An unnatural country’s take on democracy: a summary of Ambassador to the United States Professor Chan Heng Chee’s speech at the Yale Law School, originally printed in the Straits Times, April 20th, 2012

This is a summary of the speech given by Professor Chan Heng Chee, Singaporean Ambassador to the United States, to students at the Yale Law School on March 8.

Professor Chan states that Singapore has frequently been cited as a model of success—economic, educational, governmental, and otherwise—by other countries, and that the fear and unhappiness from Yale professors with regard to the joint Yale-NUS project is unfounded, especially since prior programs in China have been established.

She explains that Singapore is democratic, egalitarian, and meritocratic, but “not your average Anglo-American democracy” in that the government is prime ministerial rather than presidential, and that Singaporeans vote on the performance of the government, rather than on identification with tradition.

The changing democracy has led to greater opposition votes; in fact the most recent election in May 2011 saw the opposition garnering 40 per cent of the votes, also displacing a very talented Foreign Minister George Yeo.

She concludes by questioning the impact of “too much democracy” on competitiveness and responsiveness, suggesting that a balance is important to ensure that existing policies are often adjusted and new policies implemented for better development.

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