Tokyo, Singapore among world’s safest cities but Hong Kong slides down rankings

(SCMP) – Tokyo, Singapore and Osaka have once again been named the world’s safest cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in its third set of rankings based on urban safety and resilience.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, dropped to 20th after ranking 11th in 2015 and ninth in 2017.

Other Asian cities ranked even lower included Beijing (31), Kuala Lumpur (35) and Jakarta (53).

In the Safe Cities Index 2019, released on Thursday, 60 cities from five continents were assessed on four factors: digital, infrastructure, health and personal security.

Across the four categories, there were 57 indicators evaluated – including 10 new indicators emphasising environmental resilience. Data was collected from February to April this year.

“Our research points to a number of key elements, including joint planning by all relevant stakeholders, both governmental and non-governmental, to prepare for shocks; a new understanding of infrastructure that uses a city’s natural assets as tools to enhance its ability to absorb shocks; and the importance of promoting social connectedness among citizens in creating communities that will work together in a crisis,” the EIU report said.

Generally, the highest-ranked cities provided access to high-quality health care and had dedicated cybersecurity teams, community-based police patrolling and disaster continuity planning.

“The research highlights how different types of safety are thoroughly intertwined … it is rare to find a city with very good results in one safety pillar and lagging in others,” said Naka Kondo, senior editor of the EIU.

Singapore set the benchmark for infrastructure and personal security but Tokyo and Osaka were the front runners in digital and health security respectively.

Muhammad Faizal Abdul Rahman, a research fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said: “Singapore would want to continue maintaining its high position in the Safe Cities Index because security and stability are crucial to its model of economic development and aspirations as an international hub.

“In this regard, Singapore invests heavily in security technologies and emergency preparedness to keep its people and businesses resilient and the country safe in a region that is no stranger to security threats.”

Meanwhile, Hong Kong plummeted in three of the four categories. Most significantly, it fell 17 places, from fifth to 22nd, when it came to digital security due to an added indicator on local malware threats.

Hong Kong’s ranking for infrastructure security also suffered during evaluation of its ability to manage climate change and disaster risk.

On health security, the city ranked 27th but still scored well on personal security, ranking third.

The EIU said direct year-on-year comparisons were “not possible” since more indicators were introduced this year. However, the data used for the latest index did not take into account the recent protests in Hong Kong.

“The situation in Hong Kong is still dynamic, so at this stage of course we cannot say exactly what the impact on the score will be,” said Simon Baptist, global chief economist and managing director for Asia.

“If there are sustained attacks on infrastructure, an ongoing increase in political instability, civil unrest or if relations between the police force and the community cannot be repaired, then it is likely that Hong Kong’s score would fall.”