Singapore not necessarily the safest country in the world

I refer to the 30 Aug 2014 Straits Times report “S’pore ‘must stay vigilant against violence’”.

Singapore is not the safest country in the world. The safest country in the world is Liechtenstein with zero murder rate.

But the Economist magazine discounted Liechtenstein because “its population could fit in a football stadium” (The Economist, Dicing with Death, 12 Apr 2014). But Liechtenstein’s small population is a double edged sword as a single murder will blow up the murder rate more so than it does in other more populous countries.

For example, Liechtenstein had a murder rate of 2.9 per 100,000, 2.8 per 100,000 and 2.8 per 100,000 for 2004, 2008 and 2010 respectively. It registered higher murder rates than Singapore in those three years all because of 1 murder in each of those three years.

Murder rates also fluctuate from year to year. In some years, Hong Kong and Japan murder rates are lower than Singapore’s, in other years, the reverse is true.

It is fairer to compare countries based on average murder rate. Judging by average murder rate from 2000 to 2012, the safest countries tend to be rich – either oil rich, Western or East Asian.

UNODC murder rate

Country/territory 2010 2011 2012 Average 2000 to 2012
Kuwait 0.4 0.40
Japan 0.4 0.3 0.48
Singapore 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.49
China, Hong Kong SAR 0.5 0.2 0.4 0.59
Iceland 0.6 0.9 0.3 0.65
Indonesia 0.4 0.6 0.6 0.65
Liechtenstein 2.8 0 0 0.65
Bahrain 0.9 0.5 0.66
United Arab Emirates 0.8 0.6 0.7 0.70
San Marino 0.7 0.70
Austria 0.6 0.8 0.9 0.71
Oman 1.1 0.74
Saudi Arabia 0.8 0.80
Switzerland 0.7 0.6 0.89
Denmark 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.89
Republic of Korea 0.9 0.90
Norway 0.6 2.2 0.91
Algeria 0.7 0.7 0.97
Germany 0.8 0.8 0.97
Sweden 1 0.9 0.7 0.98
Netherlands 0.9 0.9 0.9 1.03

Exceptions include Indonesia, with an average murder rate not significantly different from that of Singapore’s. Fandi Ahmad may have considered Indonesia’s low murder rate when he decided to retire in Batam instead of Malaysia.

Singapore’s high solution rate for murder is understandable given our low murder rate. All else being the same, a lower murder rate means less murder cases to investigate, means more resources can be devoted to solve those few murder cases.

Rape and sexual violence

However, when it comes to rape and sexual violence, Singapore’s average rate is higher than either Japan’s or Hong Kong’s.

UNODC rape rate

Country/territory 2010 2011 2012 Average 2003 to 2012
Egypt 0.12 0.13 0.08
Mozambique 0.27
Armenia 0.37 0.34 0.47 0.35
Azerbaijan 0.18 0.20 0.36
Yemen 0.61
Turkmenistan 0.67
Syrian Arab Republic 0.68
Tajikistan 0.75 0.55 0.70
Lebanon 0.72
Nepal 0.79
Guinea 0.92
Indonesia 0.91 0.81 0.72 0.95
Serbia 0.75 0.82 0.89 1.00
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1.20 0.91 1.07 1.00
Nigeria 1.05
Albania 0.76 0.70 0.76 1.08
State of Palestine 0.37 0.44 0.19 1.24
Montenegro 0.81 0.48 0.48 1.27
Algeria 0.82 0.77 2.01 1.29
United Arab Emirates 0.90 1.32
Japan 1.01 0.93 0.97 1.35
Maldives 1.38
Hong Kong 1.59 1.28 1.69 1.47
Canada 1.70 1.59 1.43 1.62
Qatar 1.74
India 1.84 1.75
Jordan 1.76
Greece 1.94 1.55 1.50 1.82
Ukraine 1.38 1.89
Sao Tome and Principe 1.12 1.64 1.94
Sierra Leone 1.96
Turkey 2.19
Macedonia 1.33 1.95 2.04 2.23
Georgia 1.87 2.37
Uganda 2.09 2.48
Hungary 2.46 1.96 1.92 2.55
Bahrain 2.61
Guatemala 2.62
Kenya 2.25 2.22 1.82 2.68
Rwanda 2.88 2.31 2.31 2.81
Cameroon 2.90
Singapore 3.23 2.89 2.51 2.91

