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Why does Singapore top so many tables?

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BBC: Why does Singapore top so many tables?

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ASIA
24  October  2013  Last  updated  at  03:38  GMT

Why  does  Singapore  top  so  many  tables?
Singapore  is  a  small  nation  with  few  of  its  own  natural  resources.  Yet  in  the  past  50  years  it  has  transformed  itself  into  one of  the  world's  economic  powerhouses.  Here,  Tenna  Schoer,  a  Danish  journalist  based  in  Singapore,  counts  some  of  the measures  where  the  country  comes  top  of  the  class. 1.  Low  crime  rate Take  a  ride  on  the  subway  in  Singapore  and  you'll  quickly  notice  that  it  is  only  the  tourists  firmly  holding  on  to  their  bags.  The  locals are  very  relaxed  about  their  belongings  and  show  no  hint  of  fear  that  somebody  might  snatch  their  smartphone.  Unsurprising perhaps  when  you  consider  that  Singapore  has  one  the  lowest  crime  rates  in  the  world. Crime  has  fallen  in  each  of  the  past  three  years.  Last  year  had  the  lowest  recorded  crime  rate  in  more  than  two  decades  -­  there were  80  days  in  which  not  a  single  robbery  or  "snatch  theft"  was  recorded. Not  only  do  you  not  need  to  worry  about  your  belongings,  your  life  isn't  in  very  much  danger  either. According  to  UN  data,  Singapore  has  the  second  lowest  murder  rate  in  the  world  (Data  excludes  tiny  Palau  and  Monaco.)  Only  16 people  were  murdered  in  2011  in  a  country  with  a  population  of  5.1  million.  Compare  that  to  similarly  sized  Norway  which  had  111 murders  and  Slovakia  with  96  murders  in  the  same  year. You  don't  have  to  look  that  hard  to  discover  why  this  might  be,  though.  The  little  city  state  is  well  known  for  its  harsh  punishments for  crime,  even  for  low-­level  offences.  Recently,  a  security  guard  was  sentenced  to  three  months  in  jail  and  three  strokes  of  the cane  for  spray-­painting  "democracy"  on  a  war  memorial. The  police  are  also  putting  in  place  a  network  of  cameras  that  will  eventually  cover  all  public  housing  blocks  and  car  parks.  In Singapore  there  are  seemingly  few  concerns  about  "big  brother  is  watching"  when  it  comes  to  fighting  crime. 2.  The  healthiest  people  in  the  world When  the  sun  is  up,  so  are  Singaporeans,  doing  their  morning  exercise.  Take  an  early  stroll  in  the  beautiful  Botanical  Gardens  and you'll  find  young  and  old,  men  and  women  jogging  around  the  pond  or  doing  tai  chi. Maybe  that's  one  of  the  reasons  why  Singaporeans  are  ranked  as  the  healthiest  people  in  the  world.  Based  on  health-­related indicators  from  the  United  Nations,  World  Bank  and  the  World  Health  Organization  for  145  countries  with  at  least  one  million  people, one  survey  placed  Singapore  in  an  overall  first  place  with  a  health  grade  of  89.45%. However,  like  most  developed  countries  Singapore  is  also  seeing  an  increase  in  obesity.  So,  in  order  to  shape  a  healthier  workforce, the  country's  Health  Promotion  Board  recently  announced  the  "1  million  KG  challenge". This  campaign  is  trying  to  get  Singaporeans  to  collectively  lose  one  million  kilograms  within  the  next  three  years  through  more physical  activity  and  healthier  eating  behaviours. 3.  The  easiest  place  to  do  business Roughly,  half  of  those  living  in  Singapore  are  here  on  a  temporary  basis,  working  for  the  many  foreign  companies  that  have  a regional  office  in  Singapore.

