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Best Countries


The World's Best Countries

by Kenneth Lyen

According to this week’s Newsweek, Singapore is the ninth Best Country in the world. The ranking order is as follows: Sweden, America, Norway, Japan, Holland, Australia, France, Ireland, Singapore, and Canada.

Singapore is described as a city-state with a corporate mind-set and clean government.

While I am delighted that my own country is in the top ten, I must confess that the honour may not be deserved. Obviously the list is both highly subjective and extremely arbitrary, and should not be taken too seriously.

If you are a family person with conservative views, then Singapore may indeed be an ideal place for you. It is one of the safest cities in the world, you don’t have to worry about your kids watching overt sex and violence on television, and access to pornographic websites on the internet is restricted. The civil service is efficient, health care and education is good, and you can get things done quickly with the minimum of fuss.

However if you are an intellectual, you might moan about several things including: the lack of freedom of speech, the extremely conservative moral standards, a rather paternalistic government, the lack of an effective opposition party, the segregation of disabled people, the lack of creativity and a relatively inert arts scene, and an intolerance of differing viewpoints by those in authority.

I have always wondered whether or not I should emigrate. I have already spent nearly half my life overseas, so adjusting to another country is no problem. Among the places I have stayed, I miss the freedom and energy of America, I miss the arts and the robust academic life of England, and I miss the relaxed lifestyle of Malaysia.

I still regard Singapore as home because my family is here, my friends are here, including childhood friends whom I grew up with, and my work is here. I’m not particular about food, and I do not miss the culture here. There is racial and religious tolerance, and the government is not corrupt. These are important plus points.

As long as I can continue to write, and to compose music with relative freedom, I shall remain here. Freedom is difficult to quantify and restrictions exist in every country in the world. However, at times it can be difficult living in a country that does not afford you the luxury of intellectual freedom.

A new Prime Minister took over on 12 August 2004. Let’s hope that things will improve with the changing of the guard.