Singapore’s economy depends on entrepôt trade, shipbuilding
and repairing, electronics, oil refining, and information technology,
banking and finance and, to a lesser degree, tourism. From the late
1970s, the Government promoted export-oriented
and service industries with plans of making Singapore
a regional economic centre. Singapore also benefited from the decision
of some firms to relocate with reference to the switch of Hong Kong to Chinese
administration in 1997. High-technology manufacturing,
especially computer and telecommunications
equipment, and financial services,
chiefly banking and insurance,
form the kernel of the economy.
There is also a significant oil-refining industry.
The most current adding to the economy is pharmaceuticals:
also, the government is now promoting Singapore as a hub for biotechnology,
particularly for stem cell research which has proved so controversial
elsewhere. The significance of trade to the economy is great
and can't be overstated: the total worth of Singapore’s trade
is nearly 3 times its GDP (compared with 17% of GDP in the case
Healthy economic activity more than compensates for Singapore’s
shortage of natural resources. There isn't much agriculture, with
the cultivation of plants and vegetables, and some fishing; but,
most foodstuffs and raw materials are imported. Singapore’s
only important natural resource is its excellent
natural harbour, which is the world's busiest behind Rotterdam. This is partly for the heavy re-export trade,
which makes up almost half of all trade.
Singapore suffered less than a number of its neighbours by the 1997
Asian financial crisis, due to expert financial management, high
savings and investment rates, and huge foreign exchange reserves.
However, not long after that, it fell into its worst economic
recession for 30 years, mainly due to a
of international demand in major industries, particularly electronics.
At the lowest level, Singapore’s economy was reducing to
an extraordinary rate of 6% per year. Industrial production declined
by more than 20% during 2001. A slow recovery has taken place since
then: GDP growth was only 0.8% in 2003,
but it's expected that figure will rise to between 4 and 5%
in 2004/05. Recent inflation is lower than 1%.
Singapore’s trading partners are Thailand, Japan, Malaysia
and the USA.
Singapore has membership in the Association of South East
Asian Nations (ASEAN) and of the Asian Pacific
Economic Forum (APEC).
Obsessed with productivity, the high standard of education of its
workers and its location at the core of ASEAN (Association
of Southeast Asian Nations) has rendered Singapore the most
durable economy in the world. In many leading surveys during
2002, Singapore had passed Hong Kong as the best
business centre in Asia.
In 2001, it was ranked number one in Asia for growth
competitiveness by the World Economic Forum, and
readers of Business Traveller Asian Pacific declared
Singapore ahead of Melbourne and Sydney. It garnered a further seal
of approval from Forbes Magazine, which held the
Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore in September 2001.
Although productivity growth was less in the 1990s than in the 1980s,
thanks to the Asian financial crisis of 1997, Singapore’s
decline was much less dramatic than other asian countries and its
recovery is well underway. GDP growth of 2.2% was
shown in 2002. Current statistics show that the unemployment
rate for 2002 was 4.5%, slightly up on 2001 (3.8%) but
much better than 2000 (6%).
Of the workforce, 18.2% work in manufacturing,
21.3% in commerce, 10.8% in transport
and communication, 17.1% in financial
and business services and 25.7% in community
and personal services.
Most economic sectors, particularly tourism, suffered
the effects of the 11 September terrorist attacks.
The Singapore Tourism Board was strategic in their
marketing and promoted their efforts into attracting tourists from
Australia and China, rather than nervous USA and Japan. Although
a slow recovery was taking place, this screeched to a halt following
the bomb attack in Bali in October 2002, which
meant less people travelling to Bali and subsequently not using
Singapore as a stopover. Nevertheless, 2002 welcomed more than 7.5
million international visitors (excluding Malaysian arrivals by
land) and the Tourism Board have succeeded in pushing Singapore
into Asia’number one convention destination and the fifth
best in the world.
The business district is situated towards the island’s east
and southernmost tip and includes Orchard Road,
Brah Basah Road and Raffles Boulevard,
near which are the Singapore International Convention
and Exhibition Centre, Pan Pacific and
Most major international banks are located here as well as international
organisations like Nokia, IBM, Canon, National Panasonic, Hitachi,
Toshiba, Nike and Sony.
The official business language of Singapore is English and business
is conducted very much on a Western model. But, Asian – and
particularly Chinese – business ethics often prevail. Most
offices are built (interior and exterior) with help from a feng
shui expert, in order to create the most auspicious environment
for creating wealth and harmony, and most have a fish pond or fountain
to ensure that money flows in the right direction.
Business cards are exchanged at all business and social occasions;
and it is polite to give or receive them with both hands (as with
any piece of paper, including money). Corporate entertaining is
at the top of the agenda and long lunches are the norm, often with
lavish buffets. Smoking is illegal in many locations and is not
always socially acceptable, so one should check before lighting
There are 12 public holidays each year, the most important is Chinese
New Year, usually in February. This is the only time when almost
everything shuts down – locals visit their families and ex-pats
depart for a long weekend away. During other public holidays, like
Christmas Day, offices and banks close but shops stay open.
Business dress is pretty formal, but, men’s suits tend to
be lighter shades in Singapore’s tropical climate and, for
formal meetings, a jacket is usually dispensed with. Women dress
in a skirt or trouser suit and their Malay colleagues wear their
national dress for formal functions. Some firms have adopted casual
Fridays, although only those departments with no customer contact
tend to take advantage of this.
Both locals and ex-pats work long hours. The official working
day is 9.00 am to 6.00 pm; however, longer hours are very common.
The following organisations can offer advice:
Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 101 Cecil Street, Tong
Eng Building, Unit 23-01/04, Singapore 069533 (tel: 6224 6634 or
6222 2855; fax: 6223 1707; email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
International Chamber of Commerce, 10-01 John Hancock Tower,
6 Raffles Quay, Singapore 048580 (tel: 6224 1255; fax: 6224 2785;
Singapore is the number one convention
city in Asia and is amongst the world's top ten meetings destinations. Plenty of hotels offer abundant conference
facilities, as well as the most up to date audio-visual equipment,
secretarial services, translation and simultaneous interpretation
systems, whilst Raffles City, a self-contained
convention city, can hold as many as 6,000 delegates under one roof.
Some additional famous venues for bigger conventions and exhibitions
are Suntec Singapore and Singapore
Expo (Singapore’s newest addition to conference
Complete details about Singapore as a conference country can
acquired from the Exhibition & Convention Bureau
within the Singapore Tourism Board (see Contact
section). The Bureau is a non-profitmaking organisation
with objectives of promoting Singapore as a convention and an international
exhibition city and of helping with the planning and staging of