These  businesses  didn't  just  choose  the  city  state  because  of  its  convenient  location  close  to  the  rest  of  Asia  and  the  Pacific. Last  year,  Singapore  was  named  by  the  World  Bank  for  the  seventh  consecutive  year  as  the  best  country  to  do  business  in.  The bank  highlighted  Singapore's  standards  for  trading  across  borders,  dealing  with  construction  permits  and  protecting  investors. 4.  The  largest  manufacturer  of  jack-­up  oil  rigs Singapore  doesn't  have  a  drop  of  oil  to  its  name  but  it  dominates  the  oil  industry  in  one  crucial  sector:  it  is  the  world's  biggest  maker of  jack-­up  rigs,  the  platforms  used  for  off-­shore  oil  exploration  and  drilling. Since  the  13th  Century,  the  country  has  benefited  from  its  strategic  location  at  the  confluence  of  major  shipping  lanes  through  the Strait  of  Malacca.  Today,  it  remains  a  magnet  for  the  world's  shipping  industry. Until  recently,  when  it  was  overtaken  by  Shanghai,  Singapore  was  the  largest  port  in  the  world. Out  of  its  shipping  heritage  grew  two  giants  of  the  oil  industry,  the  local  conglomerates  Keppel  and  SembCorp,  which  have  been transformed  from  humble  ship  repair  centres  to  global  leaders,  helping  Singapore  command  70%  of  the  world  market. The  Singaporean  marine  and  offshore  industry  employs  some  to  75,000  workers  and  had  a  total  output  of  12.9bn  Singapore  dollars (US10.3bn,  £6.42bn)  in  2011,  one  of  the  fastest  growing  sectors  in  the  country's  economy. 5.  One  of  the  least  corrupt  countries  in  the  world Situated  in  a  region  where  corruption  is  sometimes  a  part  of  life,  it's  notable  that  Singapore  scores  as  well  as  it  does  in  the international  rankings  for  corruption,  currently  number  five  on  the  list  of  least  corrupt  countries  in  the  world. Most  Singaporeans  praise  the  Republic's  first  and  long-­serving  prime  minister,  Lee  Kuan  Yew,  for  building  an  environment  almost free  of  corruption.  But  several  years  before  Mr  Lee  took  office,  Singapore  decided  to  fight  corruption  by  establishing  the  Corrupt Practices  Investigation  Bureau  in  1952  in  order  to  attract  foreign  businesses  to  invest  in  their  land. Today,  when  it  comes  to  any  kind  of  corruption  the  country  doesn't  distinguish  between  white  or  blue  collar  crime.  It  tries  all  cases according  to  Singapore's  stringent  penal  code,  with  long-­term  jail  terms  and  large  fines  up  to  100,000  Singapore  dollars  (£50,000). Singapore  also  keeps  the  salaries  of  politicians  and  civil  servants  high  in  order  to  repress  economic  incentive  to  engage  in  corrupt activity. 6.  Where  millionaires  are  minted  in  the  shortest  time Take  a  walk  in  almost  any  residential  car  park  in  Singapore  and  you'll  find  a  handful  of  luxury  cars  such  as  high-­end  Audis,  BMWs and  Mercedes,  a  couple  of  Jaguars,  and  at  least  one  Ferrari  or  Maserati. This  luxury  doesn't  come  cheap  in  the  first  place,  never  mind  after  adding  a  car  sales  tax  rate  of  150%  plus  the  84,000  Singapore dollars  ($42,000)  it  costs  to  obtain  the  certificate  to  own  the  car.  (Not  to  mention  the  90kph/60mph  speed  limit  in  Singapore.) But  wealthy  Singaporeans  don't  mind  spending  several  hundred  thousand  dollars  on  a  luxury  car.  Why?  Because  they  can. According  to  a  recent  wealth  report  from  Barclays  Bank,  over  half  of  Singapore's  wealthy  people  have  taken  less  than  10  years  to accumulate  the  majority  of  their  wealth,  the  quickest  rate  across  the  globe. Not  only  does  money  grow  fast,  the  concentration  of  millionaires  is  also  among  the  highest  in  the  world.  With  8.8%  of  the  population with  a  private  wealth  of  at  least  one  million  US  dollars,  Singapore  comes  in  as  number  five  on  that  list. 7.  Top  of  the  class In  1965,  Prime  Minister  Lee  Kuan  Yew  created  the  master  plan  behind  the  modern  Singapore,  a  "first-­world  oasis  in  a  third-­world region",  as  the  now  90-­year-­old  Mr  Lee  has  put  it. Having  few  natural  resources,  Singapore  invested  heavily  in  education  in  order  to  build  and  maintain  a  well-­educated  work  force. Currently,  approximately  20%  of  government  spending  goes  into  education.

