Singapore fastest growing Asia-Pacific country

Singapore has the fastest growing population among all the countries I checked on the Asian Development Bank Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2010. You will find it here on the bank's website.

I didn't check Samoa and Vanuatu and a few other Pacific islands on the list. But, among all the other countries, Singapore posted the biggest population increase in 2008 and 2009, according to the figures given by the bank. It shows by what percentage the population increased in each country. Those are the figures used here in the chart and the following table, which includes all the countries I checked.

Singapore and other Asian countries, population change, in per cent

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MPs’ pay in Singapore and other countries

Singapore's members of parliament are paid more than the members of the House of Commons and the European Parliament and their counterparts in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

Japan¥1,300,000 a month ($15,200 a month,i.e  $182,000 a year).
UK£65,738 ($103,000)
European Parliament€7,665 a month ($9,880 a month, i.e, over $118,500 a year)
CanadaC$155,400 ($151,000)
AustraliaA$131,040 ($118,000)
New ZealandNZ$144,500 ($103,000)

(Table shows annual salaries unless mentioned otherwise.)

I discovered this after reading that the Indian parliament plans to treble its members' salaries. The Financial Times report says: "Parliamentarians in the world’s largest democracy currently receive Rs16,000 ($343, €266, £220) a month."

That's less than a day's pay for a Singapore MP.

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Gini coefficient: Income gap in Singapore and elsewhere

Singapore has the second highest income gap between the rich and the poor, as indicated by the Gini coefficient, among the 38 countries with very high human development, according to the 2009 United Nations Development Report. Only Hong Kong has a higher income gap. See the table on this web page. You can also build your own tables using various economic indicators by going to the statistics page and you can read the report here.

The UN report says: The Gini index lies between 0 and 100. A value of 0 represents absolute equality and 100 absolute inequality.

Singapore, according to the 2009 UN report, had a Gini coefficient of 42.5, exceeded only by Hong Kong (43.4) among the countries with very high human development.

Here we compare Singapore's Gini coefficient with the figures for the rest of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asean Nations (Asean) and other countries with which it has close links. The figure tends to be lower in European countries, as this chart shows. All the figures are from the UN report.


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Singapore emigration and immigration compared with other countries

Singapore has the highest immigration rate in Asia Pacific after Hong Kong, according to the 2009 United Nations Development Report. Hong Kong's emigration rate  is also higher than Singapore's.

I looked up the report after Ms Amy Khor, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Environment and Water Resources, mentioned the UN Human Development Index in Parliament. You can see the report here and the statistics here.

Singapore is ranked 23rd on the index, as she said. It is one of only five Asian countries with very high human development, according to the index, based on life expectancy, literacy and standard of living. The others are Japan (10th), Hong Kong (24th), South Korea (26th) and Brunei (30th).

Norway is first, Australia second, Iceland third, Canada fourth and Ireland fifth on the list of 38 countries with very high human development, which include all the rich Western nations though some do better than others: the Netherlands (sixth), Sweden (seventh), France (eighth), Switzerland (ninth), America (13th), New Zealand (20th), the United Kingdom (21st) and Germany (22nd).  The Middle East is represented by Israel (27th), Kuwait (31st), Qatar (33rd) and the United Arab Emirates (35th).


Interestingly, some of the countries with very high human development also have high immigration rates. It's as high as 20 per cent in Ireland, 13.1 per cent in Ireland and 11.8 per cent in New Zealand. Hong Kong is also close to double digits with 9.5 per cent. The United Kingdom also shows a slightly higher figure (6.6 per cent) than Singapore (6.3 per cent). Emigration from the United States is as low as 0.8 per cent, same as that from India, but just a little more than from Japan (0.7 per cent) and China (0.5 per cent).  India and China are not on the list of 38 countries with very high human development, which are all named at the end of this post.

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China visitors fell below 1m in Singapore in 2009

Singapore saw a sharp drop in visitors from China in 2009 when its exports to China exceeded imports from there for the first time in several years. The number of mainland visitors fell from more than a million in 2008 to about 936,700 in 2009.


Mainland Chinese are still the second biggest group of visitors after those from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including Malaysians, Indonesians, Thais and Filipinos. Their numbers rose marginally from more than 3.57 million in 2008 to over 3.68 million in 2009.

Visitors from Australia, the third biggest group, dipped from more than 833,000 to 830,000.

Indians continued to make up the fourth biggest group, although their numbers fell from 778,000 to 725,500, according to the Economic Survey of Singapore 2009 released by the Ministry of  Trade and Industry yesterday.

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Singapore 2nd freest economy, 1st in labour freedom

Singapore remains the second freest economy in the world but ranks first in labour freedom in the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom compiled by the conservative Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. Labour freedom is used by the index to mean freedom to hire and fire workers. Singapore, described as "a nominally democratic state" in the report, scored 98.9 out of 100 for labour freedom and got an overall score of 86.1.

