Singapore holds on to fifth place in global city index, but barely

For the 11th straight year, Singapore was ranked fifth in the Global Power City Index that measures 48 major cities worldwide by their level of "magnetism", released last month by Japanese think-tank Mori Memorial Foundation.

The index, peer-reviewed by Dr Heng Chye Kiang of the National University of Singapore, covers six broad categories: economy, research and development, cultural interaction, livability, environment and accessibility.

These are then broken down and scored using 70 indicators that cover such areas as academic performance (in which Singapore stood first), attractiveness of dining options (27th) and comfort level of temperature (48th).

All top 10 cities held on to their positions from last year. London, New York, Tokyo and Paris were ranked above Singapore, followed by Amsterdam, Seoul, Berlin, Hong Kong and Sydney.

But Singapore is at risk of ceding its place to Amsterdam as the gap in scores between the two cities narrows, noted Professor Emeritus Hiroo Ishikawa of Meiji University.

He said Asian cities are, overall, slowly losing their appeal amid a revival of their Western peers that are recovering from setbacks like the 2008 financial crisis and terrorist attacks to set the global agenda.

A closer look at the index, however, showed that Singapore nosedived in the liveability category from 22nd to 37th place. The top Asian cities were Tokyo (11th), Osaka (13th) and Kuala Lumpur (15th).

Mori spokesman Takumi Kitamura told The Straits Times that this was, in part, because the way some categories are computed gets updated every year.

Even as Singapore continues to be strong in metrics like information and communications technology readiness (third), low number of murders (fourth) and total unemployment rate (fourth), it has slipped in others.

 
 
 

For instance, it plunged from first to 36th in the "workstyle flexibility" metric, which replaces the metric "employee life satisfaction" that had included expat city rankings. However, only a qualitative survey of 200 residents was used this year.

Singapore also did not do well in other metrics that were changed, such as commuting time (38th), which replaces "commuting convenience" in which it was ranked 12th last year.

Likewise, it plunged from 18th to 48th in the metric "comfort level of temperature", after the source was changed from the average mercury readings for the last 30 years to an average of the last three years, with new factors like humidity and wind velocity taken into account.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2019, with the headline 'Singapore holds on to fifth place in global city index, but barely'. Subscribe