Full steam ahead for Lion City

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 October, 2010, 12:00am

Singapore is a modern day economic success story. Even by Asia's standards - a standout globally - this tiny city state delivers a stellar performance. With so many countries still forging a growth path after the devastating slowdown, Singapore's economy jumped by 18.1 per cent in the first half of this year, the biggest rise since records began in 1975.

The republic's international kudos is of the highest order. In a World Bank report, Singapore ranked top for ease of doing business for the fourth year in a row (Hong Kong came third, with New Zealand second). Singapore was also commended for staying proactive, being named with Hong Kong as one of the most consistent reformers.

Swiss business school IMD ranked Singapore in top spot, elbowing out Hong Kong and the United States, in its World Competitiveness Yearbook rankings this year.

Singapore is also one of the world's most livable cities. According to Mercer's 2010 quality of living survey, Singapore remains the highest ranking Asian city (ranked 28th globally), followed by Tokyo (40th).

The foundations for Singapore's success include political stability, sound business infrastructure, integrated urban planning, and strong manufacturing and tourism sectors.

Visitor arrivals to Singapore reached 996,000 in August, up 18 per cent year-on-year, setting a new record for the month. And, with the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix a sell-out last month, the figures should only get better.

In addition to the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, held in Singapore in August, the upswing is largely attributed to the opening this year of two integrated casino resorts, the US$4.4 billion Resorts World Sentosa and US$5.5 billion Marina Bay Sands. The resorts are expected to contribute up to 2 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product, help the country achieve visitor arrivals of 17 million by 2015 (from 10 million in 2008) - and add 35,000 jobs to the economy. The government hopes to boost tourism earnings to S$30 billion (US$21.5 billion) by 2015, tripling present figures.

The Grand Prix, the only night race on the Formula One circuit, generates an estimated US$100 million in tourism receipts. It is watched by 500 million people worldwide and brings the business world's movers and shakers to the island, with more than 100 arriving on private jets.

More than 80 per cent of visitors to Singapore arrive by air, with 10 per cent arriving by sea. The construction of a new international cruise terminal, due to open by the end of next year, will double its capacity to berth superliners, enough to welcome an expected one million cruise passengers by 2015.

One Degree 15, the city's elite private marina club and waterfront lifestyle community, is one of the few marinas in Asia equipped to handle mega-yachts of up to about 60 metres. Rolls-Royce last year relocated the global headquarters of its marine business to Singapore, highlighting the city's growing status as a hub for the industry.

Singapore continued to attract foreign investors throughout the recent global slowdown. Last year alone, American medical technology giant Medtronic set up its Asian headquarters on the island, while launching a US$57.6 million state-of-the-art factory to cater to Asia's increasing demand for cardiac devices. AAC Acoustic, the mainland's largest manufacturer of miniature acoustic components, set up its international headquarters in Singapore to oversee regional marketing, and research and development. Quintiles, the world's largest pharmaceutical services company, expanded its regional headquarters to house advanced laboratory facilities.

In line with Singapore's continuing commitment to a dynamic urban environment, the international financial community gained a new home with the opening of Marina Bay Financial Centre, a project invested jointly by Hong Kong's Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hongkong Land, and Keppel Land of Singapore.

Eurocopter, the world's leading helicopter maker, broke ground for its new regional headquarters in Singapore's Seletar Aerospace Park, while Zodiac Aerospace opened a regional headquarters to provide aerospace maintenance, repair and overhaul services.

As of the end of last year, more than 7,000 multinational companies were headquartered in Singapore. The country's Economic Development Board (EDB) recently announced a stepping up of efforts to attract global mid-sized companies and Asian enterprises to the republic, forming partnerships with 10 'multipliers' such as national chambers of industry and commerce over the next six months.

EDB managing director Beh Swan Gin says companies are seeking a strategic location to seize growth opportunities in the region. 'Singapore offers a unique vantage point for global mid-sized companies to orchestrate their activities across Asia and for Asian enterprises to grow in Southeast Asia and beyond,' he says. 'The EDB hopes to strengthen our engagement with these companies.'