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Singapore slipped from second to third position in the latest EIU ranking of the world's safest cities. ― Reuters pic
Singapore slipped from second to third position in the latest EIU ranking of the world’s safest cities. ― Reuters pic

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SINGAPORE, Aug 24 — Tokyo and Singapore have been knocked off first and second spots respectively in a ranking of the world’s safest cities by Copenhagen and Toronto after environmental security was added as a criterion in the ranking. Meanwhile, Covid-19 forced a rethink of what it means for a city to be safe.

Both Copenhagen, which took top spot from Tokyo, and Toronto, which pushed Singapore from second to third position, performed significantly better on environmental security — dealing with sustainability and climate adaptation measures — than either Tokyo or Singapore.

Singapore had been in second spot in the ranking, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) every two years, ever since the first edition in 2015.

The fourth edition of the Safe Cities Index was released on Monday (Aug 23). The other four criteria used to rank the 60 cities were: Digital security, health security, infrastructure security and personal security.

The other Asia-Pacific cities in the top 10 are Sydney (fourth), Tokyo (fifth), Hong Kong and Melbourne (both tied for eighth).

The EIU said the change in rankings this year did not indicate a “tectonic shift” but rather a reordering of cities which have always been near the top of the ranking.

Singapore ranked second for the digital security, health security and infrastructure security pillars, and 13th for the personal security pillar. For environmental security, Singapore ranked 37th.

The top 10 cities in 2021 are:

1. Copenhagen

2. Toronto

3. Singapore

4. Sydney

5. Tokyo

6. Amsterdam

7. Wellington

=8. Hong Kong

=8. Melbourne

10. Stockholm

How has Covid-19 changed the world rankings?

According to the report, Covid-19 has “changed the whole concept of urban safety” in several ways:

For health security, there needs to be a rethink of health systems preparedness, by integrating health emergency planning more fully into urban resilience measures, for example.

Digital security is now an even higher priority due to more work and commerce moving online.

On the infrastructure safety front, there have to be adjustments made by authorities given the changes in travel patterns and where residents consume their utilities.

For personal security, Covid-19 lockdowns have shifted crime patterns and this also has to be addressed by policymakers.

Environmental safety is also a concern as Covid-19 shows how unexpected certain crises can be.

How did Singapore do?

The study said that Covid-19 has provided a “clear reminder of the need for a more holistic approach” in how the cities’ authorities perceive the population they are serving. For instance, the biggest Covid-19 outbreaks in Singapore were among foreign and migrant workers.

Singapore also had to contend with online scams which were more rampant during the pandemic, the report noted. The already low crime rate here dropped by 16 per cent without scams, but rose by 6 per cent overall if scams were also included.

For personal security, Singapore in particular has been able to combine “low levels of input with excellent results in the field”, especially when it comes to the judicial system capacity and crime levels.

Why did Copenhagen and Toronto take the top spots?

The study said that both Copenhagen and Toronto were stronger on environmental security than any of the top three cities in the previous iteration, including Singapore.

Toronto ranked second and Copenhagen was sixth on this measure, while Tokyo ranked 13th and Singapore was 37th.

Copenhagen had put in extensive effort into reducing energy consumption, investing in green energy and encouraging green mobility, while Toronto was able to fund partnerships between the consumer and private sector to encourage environmentally friendly practices such as recycling.

How is the new environmental security criterion scored?

The environmental security pillar is scored based on indicators such as a city’s sustainability master plan, incentives for renewable energy, green economy initiatives and waste management.

Aside from environmental initiatives, the pillar also looks at the outcomes that are yielded, such as the amount of sustainable energy produced, the air quality levels and the amount of waste generated. ― TODAY

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