Thursday, 4 July 2013

Quality of life in Singapore


Quality of life is often used as a shorthand for measuring how good one feels about one’s life. There are formal procedures for calculating this measure that includes factors such as economic, social, physical, political and spiritual well-being. Singapore may be the smallest country in Southeast Asia but it has emerged as one of the best places to live in Asia with a very high quality of life measurement.

Singapore is known for its materialistic culture. People in this nation push themselves in pursuit of the 5C’s – cash, car, condo, credit card and country club. There is constant pressure to excel even at a very young age and this places a lot of stress on the society. Despite this stress, Singapore emerged as the ‘Happiest country in Asia’ in a study reported by ABC News. 95% of Singapore residents appreciate the clean, safe and efficient society. The study also showed that in Singapore, family is the most important unit and despite materialistic goals, the family and community always takes precedence. This is turn helps build a content and happy society.

Singapore is known for its stable political climate. Despite being considered centralized and authoritarian, the political culture is pragmatic, rational and based on the rule of law. The highest goal of the government is the survival and prosperity of this small nation. This often means, having to make unpopular but hard and wise decisions in the interest of the nation. The government believes in being pro-active and thinking for the future. 

According to Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore has been able to attract some 9000 multi-national companies, because it offers First World conditions in a Third World region. Good governance is having a good system that will ensure the country survives, so that citizens have secure lives. In 2012, the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy ranked Singapore #1 for having the best bureaucracy in Asia. The World Economic Forum’s ‘2011 – 2012 Global Competitiveness Report’ also reaffirms that Singapore has the highest public trust of politicians and the least burden of government regulation. According to corruption watch-dog Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index’, Singapore is perceived to be the least corrupt nation in the world.

Singapore boasts of a competitive, corruption-free, open business environment. The Port of Singapore is one of the busiest in the world as the country focuses on electronics and chemical exports to richer industrialised nations. However, over the years, Singapore has diversified its economy and today it has become a research & development hub, bio-medical hub, banking and finance center and in recent times the health-care destination of Asia. Today, Singapore is a knowledge-based economy and attracts multinational investments. Its open trade policies, social stability, world-class infrastructure and international communication links, are some of the reasons why foreign investors flock its shores. This is despite the fact that land and labour costs have risen sharply and employers have to pay a sizable portion of their employees’ salary to their Central Provident Fund.

Singapore is the second most competitive economy in the world according to the World Economic Forum’s ‘Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012. According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2012 Index of Economic Freedom’ Singapore is the second freest economy in the world. The country is also known for its low tax regime. In Singapore, personal income tax rates start from 0% and are capped at 20% for residents while non-residents are taxed at a flat rate of 15%. The corporate income tax rate in Singapore is approximately 8.5% for profits up to S$300,000 and a flat 17% above S$300,000. The GST or VAT rate is only 7%. Furthermore, there is no dividend tax, no estate duty, and no capital gains tax.

Singapore’s social and ethnic fabric is a unique blend of cultures and people – Malays, Chinese, Indians and expats from various countries. Singapore’s lifestyle is multi-cultural with each of these ethnic communities maintaining their unique way of life and at the same time living harmoniously. Singapore’s society is cosmopolitan due to the influx of foreigners in recent times. Along with it comes an openness towards people and respect for all. People are amiable and courteous to each other. High emphasis is placed on communal and racial harmony. Singaporeans are honest, highly disciplined and extremely hard-working. There is respect for seniority, authority and social norms. While individualism is prominent, Singapore is a society that honours collectivism. Racism is taken seriously in the country. The Singapore government has laid down five basic ‘Shared Vales’ to develop a distinct Singapore identity – nation before community and society above self; family as the basic unit of society; community support and respect for the individual; consensus not conflict; racial and religious harmony.

Singapore is also known for its strict law enforcement procedures, for combating crime and other offences. While popular opinion holds that the country is extremely rigid and rule-bound – with heavy fines and caning as punishments – the legal framework has contributed to Singapore’s stability and security. Women can move about freely even late at night, without the fear of being harassed. There has been no instance of mass shooting, serial killing, terrorist bomb attacks or civil unrest. Expatriates continue to cite safety as one of the most attractive features of living in Singapore. 

Singapore’s population enjoys one of the highest levels of health and nutrition in Asia. The country is also renowned for its world-class health infrastructure, technological advancements in the health-care industry, expert doctors and specialists. The health-care environment is clean, efficient and safe.

Since Singapore is a knowledge based economy, great emphasis is placed on education. The education system arms individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge to survive in a globally competitive environment. Singapore’s public schools have high standards of teaching and learning, with many of its students winning International competitions.

There are several reasons for Singapore’s success in education. An updated syllabus relevant to the changing times, a highly competitive environment, streaming students according to academic ability, a system based on meritocracy and esteemed teachers are some of the factors behind its success story. Most educational institutions provide scholarships and financial assistance to students from lower income households."

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