Singapore ranks 13th in the world for rule of law, and has the highest score for order and security

Singapore Press Holdings

Singapore has been ranked 13th out of 126 countries in the 2019 Rule of Law Index released on Thursday (Feb 28), and first in the area of order and security.

Compiled by the World Justice Project (WJP), a US-based independent advocacy group, the index measures how the rule of law is “experienced and perceived in practical, everyday situations by the general public worldwide”. It is based on surveys with more than 120,000 household and 3,800 experts in 126 countries.

The city-state was also ranked 13th in last year’s index, after falling four places from its position in 2016.

In the overall index, Singapore beat Japan, which was ranked 15th; Hong Kong, 16th; South Korea, 18th; and Malaysia, which came in 51st – an improvement of five positions.

The top three spots in the index were taken by Denmark, followed by Norway and Finland. Meanwhile, the bottom three countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 124th place, Cambodia in 125th, and Venezuela in 126th.

In the East Asia and Pacific region alone, Singapore was ranked third out of 15 countries, just behind New Zealand and Australia, while Malaysia came in seventh.

Meanwhile, the three countries with the lowest scores in the region were the Philippines, Myanmar and Cambodia.

Singapore also placed 13th out of 38 among high-income nations.

First in the area of order and security

The overall index measured rule of law performance across eight factors: constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice.

Singapore, again, topped the ranking in the area of order and security – which is measured by how well a society ensures the security of persons and property.

The city-state managed to retain its position despite an increase in the number of countries assessed this year. In the previous report, only 113 countries were studied.

Regionally (East Asia and Pacific), Singapore also clinched the top spot in four other areas: absence of corruption, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice.

Singapore continues to rank number one globally in the area of order and security this year.

According to WJP, the trend of having more countries which declined than improved continued in this year’s index.

The report said: “Globally, the new WJP Rule of Law Index scores show that more countries declined than improved in overall rule of law performance for a second year in a row, continuing a negative slide toward weaker rule of law around the world.

“In a sign suggesting rising authoritarianism, the factor score for ‘constraints on government powers’ declined in more countries than any other factor worldwide over the last year (61 countries declined, 23 stayed the same, 29 improved).”

According to WJP, the factor “constraints on government powers” measures how much those who govern are bound by governmental and non-governmental checks – for example, an independent judiciary, a free press, and the ability of legislatures to apply oversight.

Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the World Justice Project, said: “This slide in rule of law in general and checks on government powers in particular is deeply concerning.”