The Most Powerful Passport

By Emily Lin, ’20

The Singaporean passport has risen to become the most powerful passport. This is the first Asian nation to hold the leading spot on Arton Capital’s Global Passport Index, the primary source of passport ranking index. This Index ranks countries by their citizens’ ability to travel and enter into countries without, or obtain a visa upon arrival. In the event of a tie, Arton Capital uses the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index, which ranks nations on their perception abroad. Singapore and Germany were tied in first place with a score of 158, but was broken when Paraguay allowed Singaporean passport holders into their borders visa-free. While a nation’s passport rank may seem trivial, it has broader implications on its foreign political stance.

Historically, the top ranked passports were mainly held by western European countries, including Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland. However, amidst the current geopolitics and terrorist crises, Western countries are beginning to take a colder approach to border policy and sanctions. For example, Germany saw the parliament election of enough politicians from the right-wing Alternative for Deutschland party to cut Chancellor Merkel’s Democratic Union party majority, which favors an open borders policy. Similarly, the Trump administration has taken a more nationalist approach in the international arena and pushes for an anti-immigration agenda. In a statement, Arton Capital noted that the US passport has fallen from fourth to sixth place since President Trump took office. Turkey and the Central African Republic were the most recent countries to revoke the visa-free status to US passport holders.

However, some Asian countries have embraced more open foreign policy efforts and moved higher up in the passport rankings. Currently, Korea and Japan hold a third and fourth place respectively, and Malaysia ranks the highest at sixth place. This signals Asia-Pacific’s willingness to facilitate open trade, travel, and policy as Western nations continue to pull back. In an address at the Asia-Pacific Geo-Economic Strategy Forum on October 25th, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State Dr. Mohamad Maliki bin Osman criticized the nationalist stances taken among western countries and warned the Asia-Pacific region against dismantling free trade policies over territorial disputes and nationalism.

As national sentiments among Western countries are likely to rise, Arton Capital managing director Philippe May states he expects “small nations who are no threat to anyone as well as smart and open-minded nations, especially when there is a strong rule of law” are the most likely to improve in rankings. These countries include the six member countries of the Organization of East Caribbean States (St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada). On the other hand, countries locked in supranational organizations and complex alliances will face difficulties in the future. Reflected by visa requirements, diplomatic relationships between countries will continue to affect and change global mobility amid the current dynamic, geopolitical climate.




Filed in: Featured content, International

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