Singapore is ranked 13th globally for the rule of law, the top Asian nation out of 113 countries in the 2017-2018 Rule of Law Index compiled by the World Justice Project (WJP), an independent advocacy group based in the United States.
The Republic is No. 1 for order and security and No. 2 for regulatory enforcement, according to the index released on Wednesday (Jan 31).
Order and security looks at factors that include how effectively crime is controlled and whether there is political unrest, while regulatory enforcement measures the effectiveness of government regulations, among other things.
Singapore's overall ranking, however, is four places down from its position in 2016, when it was also the top Asian country,
In the latest WJP Index, the top three overall performers are Denmark, Norway and Finland, while Afghanistan, Cambodia and Venezuela rounded off the bottom.
The index measures how the rule of law is experienced and perceived in practical, everyday situations by people across the globe and is the world's leading source for original, independent data on rule of law.
The ratings are based on data collected from more than 110,000 household and 3,000 expert surveys involving 113 nations.
Performance is measured using 44 indicators across eight primary rule of law factors, each of which is scored and ranked globally and against regional peers.
The eight factors include absence of corruption, fundamental rights plus order and security.
Also assessed is the civil and criminal justice systems in the countries.
Singapore topped the 13 Asian countries evaluated for rule of law, ahead of Japan and South Korea.
When the list includes Australia and New Zealand, Singapore surpassed the two Pacific countries in five of the eight factors measured.
These included absence of corruption plus civil and criminal justice systems. It did less well in the categories of constraints on government powers, fundamental rights and open government, which measure, for instance, the right to information and civic participation.
Singapore ranked third overall in the Asia-Pacific region of 15 countries, including Australia and New Zealand.
Observers said the findings were a useful reference to discuss the strengths of the local system and areas that could be improved.
"The positive outcomes overall are not surprising, given there are serious and conscious efforts here to keep updated, stay nimble and sustain the pace," said lawyer Amolat Singh.
WJP founder and CEO William H. Neukom said the index is meant to be "a first step in setting benchmarks, informing reforms, stimulating programmes and deepening understanding for the foundational importance of the rule of law."
He added: "We are witnessing a global deterioration in fundamental aspects of the rule of law. Reduced adherence to the rule of law anywhere threatens development anywhere."
The WJP said that "effective rule of law reduces corruption, combats poverty and disease, and protects people from injustices large and small". "It is the foundation for communities of equity, opportunity and peace," it added.