: An Overview of Pro-natalist Population Policies in Singapore
Asian Meta Centre for Population and Sustainable Development Analysis, Asia Research Institute, NUS
Theresa Wong, Brenda S.A. Yeoh
Page 9

• The global family planning revolution – three decades of population policies and programs, Chapter 13, Singapore: population policies and programs
Yap Mui Teng

Page 201
Given the simultaneity of events, directly measuring the contribution of the government’s population policies and programs, begun in the early stages of the country’s independence, is not possible, but those policies and programs have generally been considered successful. In particular, Singapore has been noted for the stringency of its National Family Planning Program.

Page 205, Table 13.1

• Singapore Infopedia – 20 Jul 1972: Launch of Family Planning Publicity Campaign
The population control efforts were such a resounding success, that by the late 1980s, Singapore’s falling birth rate became a cause for concern (Wong & Yeoh, 2003, pp. 11-12).

• Asia-Pacific Population Journal
United Nations, United Nations Publications, United Nations Staff
Page 7
The “Stop at Two” family planning policy instituted in Singapore resulted in the total fertility rate dropping from an average of 6 children per woman in the 1950s to below replacement fertility by 1975 (Fawcett and Khoo, 1980).

• Los Angeles Times, ‘Stop at 2’ Campaign Works Too Well; Singapore Urges New Baby Boom, 21 Jun 1987
SINGAPORE — A lengthy campaign to persuade parents in Singapore to “stop at two” children has worked too well, and government officials are now offering a package of financial incentives in an attempt to spark a baby boom.

• New “Temples” of India: Singapore and India Collaboration in Information Technology Parks
Faizal Bin Yahya
Page 3
Ironically, at the root of Singapore’s graying population and problem of low fertility rates, was its success at curbing population growth in the early years of its independence from Malaysia. THe argument was put forward by scholars like Garry Rodan, who commented on Singapore’s ‘stop at two’ population control policy and subsequent emphasis on meritocracy (Rodan, 1989).

• Preparing for an Aging World: The Case for Cross-National Research
Panel on a Research Agenda and New Data for an Aging World, Committee on Population, Committee on National Statistics, National Research Council
Page 39
Singapore, once a prime advocate of fertility reduction, achieved such success in thia arena that the declining birth rate became a cause for political and economic conern. Consequently, Singapore’s “Stop at 2” (children) policy was modified in 1987 …

• God Or Allah, Truth Or Bull?
Richard Woo
Page 211
In Singapore a “stop-at-two” policy was introduced in 1969 to curb a rapidly expanding population; however, this policy seems to have backfired, and with an admisson of error in the context of a declining birth rate, with ill effects for the economy, the government has begun encouraging people to produce more children and keeping an open-arms policy for foreigners to settle in Singapore.

• Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore Handbook
Page 364
The policy proved to be so successful, however, that declining fertility rates forced a policy U-turn in the mid-1980s … Malay population was growing faster than the Chinese population, the government scrapped the old slogan “Stop at Two” …

• The Binding Tie: Chinese Intergenerational Relations in Modern Singapore
Kristina Göransson
Page 120
In the 1960s and 1970s the Singapore government successfully managed to reign in the high birthrate by promoting the two-child family. But the slow-down was asymmetrical, insofar as the birthrate decreased significantly among educated Chinese women, while it remained high among other groups … A graduates’ matchmaking agency, the Social Development Unit, was set up to facilitate the Graduate Mothers’ Priority Scheme to speed up reproduction among educated women.

• Gender and Development
Janet Momsen
Page 59
The anti-natalist ‘stop at tow’ policy orchestrated by the Singapore Family Planning and Population Board, set up in 1966, was government policy from the early 1970s until 1987. Higher income tax relief was given for the first two children in a family, with no relief for the fourth and subsequent children. Legal sterilization and aboriton were introduced in 1969, maternity leave was restricted to only two children and priority in school placements was lost after two children. The government also manipulated housing policies in favour of smaller families, a very effective carrot in a country where 85 per cent of the population now live in a modern housing provided by the state of Housing Development Board (Graham 1995). The total fertility rate fell to a low of 1.42 in 1986, since when it has fluctuated but remained below replacement level being 1.3 in 2008.

[7] World Bank data
Singapore’s ratio of girls to boys in primary and secondary education data not available in World Bank but assumed to be balanced and in line with global women’s emancipation.

[8] What is interesting to note is that East Asian nations occupy the four bottommost positions in TFR. While it is tempting to say that low birth rate is cultural by nature, one must not forget that nearly all East Asian societies practiced birth control:

• Expert group meeting on policy responses to population ageing and population decline, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Secretariat, New York, 16-18 Oct 2000, Policy responses to low fertility and population aging in Korea, Ik Ki Kim, page 4
Korean government launched a full-scale national family planning program in 1962.
The 1973 Maternal and Child Health Law legalized abortion. In 1983 the government began suspending medical insurance benefits for maternal care for pregnant women with three or more children. It also denied tax deductions for education expenses to parents with two or more children.

