Singaporeans enjoy highest citizenship quality among ASEAN countries

In this picture taken on February 23, 2015, people walk through street stalls in Singapore. (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

The highest quality of citizenship in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is enjoyed by the citizenry of Singapore, according to the Quality of Nationality Index released by Henley & Partners.

The index provides a holistic ranking of the quality of nationalities worldwide, measuring both the internal and external value of a nationality. The internal value takes into account the peace and stability, human development and economic strength of a country whereas the external value considers the travel and settlement freedom allowed by virtue of being a citizen of a particular country.

The island nation came in at 36th globally. Within the top 50, there are two other ASEAN member states besides Singapore, which are Malaysia (45th), Brunei (46th).

According to the report, these three “nationalities benefit from stronger economies, a higher level of Human Development and greater peacefulness.”

Leading expert on citizenship law and co-creator of the index, Dimitry Kochenov, remarked that “States differ to a great degree. Just as with the states, the nationalities themselves differ too,” adding that “Importantly, there is no direct correlation between the power of the state and the quality of its nationality.”

A clear example of this is the varying quality of the Indonesian and Singaporean citizenships. The former, is a member of the exclusive G20, and is often touted as ASEAN’s first amongst equals. However, when compared to Singapore, a relatively small power within the intricate web of international relations, Indonesia is ranked 105th worldwide, which is 69 rungs below the tiny island nation, and only fifth in the ASEAN region.

Singaporeans enjoy better travel freedom and greater value of external nationality than their Indonesian counterparts. The Singaporean passport is the most powerful in the world, granting visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 158 countries. Comparatively, Indonesians only have similar access to 61 countries. Germany is the only other country with equal passport power rank as the city state.

The three worst performing ASEAN countries on the index are Lao (135th), Cambodia (138th) and Myanmar (148th). The gap between Singapore and Myanmar, which is the worst performing ASEAN member state in the index, is a whopping 112 rungs.

When reached for a comment on this index, Managing Partner and Head of Southeast Asia for Henley & Partners, Dominic Volek stated that in terms of internal factors, the three states (Lao, Cambodia and Myanmar) rank lowly in GDP (Gross Domestic Product), HDI (Human Development Index) and GPI (Global Peace Index). Aside from that, these countries lack significant passport power compared to other ASEAN member states in the index.

However, all ASEAN states recorded improvements in the index compared to the previous year. Thailand, ranked 97th worldwide and fourth in ASEAN, saw the largest improvement with an increase of 1.9 index points from last year.

The Philippines (120th) and Vietnam (128th) are ranked sixth and seventh respectively within ASEAN – their rankings worldwide are indicated in the brackets.