By Jasper Wong, honorable mention in the CIPE 2013 Blog Competition. Read the rest of the winning entries here.
In this decade, perhaps the defining story of global significance is the rise of China in the global economy as it displaces Japan to become the world’s second biggest economy. It is no coincidence then that the prevailing view that democracy should go hand-in-hand with development was seriously challenged at the time as China’s economic success overshadowed U.S. culpability in the Global Financial Crisis (some say, Western Financial Crisis), which saw the “largest and sharpest drop in economic activity of the modern era.”
Yet China’s development wasn’t the first to challenge the link between economic and political freedom, as it sits fittingly in the context of East Asia’s developmental trajectory, most exemplified by the phenomenon of the Four Asian Tigers during the 1970s and 1980s. Similarly, the accompanying story to their remarkable growth was the political environment in which growth took place under authoritarian leaders like Park Chung Hee and Lee Kuan Yew.
While South Korea and Taiwan have gained strides in being more democratic, Singapore appears to be stuck in limbo, classified as a “hybrid regime” and ranked at 81st position, well below countries like Indonesia and Malaysia in the latest 2012 Democracy Index published by the EIU.
In global surveys, Singapore has consistently ranked top in governance as its zero-tolerance for corruption, coupled with meritocratic efficiency, are the usual suspects in explanation. Yet ironically, recent times have not bode well for the ruling party of the Singapore government, having just emerged from the latest election with its lowest support ever since independence (60.14 percent of total votes) and facing an increasingly critical electorate.