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Holders of Singaporean passports are among the luckiest in the world. They can travel to 195 countries without a visa, wrote the South China Morning Post, more than almost any other nationality in the world, including Americans.

They have fortune at home, too: The approximately 280-square-mile island city-state in Southeast Asia is wealthy, peaceful, and cosmopolitan – English is an official language along with Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil. It is also a wealthy trading nation whose glitz and glamour inspired the novel and 2018 film, “Crazy Rich Asians.”

Singapore is also growing – literally – as it has been reclaiming land from the sea at a breakneck pace, the Business Times explained. This new land has provided space for reservoirs for clean water, storm protections, parks, and housing.

Chinese crackdowns on democracy in Hong Kong, meanwhile, have also led many business leaders in the Chinese “special administrative region” to question whether it can retain its place as the financial hub of Asia, reported the New York Times. Many might even argue that Singapore has already surpassed Hong Kong. Singapore hosted around 4,200 multinational firms’ regional headquarters last year, added Channel News Asia, while the Chinese city is home to fewer than 1,340.

Other Chinese companies, like Tabcut, an AI startup founded in Hangzhou in 2022, are moving to Singapore to take advantage of more opportunities for capital, less negative associations with Chinese human rights violations, and other reasons, reported Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, these trends have also made Singapore into a destination for illicit cash. A recent $2.2 billion money laundering scandal, for instance, implicated DBS Bank, Citi, Credit Suisse, Julius Baer, and other international financial institutions, reported the Banker.

This money has infected politics. Prime Minister Lawrence Wong recently took the oath of office after the resignation of his predecessor, Lee Hsien Loong, the son of the country’s founding father who held the top office for 20 years, Al Jazeera wrote. Both are members of the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has run Singapore since independence from the British in 1965, winning office through elections that Freedom House called “partly free.” The party has also cultivated an often harsh state that limits free speech, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The passing of the baton from Loong to Wong after what was essentially 59 years of rule by the Lee family was scripted and planned meticulously, and was a momentous event, according to the Associated Press. But, as World Politics Review wrote, many Singaporeans were also fed up with corruption scandals and other shortcomings in the PAP government.

They want a rich country that’s honest, too, observers said, noting that with a new leader, the country has a new chance to change.

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