MANILA, Philippines – After Singapore’s separation from Malaysia on August 9, 1965, the country – with only 714.3 square kilometers of land area and limited resources its people can utilize – struggled to create a viable nation.
Under Lee Kuan Yew’s leadership, Singapore’s economy soared in the 70’s throughout the 90’s, and became one of the “Four Asian Tigers” along with Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea.
The city-state has come a long way compared to its “backwater” state 50 years ago. Today, Singapore stands on its own, and is a key player in the global arena.
In light of the country’s 50th anniversary this year, here are some of the many accolades that Singapore has earned through the years:
1. World’s easiest place to do business
With multinational companies’ headquarters billeted in Singapore, the city-state remains to be the best country in the world to do business. For the 9th consecutive year, the World Bank ranked Singapore first in the Doing Business Report 2014, which ranked 189 countries on their ease of doing business.
The World Bank ranking used metrics such as time taken to establish and close a business, gain construction permits, and pay taxes in the country’s largest business district. Singapore’s simplified process of incorporating a company and registering for taxes using an online form is seen as one of the factors that put it in first place.
2. 2nd most competitive city in the world
A country’s competitiveness, according to the World Economic Forum, is measured by the level of its productivity. For the 4th consecutive year, Singapore ranked 2nd in the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) 2014-2015.
The Singaporean economy banks on its sound macroeconomic environment and fiscal management, with its budget surplus amounting to 6.9% of GDP in 2013. Singapore is also recognized for the strength of its goods and labor markets, leading globally in terms of financial market development.
Also contributing to its competitiveness is the country’s sound institutional frameworks and world-class infrastructure with excellent roads, ports, and air transport facilities.
3. Asia’s best country to work in
Singapore is ranked as Asia’s best country to work in, according to the Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012. The country’s working conditions are the best in the region because employees are well taken care of due to their effective labor policies.
As of 2014, there are 1.3 million foreign workers in Singapore, with majority of them working in the construction and marine sectors.
4. Top university in Asia
Singapore prides itself as the home to the best universities in Asia. The country’s flagship university, the National University of Singapore (NUS), remained at the top spot in the latest Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) University Rankings: Asia 2015.
NUS garnered high scores in most of the QS indicators that included employer reputation, academic reputation, and citations per paper.
The university also ranked the best in Social Sciences & Management, Life Sciences, and Medicine. In the QS World University Rankings 2014-2015, NUS placed 22nd.
Also, Singapore earned the top spot in the world’s most comprehensive education rankings, based on the Programme for International Student Assessment for 15-year-olds and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study for 14-year-olds, in 2011 and 2012. Among 76 countries, the country scored the highest in mathematics and science.
5. 2nd safest city in the world
Locals and tourists need not worry when they find themselves wandering in the streets of Singapore late at night, as the country is ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) as the second safest city in the world, next to Tokyo.
The Safe Cities Index focused on 50 countries worldwide, and explored 40 qualitative and quantitative indicators in four categories: digital security, health security, infrastructure safety, and personal safety.
Singapore ranks high in personal safety, which measures how secure an individual is from theft and violence. It also does well in digital security, which looks at the safety of the citizens when using digital technologies, ensuring that they do not experience privacy violations or identity theft.
6. Clean and green city
The Global Green Economy Index 2014 placed Singapore as the 8th greenest city in the world. The country has launched the Green Singapore 2050 or simply GS2050, which encourages the youth to express their concerns about environmental issues and possible solutions to address them.
Singapore’s go-green advocacy started way back in 1963 when Lee Kuan Yew planted a tree at Farrer Circus. That same seed became the concept of the City in a Garden, which everyone loves about Singapore today.
Singaporeans are actually getting paid to “go green” – a hefty 20% discount is given by the National Park Board to couples that plan to get married at the venues in Hort Park in Alexandria Road, provided that they have taken at least 8 environmentally-friendly measures for their wedding, including using recycled paper for their invitations, holding the ceremony in a non air-conditioned place, and the use of a hybrid car as their bridal car.
7. 7th least corrupt country
Transparency is one of the requisites of an effective and sound government. With Singapore’s clear and strict laws enforced especially in business transactions, Singapore is the world’s 7th least corrupt country, according to the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International.
It is also ranked as the most transparent country in Asia due to its sound political landscape and policy-making procedures. Because of the low levels of corruption and high transparency rating, the country enjoys a stable business environment.
8. 2nd in infrastructure
Singapore’s excellent infrastructure can be seen and felt the moment you land in the Changi International Airport. With excellent roads, efficient transport system, and ample electricity supply, the Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015 ranked Singapore as second in the infrastructure sector.
Also, in the World Markets Report 2014, Singapore’s Intelligent Transport System has been hailed as one of the world’s best infrastructure projects. Singapore encourages citizens to use public transportation to help decongest the roads with too many cars.
9. Most expensive city
Singapore has been ranked as the world’s most expensive city for the second time, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
Using New York City as a base, the EIU compared the cost of more than 160 services and products (including food, clothing, and utility bills) in 133 cities worldwide. Singapore turned out to be 11% more expensive than New York for basic groceries, and over 50% more expensive for clothes – being the most expensive place in the world to buy clothes.
The country’s Certificate of Entitlement (COE) system, which grants a right to vehicle ownership and use of the limited road space for 10 years, contributes to high car prices – which is found to be 3 times more expensive than in New York City.
10. World’s best airport
The Singapore Changi Airport has been awarded the World’s Best Airport title at the SkyTrax World Airport Awards 2015 for three years in a row. It serves more than 100 airlines with routes to some 300 cities in 80 countries worldwide.
The highly-acclaimed airport offers an unforgettable and lavish experience for its passengers, with different gaming consoles, a butterfly garden, WiFi throughout the airport with 550 Internet stations, a Balinese swimming pool, entertainment lounges, family zones with play areas and toys, open-air sunflower, cactus, and orchid gardens, cinemas, and free city tours. True enough, a holiday in Singapore starts at the airport.
Singapore has achieved great things in the last 5 decades, and it is now reaping the fruits of years worth of sacrifice, discipline, and persistence. This year marks 50 years of Singaporean independence and celebrating more than just the country’s achievements in the economic sphere, it is a time for its citizens to celebrate what it truly means to be Singaporean. – Rappler.com
Arielle Laguilles is a Rappler intern.
Singapore Gardens by the Bay image from Shutterstock