Malaysia tops in political freedom, Singapore in business, survey shows

By Joan Lau, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21 — Malaysia has a much more liberal political environment when compared to Singapore, a Newsweek survey revealed, but the federation lags far behind when it comes to ease of doing business.

This led to Singapore beating out Malaysia in overall ranking — 20, compared to Malaysia’s 37 — in Newsweek’s Best Countries special survey. However, the island republic lost out in fundamental things like citizens’ engagement with politics, freedom of expression and belief and personal autonomy.

This is reflective of the relative freedom Malaysians have in being able to disagree with the government, as seen in the various blogs, books and gatherings that are still allowed here.

Singapore has been known to crack down quickly and efficiently on what it perceives as dissent. Most recently, writer Alan Shadrake was arrested in July for the contents of his book Once A Jolly Hangman which is about the death penalty and judicial system in Singapore. The book has now been banned.

Still, Singapore has much to brag about as it beat out Malaysia in education, health, quality of life and economic dynamism.

In the area of health, the average life expectancy in Singapore is 73 years while that in Malaysia is 64 years. Also, when it comes to quality of life, only 1.99 per cent of Singapore’s citizens are living on less than US$2 (RM6.40) a day compared to 7.8 per cent of Malaysians.

But the most glaring disparity comes in the area of economic dynamism. For ease of doing business, Singapore came out at No 1 while Malaysia only ranked 23. It takes only an average of three days to start a new business in Singapore compared to an average of 11 in Malaysia.

And finally when it comes to average Gross Domestic Product (GDP)/capita growth rate i.e. incremental US dollar of growth per person, Singapore came in at US$50,300 compared to Malaysia’s US$14,800.