Singapore has come out ahead of Hong Kong in a ranking of the world's most liveable cities, due mainly to education improvements.
The country rose 11 spots to 35th, while Hong Kong fell two places to 45th in the annual league table compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Melbourne was named the world's most liveable city for the seventh straight year, while Damascus in Syria came in last on the list of 140 cities surveyed.
The EIU ranks cities by assigning each a rating for over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five broad categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. The ratings are then compiled and weighted to give a score out of 100.
Mr Stefano Scuratti, who leads the EIU's public policy, economics and politics consulting team in South-East Asia, said Singapore's "fantastic" performance in this year's ranking is in line with a trend that has seen the country improve by 17 places over the past five years.
Improvements in indicators related to education were the principal driver of this, he said.
While Singapore performed strongly across most liveability metrics, it did less well in the culture and environment domain, which measures elements such as the availability of sports and cultural events, he added.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong's slide was attributed to "the aftermath of the Umbrella Revolution, which highlighted people's unease with the recent political developments following the proposed reforms to the electoral system", said Mr Scuratti.
NOT CHEAPEST, BUT STILL ATTRACTIVE
Singapore will never be the cheapest place to be based in, but on the whole it is an attractive place to live, work and play.
ECONOMIST SONG SENG WUN
Among major cities with declining scores, only Paris - hit by a spate of recent terror attacks in and around the city - recorded a worse slump than Hong Kong.
Still, Mr Scuratti said both Hong Kong and Singapore "are extremely liveable cities... with scores of 88.8 and 90.4 (out of 100), respectively".
The EIU report noted that cities with the best scores tend to be mid-sized and located in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density. "These can foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure."
CIMB Private Bank economist Song Seng Wun noted that Singapore is striving to be a global city and is positioning itself as a hub for new technologies and emerging sectors such as e-commerce and fintech, which should contribute to improving its liveability in the long term.
Also, "those with families inevitably find that Singapore is an attractive place because of the infrastructure and education system".
"Singapore will never be the cheapest place to be based in, but on the whole it is an attractive place to live, work and play," he added.