Singapore tops global survey on order and security

Officers from the Police Tactical Unit of the Special Operations Command on patrol in Raffles Place, on Dec 23, 2019.
Officers from the Police Tactical Unit of the Special Operations Command on patrol in Raffles Place, on Dec 23, 2019.PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore has been ranked No. 1 for order and security in an annual global survey on ordinary people's experience of their country's rule of law.

It also improved its overall position in the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 2020, based on eight primary factors, including constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, regulatory enforcement, and civil and criminal justice systems.

Overall, Singapore moved up a notch to No. 12 out of 128 countries and jurisdictions, the only Asian country among the top dozen in the latest index released yesterday.

It nudged out Britain, which moved down to No. 13.

Also, for the first time, the United States dropped out of the top 20 list. It was replaced by Spain.

The index is produced by the US-based World Justice Project (WJP), an independent, multidisciplinary organisation that works to advance the rule of law worldwide.

Order and security assesses how well a society ensures the security of its people for the rule of law to thrive, measuring how crime is effectively controlled and people do not resort to violence to redress grievances, among other things.

Top legal minds contacted lauded Singapore's ranking.

The rule of law is the foundation of Singapore's success, said Professor Goh Yihan, dean of Singapore Management University's law school.

"Indeed, we have successfully progressed to become a modern, thriving country because of our steadfast and consistent commitment to the rule of law. It is, therefore, heartening to see Singapore doing very well,'' he said.

The index is based on national surveys of more than 130,000 households and 4,000 legal practitioners and experts around the world.

It measures rule of law performance as experienced by ordinary people in 128 countries and jurisdictions and is the world's leading source for original, independent data on the rule of law.

"It looks at a country's adherence to the rule of law from the perspective of ordinary individuals... examining practical, everyday situations, like whether people can access public services," said the WJP report.

Professor Simon Chesterman, dean of the National University of Singapore's law faculty, said that while Singapore continues to do well on rule of law, "it is interesting to see how different dimensions of the rule of law are perceived".

He said: "Singapore comes first in the world, for example, in terms of order and security and tops the region on absence of corruption. In other areas, like open government and constraints on government powers, Singapore is ranked lower.

"That reflects, in part, different views as to what the rule of law requires in the social, political and economic context of each country."

Prof Chesterman, who is also an unpaid director of the WJP's Asia-Pacific regional office, added: "The rule of law is a bit like oxygen - easily taken for granted, but noticed very quickly when it is gone."

WJP warned that for the third year in a row, more places declined than improved their overall rule of law performance. WJP executive director Elizabeth Andersen said: "What we are witnessing is a steady erosion in core dimensions of accountable governance affecting democracies and dictatorships alike."

WJP founder and chief executive William Neukom said: "The rule of law is the bedrock of communities of justice, opportunity and peace. We are all stakeholders in the rule of law and therefore we all have a role to play in upholding it. The 2020 Index underscores that we have our work cut out for us."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2020, with the headline 'S'pore tops global survey on order and security'. Subscribe