Hong Kong remained the world's freest economy with an overall score of 89.7 but only 87.4 for labour freedom. Australia is ranked third followed by New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland, Canada, America, Denmark and Chile. You can download the full report here.

Singapore was ranked the second least corrupt country in the world, with a score of 92 out of 100, just one place behind New Zealand, which scored 93.


Singapore got its lowest marks for financial freedom, scoring only 50 out of 100, as "the government seeks to maintain the domestic bank share of deposits above 50 percent".

What the Index of Economic Freedom stands for is freedom for companies and investors to do business as they please — within the rule of law. The less the government regulation, the greater the economic freedom, according to the index, which supports limited government and freedom from corruption. It does not support heavy government spending. That is one reason why America dropped from sixth to eighth place — because of the economic bailouts by the Obama administration. The report says:

The U.S. government’s interventionist responses to the financial and economic crisis that began in 2008 have significantly undermined economic freedom and long-term prospects for economic growth.

Total government expenditures… are relatively high and rising rapidly. In the most recent year, government spending equalled 37.4 percent of GDP.

That is why America got a low score of 58 out of 100 for government spending.

Singapore, in contrast, with government spending equalling just 12.5 percent of the GDP, according to the report, got 95.3 out of 100.

The index gives each country a score of 0 to 100 on 10 counts — business freedom, trade freedom, fiscal freedom, government size, monetary freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption and labour freedom. The 10 component scores are then averaged to give an overall economic freedom score for each country.

Here is the full report on Singapore:

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Two poems about Singapore

One poem leads to another. Reading Reflecting on the Merlion: An Anthology of Poems edited by Edwin Thumboo and Yeow Kai Chai, and co-edited by Enoch Ng, Isa Kamari, and Seetha Lakshmi at the public library, I wanted to read more poems about Singapore.

And, as luck would have it, I came across another anthology, this one co-edited by Alvin Pang, whose poem, Merlign, I particularly liked among all the poems about the Merlion. This anthology is called Over There: Poems from Singapore and Australia, edited by Alvin Pang and John Kinsella. I immediately liked two of the poems: Bumboat Cruise on the Singapore River by Miriam Wei Wei Lo and They Say by Kirpal Singh.

I couldn’t borrow either of the books, so I photocopied these poems. And since I couldn’t find these poems on the internet, here they are, so I can read them again.

Why are poems so hard to find on the Net? There should be a few by every poet so we may want to read more of their works.

Here’s more about Kirpal Singh and Miriam Wei Wei Lo (here and here).

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Death row

A Singapore court decision to hang a Vietnamese-born Australian drug trafficker has not gone down too well in Australia. "Australia won’t punish Singapore over hanging”, said a Reuters story quoting the Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Australia won’t slap trade sanctions on Singapore or deny air rights sought by Singapore Airlines simply on this issue, he said. But the fact that Singapore has rejected Australian pleas for clemency for the 25-year-old drug smuggler, Nguyen Tuong Van, has raised some hackles. Nguyen, who was caught with 400 grams of heroin at Singapore’s Changi airport on transit from Cambodia to Australia, is to be hanged on Dec 2.

Protesters have been saying it is hypocritical of Singapore to hang a lone heroin smuggler when it is a major investor in Burma, the world’s biggest heroin supplier. I don’t know about that.

But I wonder if an Australian newspaper was being entirely fair when it said Singaporeans have been "well schooled" to go along with government decisions and not to question them. There are people who genuinely believe the government has to stand firm against drug traffickers, even if it means imposing the death penalty, as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation found, interviewing locals at a Singapore shopping mall. But there are exceptions. One Singaporean blogger has been blogging against the death sentence, I found while looking at Global Voices Online. As for the majority, they have to get on with their lives. Personally, it did not even occur to me that the decision could be questioned until I read that report, possibly in the Sydney Morning Herald. One has to respect the law of the land.

Amnesty International calculates Singapore has the highest number of executions per capita in the world , said the reporter from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. (The report was picked up by the Singapore website, Little Speck.)

I checked the Amnesty site but could not find that particular statistic. This was what I found instead:

More than 3,797 people were executed in 25 countries and at least 7,395 were sentenced to death in 64 countries last year, Amnesty International reported earlier this year. China executed at least 3,400 people, Iran executed at least 159, and Viet Nam at least 64. There were 59 executions in the USA, down from 65 in 2003. Togther they accounted for 97 per cent of all the death penalties.

Five countries last year abolished the death penalty — Bhutan, Greece, Samoa, Senegal and Turkey. So far, 121 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice while 75 others retain and use the death penalty.

Significantly, the only South-east Asian countries which have abolished the death sentence are the ones devastated by war — Cambodia and East Timor. Brunei is described as "abolitionist in practice", meaning its laws provide for the death penalty only in exceptional circumstances. All the others — Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Laos  — retain capital punishment.