• The Family Planning Association of Hong Kong
The successfully launched “Two is Enough” campaign quickly became household word in the territory.

• Population Control and Economic Development, Goran Ohlin, page 81-82
The target of Taiwan’s family planning policy is to reduce the birth rate from 3 percent to 1.8 by 1970, and it was estimated that this would reuqire the insertion of 600,000 loops in the period 1965-1969

• Sociology, Jon M. Shepard, page 490
Family planning has worked in Taiwan, where by the turn of the twenty-first century, the birth rate declined below replacement level.

[9] The New Paper, More than half of S’poreans would migrate if given a choice: Survey, 9 Oct 2012

[10] World Bank Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011 and 2008

The PAP logic of fighting corruption with money

August 4, 2013

The recent case of the CPIB assistant director misappropriating public money is a good opportunity for the PAP to prove their case that million dollar salaries help stamp out corruption. Going by the PAP logic, corruption could have been prevented if the CPIB officer had been paid much more. So instead of penalising the officer, the officer’s salary should be increased instead and he should continue to be allowed into casinos. If the CPIB officer cheats again, his salary should be increased yet again until a point where he doesn’t cheat anymore. At that point, the PAP can proudly tell the world that corruption can indeed be stamped out by giving the potentially corrupt officer more money than he otherwise would have gotten through corrupt means.

Three things we would not miss if we moved to another First World country

August 4, 2013

I refer to the 29 Jul 2013 Straits Times letter “Three things to cherish in S’pore” by Mr Maa Zhi Hong [1].

Mr Maa reminded fellow Singaporeans to cherish the three things we would miss most if we lived in another country – clean drinking water, low crime rate and clean streets. The following table shows 26 other advanced economies that score better than Singapore for the average of percentage of population with access to improved water source, non-homicide rate and environment performance indicator [2].

Countries Average % population with access to improved water source 1990-2010 Average Environment Performance Indicator 2000-2012 (normalised upon 100) Average non-homicide rate 1995-2011 (per 100,000) Average of the three indicators
Switzerland 100.0 100.0 100 100.0
Norway 100.0 90.2 100 96.7
Luxembourg 100.0 89.1 100 96.4
Austria 100.0 88.6 100 96.2
Italy 100.0 88.2 100 96.1
Sweden 100.0 87.5 100 95.8
France 100.0 86.9 100 95.6
Germany 100.0 86.4 100 95.5
United Kingdom 100.0 86.3 100 95.4
Iceland 100.0 84.3 100 94.8
Netherlands 100.0 84.1 100 94.7
Slovakia 100.0 83.0 100 94.3
New Zealand 100.0 82.5 100 94.2
Finland 100.0 81.6 100 93.9
Czech Republic 100.0 81.5 100 93.8
Japan 100.0 80.9 100 93.6
Denmark 100.0 80.8 100 93.6
Belgium 100.0 79.5 100 93.2
Slovenia 99.8 78.4 100 92.7
Spain 100.0 75.4 100 91.8
Greece 98.8 75.8 100 91.5
Canada 100.0 74.0 100 91.3
Ireland 100.0 73.9 100 91.3
Cyprus 100.0 73.8 100 91.3
Australia 100.0 73.5 100 91.2
United States 99.0 73.4 100 90.8
Singapore 99.9 71.8 100 90.6
Estonia 98.0 72.8 100 90.3
Israel 100.0 70.8 100 90.3
Portugal 98.0 70.8 100 89.6
South Korea 93.7 71.8 100 88.5
Malta 100.0 61.9 100 87.3

We should thus not miss these First World creature comforts too much if we moved to any other First World nation. We should also remember that our journey towards the First World began during the colonial days. For example, our clean water system began with Tan Kim Seng’s $13,000 donation in 1857 to build our first waterworks and piped water supply [3].

[1] Straits Times, Three things to cherish in S’pore, 29 Jul 2013

Percentage of population with access to improved water source:
• Data from World Bank data which is in turned from World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund, Joint Measurement Programme
• Averaged from 1990 to 2010 (latest available)

Non-homicide rate
• Non-homicide rate calculated by taking 1 – homicide rate / 100,000.
• Homicide rate is from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
• For example, Switzerland has a homicide rate of 0.95 cases per 100,000 population. This means that the corresponding non-homicide rate is 99,999.05 per 100,0000 population or close to 100%
• Averaged from 1995 to 2011 (latest available)

Environment Performance Indicator
• Used as proxy for road cleanliness
• Data from Yale university and Columbia university averaged from 2000 to 2012 and normalised against the highest scorer, Switzerland


It was only in 1857 that philanthropist Tan Kim Seng made a donation of S$13,000 for the building of Singapore’s first waterworks and piped water supply.