Edited by Brian Bridges and Lok Sang Ho
Chapter 9: Democracy and Governance in Singapore: The Sustainability of Singapore’s Political System
9. Democracy and governance in Singapore: the sustainability of Singapore’s political system1 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...
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