Public Governance in Asia and the Limits of Electoral Democracy

Public Governance in Asia and the Limits of Electoral Democracy

Edited by Brian Bridges and Lok Sang Ho

This book documents the search for a workable model of democracy in Asia. It begins with two conceptual chapters that explore the role of electoral democracy as a governance mechanism in the light of other governance mechanisms, then reviews the various forms of Asian democracy, including those that many may consider to be in name rather than in substance, that have been practiced to date, and indicates where these models may have failed or succeeded. Underpinned by extensive case studies, valuable insights into governance and democracy in Asia – arguably one of the most fascinating and dynamic regions in the world – are provided.

Chapter 9: Democracy and Governance in Singapore: The Sustainability of Singapore’s Political System

Lay Hwee Yeo

Subjects: asian studies, asian politics and policy, politics and public policy, asian politics, public policy, regulation and governance


1 Lay Hwee Yeo INTRODUCTION In any survey of political system and political change in Asia, Singapore stands out as an anomaly. Rapid economic growth and modernization have created a significant middle class in Singapore. Yet it has challenged most Western literature about the rise of the middle class and its role in democratization and it has defied the waves of democratization that swept the region, remaining non-democratic in the truly Western liberal sense. It appeared quite out of step with the trend of increasing democratization around the world. Professor Larry Diamond of Stanford University writing in the Straits Times (ST) claimed that ‘democracy remains the people’s choice’ (11 September 2006). Quoting surveys in Africa, Latin America and the 2002 World Value Survey of some East Asian countries, he noted that majorities of the public favour democracy as the best form of government and that people are clear they do not want authoritarian rule (ST, 11 September 2006). Singapore is also an anomaly in the sense that it has achieved ‘good governance’ without ostensibly achieving democracy at the same time. Singapore’s achievements in areas such as government effectiveness and enforcement of its laws have put it on the ‘Top 10’ list in a World Bank report on governance (ST, 17 September 2006). The 2006 report, covering more than 200 countries, identifies six indicators, and Singapore scored close to 100 for five of them. These include government effectiveness (99.5 per cent); regulatory quality (99.5 per cent); control of corruption (99 per...

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