The Sunday Times says

Cherishing a passport to success

A worldwide ranking of passports, which places Singapore's travel document second, attests to the travelling power that its citizens enjoy. The 2017 Passport Index, compiled by financial advisory firm Arton Capital, has Singapore in joint second place with Sweden, after Germany in the top spot. The index uses a realistic method of calculating a passport's strength by focusing on its visa-free reach. This it does by counting the number of countries that passport-holders can visit without a visa, or where they can obtain a visa on arrival; comparing the two figures; and using the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Index as a tie-breaker.

Clearly, the provision of visa-free (and visa-on-arrival) access reflects the host country's belief that visitors from a beneficiary nation are unlikely to stay on as illegal immigrants or pose graver security problems. Sadly, this is the unwelcome view taken of the unfortunate inhabitants of war-torn or conflict-ridden countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, which fare very poorly on the global index.

In contrast, the top echelons of the passports league are occupied by countries such as Germany and Sweden, which are situated in a relatively prosperous, secure and stable Europe. Singapore's appearance in that league attests to the international distance it has travelled since its sudden birth as a nation-state in 1965, one almost bereft of natural resources and left to its infant wits for an unlikely survival. The disappearance of its sovereignty then hardly would have been noticed. Half a century later, Singapore's position on the visa-free map of the world is unremarkable. The ranking shows the premium that the rest of the world places on the economic and social policies of a country whose globalised policies underpin its international standing. The Singapore travel document must remain a passport to success.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 22, 2017, with the headline Cherishing a passport to success. Subscribe