Singapore slings trade our way? Doing business in Singapore


In this blog by The Airport Economist Tim visits Singapore the jewel of South East Asia to understand the modern economic miracle that is Singapore.

It’s amazing to think that Singapore is just a little red dot on a map surrounded by larger powers. But this little red dot – representing a city state of just 5.5 million people – has a remarkable story to tell. In just 50 years it has developed from a small fishing village flattened by World War Two to one of the world’s most sophisticated financial powerhouses.

Under the leadership of the father of the nation, the late Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore has one of the world’s highest standards of living, diversified industry, a globally connected financial centre and all from a small island with no land or natural resources.

And its record speaks for itself. When you look at Singapore statistically it displays a beautiful set of numbers. For instance, Singapore is a small city state of 5.5 million people but has a GDP of over US$294 billion making it the 39th largest economy in the world. In terms of GDP per capita Singapore ranking 7th in the world, not bad for a small city state with no natural resources or agricultural land.

Singapore’s economy is growing at just a tick over 2 per cent per year, there’s barely any inflation and unemployment is only 2 per cent.

Singapore is the world’s 2nd most competitive country, (World Economic Forum) has been the world’s easiest place to do business for 10 years in a row (World Bank), and is the 3rd most innovation country in the world and the 1st in Asia (INSEAD)

Singapore’s Changi airport is real aviation hub hosting 6,500 flights per week with links to 80 countries and 320 cities. It hosts 53 million passengers a year and carries 910,000 tonnes of cargo to 55 freighter cities every six months.

Now in the Asian century, it’s well positioned as a start-up hub (although an aspiration to be a Silicon Valley of South East Asia may be too modest for the overachieving Singaporeans!) That’s why Telstra has set up Muru – D as an accelerator for start-ups and many international companies use Singapore as a base to launch creativity and product innovation into South East Asia and the region from Singapore which is the perfect business launch pad. Companies like Vet Product direct use Singapore as its launching pad into ASEAN; Australian health supplements company Blackmores has its base in Singapore as does ANZ Bank and a number of major international companies.

Singapore also has one more competitive advantage – its people. A city state of high achievers with international alumni everywhere, Singapore has more human capital per square mile than anywhere in the region. The Airport Economist knows this himself having the advantage of studying with many high powered Singaporean economists in the 1980s at the University of Adelaide. And the South Australian government is well served with the President of Singapore, Tony Tan and the head of the Civil Service, Peter Ong both being Adelaide alumni.

In short, Singapore is the perfect hub from which to set up business in South East Asia and across the whole region. And it’s a significant economy in its own right. It’s clean, it’s efficient, it’s air conditioned, it works and now that’s they’ve had so much success, they are learning how to have fun as well (as per the Singapore government’s official slogan: “In Singapore, we take fun, seriously.”) In some ways, Singapore is the ideal place in which to launch your Asian business adventure.

Here are Tim’s Tips for Singapore:

  1. Work those University Alumni networks. All the major Australian universities have a strong alumni presence in Singapore.
  2. The Government badge not only matters in Singapore it is an advantage. Singapore values its politicians and civil servants and pays them well.
  3. Look out for professional bodies that have chapters based in Singapore like the Certified Practising Accountants – the CPA – who have a chapter in Singapore and indeed right across ASEAN
  4. Have a good time – Singapore’s as much about having fun as working hard and it’s a great tourist destination as well as a business hub.

More articles for you

The Airport Economist TV show on how to do business in Qantas destinations in Asia and around the world is currently being shown on Qantas Domestic and International flights.

Don’t forget you can also watch the Airport Economist on YouTube, visit us on Facebook , find out the latest news on Twitter or network with us on LinkedIn. You can also send Tim a message or question here. 

Using Singapore as a base to expand