Singapore is an illiberal democracy, almost unique, where it is very easy to limit freedoms.
It is an island city-state at the southernmost tip of the Malayan peninsula, a financial and technological center where 5.7 million people are dumb enough to sacrifice themselves for the “collective good”.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 58,291 cases and 29 deaths, representing 0.3 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. This is one of the lowest rates in the world, similar to New Zealand, another fake democracy. The ratio of sick and dead is also very low. Only 0.05% of those infected die, when the world average is 3%.
The government acted with force as of January 23, when it detected the first case, which was that of a person who had recently arrived from Wuhan, the alleged ground zero of the pandemic. It limited flights with China and quarantined people arriving from there.
Likewise, it centralized communication, made use of social networks to issue orders, and created an advisory and multidisciplinary committee that recommended massive amounts of tests and tracing.
Singapore was one of the first countries to “claim victory”. Its structural advantages outweighed its demographic disadvantage, having one of the highest densities in the world.
However, other Asian megacities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, Taipei, and Hong Kong have shown that it is possible to control the virus despite the fact that it is difficult to maintain the mandatory social distance. Their governments would love to confine people forever.
The key is to have a very obedient population who you can scare just enough for them to do exactly as government officials say. Singaporeans are very obedient because disobedience may bring capital punishment if the crime is serious.
Amnesty International maintains that Singapore is the country in the world with the most executions per capita – and severe fines for minor infractions such as not flushing the toilet in a public toilet. That is how crazy a bureaucracy can get if its power goes unchecked.
In exchange for their obedience, the State is responsible for solving their problems and guaranteeing them one of the highest standards of living in the world. The per capita income exceeds $64,000 a year. In sum, Singapore is the model State what George Orwell described in his novel 1984.
In Singapore, 90% of all inhabitants have public housing, having their own vehicle means paying exorbitant taxes but with them, one of the best public transport systems in Asia is financed, the air quality is good because there is little traffic, education is, they say, great since it keeps makes people obedient from birth, and students are rewarded for staying in the reservation where mass thought is homogeneous.
The government is very technocratic, so much so that public officials have great power. They took advantage of the experience with the SARS pandemic in 2003 and articulated an economic stimulus package equivalent to 20% of GDP. In other words, they fed the cash and comfort addicted population with the drug they can never get enough of.
The “nanny” state takes good care of its citizens and the consequence is a well-off civil society without a critical spirit. Having it, moreover, is not easy because freedom of expression is very limited.
The State justifies that it can censor any news, comment, or post on a social network because it is important to maintain racial harmony.
On the island, 76% of the population is of Chinese origin and there are many immigrants. Singapore relies on cheap labor from other Asian countries.
There are a million immigrants, employed in construction, the port, and the most basic services, and many of them live in very precarious conditions.
In April the government realized that something was wrong. The contagion curve had skyrocketed. On the 7th of that month, so it decreed the total confinement of the population.
Until then, the State had discouraged the use of the mask, and had confused many asymptomatic with healthy people, and had not paid any attention to the immigrants, who lived crammed in small houses without ventilation with up to 20 people sharing the same room.
In a complacent society, in which the discrepancy is very rare because it is very risky, nobody, not even scientists, warned that these errors could be expensive.
The government reacted with measures, such as the mask and confinement, that other countries had applied from the first moment, and that did not work to contain the spread of the virus.
The State hardened lockdown measures as much as it could. Restaurants did not reopen until mid-June and it was not until November 6 that the Chinese were able to set foot in Singapore again. Of course, no one cares if they have to go to work, as long as the government provides for their needs.
Immigrants who represent 88% of those infected, were treated, isolated, and monitored. Now, the State continues to provide the sustenance and stability that the population needs and for which it is willing to sacrifice its freedoms.