Singapore and Switzerland, How do they differ?

Switzerland and Singapore may, at least on the surface, appear completely different nations. One is surrounded by sea, the other has none; one offers skiing holidays to the British middle class, the other does not. In truth, these two nations have a considerable amount in common, and are; to some degree, possible models for capitalism done well.

How are they capitalist? Both operate on a free market system, possibly to a greater extent than even the likes of America. For example, Switzerland is so famous for its banks because the state basically allows them to go unchecked. In turn, the money made in this morally dubious process provides the Swiss people with a very comfortable lifestyle, more so than many of their neighbours. This is in spite of the fact that Switzerland is landlocked and lacking in space and natural resources.

Like Switzerland, Singapore has very few natural resources, one of the side effects of building a city on swampland (no, otters do not count as a natural resource no matter how cute they are.) It operates on making itself a great place to do business, which is important for businesses as the nearby superpower of China certainly does not appear as such. Certainly, many visitors to East Asia and Oceania stop by in Singapore, which might explain their magnificent airport, but unfortunately when I was there, there was little time to explore it. Such wealth coming in and out of their city state has provided the Singaporeans with a high standard of living in a similar way to Switzerland.

How do they make it work? One of the big things for such small nations is an appreciation for their lack of living space. As such, both understand the importance of infrastructure and transport, particularly rail travel. Swiss trains famously turn up almost on the dot, something most Brits would likely find difficult to believe. In Singapore, a near constant, surprisingly clean version of the underground offers citizens an easy way to get around, with greater ease than cars. Being so small and fearing considerable traffic flow issues, Singapore’s government generates a considerable amount of capital from the cars, whilst also limiting the amount of people with cars. In the UK, this would be a tragedy, however, in Singapore, their transport and infrastructure is so excellent nobody has any need to worry.

Are they good democracies? Switzerland has one of the most bizarre democratic systems of any nation on Earth. In short, they have a cabinet making up the executive branch of government, with one member being chosen to serve a year as the head of state. On a broader level, this means the government has very little capacity to change the direction of Switzerland, though, considering their relative affluence and prosperity seems unnecessary. However, this lack of an effective government could suggest a flawed democracy, though some may argue this makes it incredibly successful as a system.

Singapore is nearly a polar opposite. They have first past the post, the system used in the UK, however, this has had a very different result. Lee Hsien Loong has been prime minister of Singapore since 2004, and his party has always held the office. Arguably, this either suggests an unrepresentative democracy, or suggests a people so content with their government they feel no need to replace them. Such a situation is quite strange and hard to understand why it happens, and not to fall into the trap of seeing it as a dictatorship. Elections are free, they just do not seem to result in a change in government.


Written by Adam Caudle

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