Singapore Worse Than Syria?

So Singapore has worse political participation than Russia, Syria, almost all of Africa or 181 other countries around the world.

This was the surprising finding when I attended the Asia launch of the Commonwealth Secretariats’s Global Youth Development Index 2016.


Only China and Algeria were worse than Singapore (North Korea was not included). The report is here with the rankings beginning from page 132.

In the other four areas of the Commonwealth’s five pillar assessment, Singapore is in the top 20% of the world. In health, they are ninth.


Singapore does have a very atypical political structure for a developed, democratic economy with complete one party domination┬ásince independence in 1965. However, as the Commonwealth report shows in another pillar, civic participation is relatively high – 26th in the world.

The reason for the disparity is straightforward. The report uses just three measures to assess the political participation ranking:

1) Existance of a National Youth Strategy

2) Voter education programmes are in place

3) Survey response on engaging with government officials are positive

Singapore does not have a Youth Strategy and does not undertake voter education. Therefore Russia, Syria and 53 of 54 countries in Africa are determined to have better “political participation”.

The problems with an assessment on this basis are obvious, and yet the criteria used to measure it and the other pillars was apparently subject to rigorous international academic review. To be fair, there is a limited amount of consistent assessment data that can be used across so many countries. And the Commonwealth is at pains to encourage feedback and better data sources.

But for standards setting and results ranking to have an important role in improving performance, the standards have to pass the sniff test. These don’t do that.

I imagine political participation in many countries could be significantly improved with the $US5.5 million the Commonwealth spent on “youth” in its budget last year.

Before starting work on the next report, the Commonwealth should ask youth what they think about this.



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