1-David Brain and Amanda Goh-002Pictured: With Amanda Goh, MD of Edelman Singapore, at the luncheon launch and panel for the Singapore results of the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer.

It’s been a noisy year in the usually quiet and efficiently-run island nation with some high profile corruption cases, a big protest against a licensing scheme for online news sites, public derision of transport snafus, the return of a smoke haze courtesy of Indonesian land clearance and even a mini riot involving some “guest workers” to name but a few. Economically mature and famously open to the world economy, growth has slowed from the heady days of near double digits to 3-4 percent, and the role of immigration in development has become a defining and increasingly divisive national issue now. Who said Singapore was boring?

So what changed in one of our leading trust nations? The headline has to be that the two big institutions of government and business fell from 82 to 75 percent and from 77 to 71 percent respectively. This is big in a nation where, whatever their popularity, government and business have been credited with the near miraculous one generation rise of Singapore from a small trading port to a sophisticated, modern and diverse economy.

But everything in trust is relative. Singapore remains the third most trusting nation of the 27 we monitor both with informed publics (college-educated; household income in the top quartile for their age in their country; read or watch business ⁄ news media at least several times a week; follow public policy issues in the news at least several times a week) and the general public. Like most places, the general public is a little more skeptical, but on the whole on board with the national compact.

For the second year we looked at trust in the leaders of business and government as well as trust in the institutions of business and government and the scores bore out a similar story. At face value, only 26 percent saying they trust their government leaders to tell the truth regardless of how complex or unpopular it is is a worrying result. However, Singaporean leaders are second only to those in the United Arab Emirates on these sorts of scores.

Informed publics are most interested in government playing a role in “regulating business activities to ensure companies are behaving responsibly” at 28 percent and “protecting consumers from irresponsible business practices” at 26 percent. And in the financial services, energy and food and beverage sectors, Singaporeans still have an appetite for further regulation and government oversight.

NGOs and media have remained fairly stable at 76 percent and 70 percent respectively, though with the decline in trust in government this does put NGOs into the most trusted position again. Singapore’s trust in NGOs rose by 20 points over the past five years, to 26 percent in 2014 from 56 percent in 2010. This is proof that in Singapore, as elsewhere, working with NGOs and civic society is a very effective way of building and sustaining trust.

Academics and experts and technical experts within a company are the two most credible spokespeople for a company followed by a person like me; much more so than CEOs.

For anyone looking to build trust in Singapore, there is much in the deck embedded below and we would of course be most happy to talk to you about it.