I just read on LinkedIn that the two most powerful passports in the world are that of Japan and Singapore. Holding either of these passports grants you access to 192 nations without the need for visas beforehand. Of course, right now, you would want there to be arrangements for Vaccination Travel Lanes (VTLs) as well, but that’s due to time and happenstance.
What does it mean to have a powerful passport? Is it because 192 nations know and love me and would welcome me warmly anytime because my presence brings a whole lot of good to them? Really? If that were true, how did these nations come to know about my goodness? Is it because of my powerfully engaging social media presence? Did I make that same presence wonderfully felt in all the exclusive zones of the mythical “world wide web”? Was it because of the goody goods I exported, or the wonderfully accessible, seamless services I provided?
When we think about it, yes, it was all those, but above all, was it not the national culture? When people hear the words “Japanese” or “Singaporean”, what’s the first thing that springs to mind? More uplifting descriptors than otherwise, or so I would hope! (I can hope, can’t I?) So, it is our culture that people desire to have more of. How is that culture expressed?
How about the Foreign Services, or equivalent? How does our diplomatic corps serve us when they represent us in other nations? Are they more often than not the doyen, overtly or otherwise? How are personal relationships cultivated in that sphere? Is there a continuously conscious effort to make and maintain powerful networks, as Niall Ferguson would put it, in his book “The Square and the Tower”?
How about both government-led and private investments and businesses in other nations? Are people happy to have those enterprises there? Do they retain us in spite of the inevitable vilifications and name-calling, with “robber baron” being just one example? Do entities like PSA International inspire confidence? Do our enterprises bring great good to other nations, and is this good readily manifest in terms of more money earned, more robust people, more benefits accrued by them learning about how to run their economies better and get wealthier whether or not we remain there?
Lastly, but not with all factors having been mentioned, do they love to come to our nation? Do they like doing business here? Are they happy to invest here? Do they set up their regional offices here, confident that they will thrive? Are they happy to have their families here, knowing that this is a great place to raise their children in? I have met many happy parents who tell me stories about their children wanting to come back to Singapore after being in their home nations for a while. That is something worth cheering, but also having hope that those nations would choose to emulate whatever good we have demonstrated.
So, is it good to have a powerful passport? Of course! Let’s remember the WHYs we happen to be possessed of one. It needs hard work to maintain.