The study by Dr Mario Arturio Ruiz Estrada, a senior research fellow at Universiti Malaya, ranked Kuala Lumpur higher in social and political dimensions compared to Singapore.
“Singapore portrays itself as a developed nation but many do not realise its social and political weaknesses. For example, how many political parties are there in Singapore?
“You can’t see big opposition parties like DAP and PAS contesting in the general election there. Here, you are allowed to protest on the streets,” said Dr Ruiz Estrada at a recent seminar organised by UM’s Centre for Poverty and Development Studies (CPDS).
The study was part of an index which he was working on called the integrated gross city internal product (IGCIP).
Dr Ruiz Estrada explained that IGCIP was a more holistic measure of a city’s socio-economic performance compared to that of the Gross Domestic Product.
“The GDP does not tell you the share of wealth among a country’s citizens. And it is impossible to perfectly calculate the GDP.
“As such, there needs to be an index which can capture the social aspects, including the welfare of the people,” he added.
Dr Ruiz Estrada said the IGCIP was divided into four dimensions – social, politics, technology and the economy.
Malaysia rated 0.50 on the IGCIP.
This made it above Bangkok (0.39), Jakarta (0.29) and Manila (0.27) but below that of Singapore (0.59).
He added that socially, Singapore also faced inequality in terms of wealth.
Citing Credit Suisse, Dr Ruiz Estrada said 73% of Singapore’s wealth was owned by the wealthiest 20% of its population, which he described as “the elites”.
Dr Ruiz Estrada, who has been working in Malaysia for the past 16 years, said the study was not meant to criticise any country but to identify areas which could be improved for the welfare of its citizens.
“It is to tell you where the problems lie and how they can be addressed using policies,” he said in an interview after the seminar.
In Malaysia’s case, Dr Ruiz Estrada said the country could improve on its social and political development.
The study, which covers 100 cities, is expected to be published in October after a three-year effort by Dr Ruiz Estrada.