Singapore has fared very well in two international rankings recently. Hot on the heels of Singapore’s stellar showing on the Human Capital Index (HCI) released by the World Bank, Singapore has also come in at second place in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) competitiveness rating.
Less salubrious is the nation’s results in the Commitment to Reducing Inequality index (CRI) released by Oxfam which saw Singapore within the last ten places.
While the top brass within the Singapore government have been quick to denounce the CRI, I cannot help but wonder what the results of each index actually means for the average citizen in Singapore?
The ratings produced by the WEF and the World Bank are all largely of the economic nature, focusing on access to high paying jobs (not just to Singaporeans) and potential for business growth. They are less focused on the domestic lifestyle of the working class. The Oxfam finding, on the other hand, relates almost directly with the day to day lives of the average Singaporean.
The WEF rating and the HCI are wonderful for Singapore on a global perspective. They put us on the international map and are great for the prestige factor. However, if the climate in Singapore is perceived by Singaporeans to be unequal, citizens would hardly care less what Singapore’s global reputation is and the real question to ask is which finding would affect election results?
At the end of the day, Singaporeans will vote according to domestic situations. It is not its international reputation that will win elections. Trump’s victory is a sombre reminder of that fact. He does the US global reputation no favours. Yet, he is perceived by the working class in the US to be beneficial to the average Joe.
While the Singapore government pat themselves on the back for their glowing international standing, it would be imperative to pay close attention to the results yielded by the Oxfam report because these are the issues that the voters are most concerned with.
Income inequality is one of the most divisive issues of our age. Made worse no doubt by the advent of social media which constantly remind the have-nots what the haves have. Even young children are not immune to the differences between those who “have stuff” and those who don’t. Janil Putucheary’s “Regardless of class” is a stark reminder of that sad awareness.
What does this all mean for the ruling PAP government? It is all well and good to focus on Singapore’s international image but all that will come to naught if you forget the bread and butter issues that directly affect voters.