UNODC sexual violence rate

Country/territory 2010 2011 2012 Average2003 to 2012
Sao Tome and Principe 0.00 0.00 0.00
Egypt 0.22 0.14 0.22
Yemen 0.26
Guinea 0.33
Syrian Arab Republic 0.39
Kyrgyzstan 1.02 0.44
Dominican Republic 0.52 0.52
Nigeria 1.09 0.84 1.03
Philippines 2.33 1.83 1.85 1.79
Indonesia 2.07 2.07
Armenia 2.77 2.40 3.54 2.15
United Arab Emirates 2.25 2.25
Guatemala 2.34
Albania 2.51 1.40 1.39 2.38
Kazakhstan 2.21 2.31 2.59 2.39
Azerbaijan 2.24 1.99 2.43
Tajikistan 2.58 2.57 2.46
Mozambique 3.18
State of Palestine 4.41 4.23 2.84 3.32
Bosnia and Herzegovina 3.82 4.35 3.63 3.84
Turkey 3.92
Georgia 3.76 3.98
Ukraine 2.93 4.04
Slovakia 3.55 4.30 2.64 4.29
Cote d’Ivoire 4.35
Serbia 5.11 4.50 4.03 4.63
Montenegro 5.81 4.03 3.86 5.57
India 6.03 5.91
Oman 6.10
Morocco 9.02 6.40
Macedonia 5.90 5.99 5.70 6.48
Belarus 6.73
Hungary 7.63 6.30 6.71 6.92
Greece 8.11 9.63 7.38 7.05
Romania 7.12
Burundi 7.57 6.96 7.33
Italy 7.95 7.60 7.70 7.35
Japan 6.53 6.33 6.68 7.56
Poland 8.11 7.93 7.26 8.33
Cyprus 7.16 6.90 6.11 9.15
Kenya 11.77 11.19 11.13 9.22
Algeria 10.24 10.29 3.41 9.70
Bulgaria 9.42 8.85 9.56 11.48
Sierra Leone 12.05
Russian Federation 10.98 11.61 12.31
Republic of Moldova 15.59 13.01 17.56 12.79
Mongolia 13.34 14.09 13.53
Croatia 13.07 12.97 11.89 13.77
Bahrain 14.86
Slovenia 18.25 15.13 12.77 15.01
Lithuania 19.26 18.76 16.75 15.19
Colombia 14.49 17.14 23.54 15.50
Kuwait 16.91
Czech Republic 17.16 19.66 18.58 17.55
Latvia 11.05 9.55 15.82 18.13
Malta 21.42 16.18 19.17 18.65
Portugal 20.83 20.59 20.12 19.10
Brazil 23.83 23.00 26.87 20.04
Spain 21.56 21.20 19.27 22.35
Austria 23.46 25.87 25.05 22.44
Hong Kong 26.04 25.45 26.06 24.38
Cape Verde 24.61 22.42 26.90 24.65
El Salvador 35.88 10.52 50.85 25.12
Guyana 18.70 37.55 35.20 25.18
Estonia 21.18 24.02 30.99 25.93
Argentina 26.78
Australia 28.35 25.04 27.91
Mexico 28.94 28.51 30.11 28.23
Bolivia 38.83 34.26 45.96 29.78
Singapore 31.09 29.78 29.28 30.02

The safeness of a country isn’t just a function of murder rate but depends too on rape rate, sexual violence rate and so on. Considering everything together, Singapore isn’t necessarily the safest country in the world. It is just one of many safe countries in the world.

Straits Times, S’pore ‘must stay vigilant against violence’, 30 Aug 2014

Singapore may be the safest country in the world, as recently noted by The Economist magazine, with few murders, nearly all of which are solved.

But in a Facebook post yesterday, Law Minister K. Shanmugam said it was also important for the country to remain vigilant, especially in the area of gang violence.

He highlighted a recent study of homicide trends here by two senior officers from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) – Mr Tai Wei Shyong, who is the chief prosecutor of the State Prosecution Division in the Attorney-General’s Chambers, and Ms Tang Gek Hsien, an assistant director of MHA’s Joint Operations Division.

They studied figures from 1955 to 2011 and found that homicide rates have steadily decreased since the 1950s, as the population grew more prosperous and educated, among other reasons. But the study also noted that in recent years, there has been group violence in Singapore between male gangs which has led to deaths, Mr Shanmugam pointed out.

“They wisely warned that it was important for us, from a policy perspective, not to assume that historical murder rates will not rise again, if there are changes in our social structures and norms,” wrote the minister. “We need to watch out for emerging sub-cultures of violence among socially disenfranchised groups.”

Referring to The Economist article published in April, Mr Shanmugam said Singapore had 11 murders in 2012 – one for every 480,000 people. He contrasted this with Honduras, “the world’s most violent country”, where one in every 1,100 was killed.

He added that Singapore also had a high solutions rate for murder – about 90 per cent, against the global rate of 43 per cent.

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