According  to  the  latest  OECD  report  on  education  performance  around  the  world,  it  seems  like  that  effort  is  paying  off. Based  on  rankings  achieved  in  mathematics,  science  and  reading  literature,  Singapore  comes  second  in  the  overall  results,  just behind  Shanghai.  Some  12.3%  of  students  in  Singapore  attain  the  highest  levels  of  proficiency  in  all  three  assessment  subjects. Students  work  hard  and  do  more  hours  of  maths  and  science  than  the  OECD  average.  Not  only  do  the  students  feel  a  notable pressure  from  their  "tiger  parents"  as  well  as  the  society  in  whole,  there's  also  a  sharp  focus  on  the  teachers. Teaching  in  Singapore  is  a  highly  respected  profession.  They  are  selected  from  the  top  third  of  each  cohort,  and  to  keep  them  on track  with  the  newest  teaching  techniques  they  are  entitled  to  100  hours  of  professional  development  every  year. The  country's  education  system  is  often  criticized  for  not  producing  "out-­of-­the-­box"  thinkers,  but  efforts  are  being  made  to  change that.  The  Ministry  of  Education  recently  cut  academic  content  to  create  space  for  schools  to  develop  critical  thinking. 8.  The  lowest  drug  abuse  in  the  world Most  places  in  the  world  have  a  neighbourhood  known  for  its  drug  problem,  but  not  Singapore.  The  country  has  the  lowest  level  of drug  abuse  in  the  world  when  it  comes  to  opiates,  cocaine  and  ecstasy,  and  the  second  lowest  for  cannabis  and  amphetamines, according  to  a  UN  World  Drug  Report. Punishments  for  possessing  drugs  are  harsh  -­  possession  or  consumption  of  cannabis  can  earn  you  up  to  10  years  in  prison,  a 20,000  Singapore  dollar  (£10,000)  fine,  or  both.  And  the  zero-­tolerance  approach  can  also  mean  a  mandatory  death  sentence. Getting  caught  trafficking  30  grams  of  cocaine  or  15  grams  of  heroin  will  put  you  on  death  row,  where  some  34  people  are  currently facing  execution. 9.  The  third-­largest  gambling  market The  quick  moves  of  the  slim  hand  reveal  both  anxiety  and  routine  as  the  young  woman  places  her  bet  on  the  roulette.  In  front  of  her are  stacked  several  piles  of  tokens  worth  more  than  5,000  Singapore  dollars. It  is  Thursday  night  and  the  giant  casino  is  buzzing.  Singapore  legalised  gambling  only  three  years  ago  and  licensed  two  large casinos  to  attract  more  tourists.  Visitor  numbers  have  jumped  nearly  50%  since. What's  more,  the  casino  industry  paid  2.2bn  Singapore  dollars  (£1.1bn)  in  tax  and  contributes  an  estimated  1.5-­2%  to  Singapore's GDP. There  is  a  long  tradition  of  gambling  but  to  keep  scandals  (and  suicides)  to  a  minimum,  locals  have  to  pay  an  entrance  fee  of  100 Singapore  dollars,  whereas  a  foreign  passport  gives  you  free  access  to  the  glittery  machines  and  freedom  to  win  or,  more  often, lose  money. Singapore's  casino  industry  pulled  in  an  impressive  US$5.85bn  in  2012,  up  8%  on  the  year  before,  putting  it  in  third  place globally.  That's  close  to  Las  Vegas'  US$6.2bn,  but  some  distance  from  the  world's  number  one  gambling  market,  Macau,  which generated  US$38bn. Though  the  Singapore  casinos  have  seen  a  decrease  in  visitors  as  the  novelty  factor  fades  away  they  still  attract  around  17,000 people  a  day. 10.  The  most  unhappy  people  in  the  world In  Singapore  you  can  find  almost  anything  you  desire  but  one  thing  in  short  supply,  apparently,  is  happiness. A  recent  Gallup  report  revealed  that  Singapore's  wealthy  population  is  the  unhappiest,  or  least  positive,  in  the  world,  less  happy than  people  in  Iraq,  Haiti,  Afghanistan  and  Syria. When  asked  if  they  had  been  well-­rested,  treated  with  respect,  if  they  had  smiled  or  laughed  a  lot,  and  had  done  or  learnt  something, only  46%  of  the  Singaporeans  replied  "yes".

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