One might choose any number of places to build a business these days. After all, Thomas Friedman has gone to great detail explaining the new "flatter world." The barriers provided by the former foes of distance and time have been all but erased by technology and vision. So, the fact is, business can be effectively conducted, for many industries, almost anywhere in the world. Before choosing a business location one should take a moment to investigate the STEEP driving forces that can cultivate or destroy the best laid plans of the most ingenious business leaders. Coming on as the tiger of the East, Singapore is building an economic powerhouse capable of providing the most fertile environment for business. It is by looking at the STEEP driving forces that one will easily recognize the advantages of business in Singapore.
Singapore offers a tremendous diversity for business. In Singapore one may be surprised by the intermingling of immigrants; Chinese, Malay, Indian, and European people melding into a homogenous group while maintaining some unique ties to their original culture. Identities "still remain although the bulk of Singaporeans do think of themselves as Singaporeans, regardless of race or culture. Each still bears its own unique character" (Singapore Expats, 2007). This diversity provides business a valuable resource for innovation and growth. English is widely spoken in Singapore however a more common language is "Singlish" which combines native languages with English.
Widely spoken and understood English is the primary language of business. Mandarin and Cantonese are also spoken widely. There are four major religious groups in Singapore. The most widely observed are Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam as well as a variety of lesser known faiths. Interestingly, these groups interact in a positive and interconnected way. As the groups observe their different religious festivals and holidays, the community frequently participates in the celebrations. Singapore offers much more than a diverse, yet well blended workforce.
Recognized as both a regional and world technological Mecca, Singapore has well established aerospace, electronics and telecommunications concerns. Fully connected to a reliable internet hub, Singapore is able to provide unrestricted high speed internet access. Google's proposed trans-Pacific cable promises to further expand bandwidth and lower prices. Tremendous gains may be made by marrying the entrepreneurial spirit with the abundant supply of technological resources of Singapore. The workforce is well educated and ready for the right opportunity. With any highly sophisticated economy, technology is the nerve center and Singapore is not short on nerve. With a complex banking and stock market system in place, Singapore competes with any place on Earth. With a 92.8% literacy rate there is a sizeable and increasingly educated labor pool available for high-tech jobs. While maintaining a technical focus the Singaporean people do not ignore environmental concerns.
With the scarcity of natural resources, Singapore administrates its natural resources with the wisdom of Solomon. With ports and airports that are among the busiest in the world, Singapore manages to protect the natural resources. In accordance with the "Green Plan" 5% of land is set aside for conservation. According to Alan Tan of the University of Singapore, Singapore is one of the Greenest cities in the world (Tan, 1998).
Perhaps the most difficult challenge for the people of Singapore and their leadership is administering the relatively small land area. This creates challenges for housing, farming, and manufacturing. Singapore's leaders are challenged to make changes today that will handle the demands of the future.
Approximately 80% of the population lives in public housing. These apartments and flats are generally under 1,000 SF and offer the amenities of a small home. Others may opt for a private home or condominium which generally offers more spacious accommodations.
Singapore has an extensive and thorough public transportation system. In fact, for most, a car is unnecessary. The Changi airport is award winning and is among the cleanest and best connected in the region. Because of the strong enforcement of laws in Singapore, the country is well positioned to save itself from major environmental concerns. This higher environmental thinking aids not only Singaporeans but the region in general.
Singapore provides what is perhaps the most fertile economic environment of the Pacific. Supported by large investments from both internal and external sources, Singapore operates an independent stock market that brings investment currency from around the globe. In the most recent rankings prepared by the World Bank (Economy Rankings, 2007), Singapore moved up a spot from the number 2 to number 1 trading places with New Zealand. Ranking number 1 for the ease of doing business, employing workers, and starting a business, clearly, Singapore is a special place for business. Ranking 2nd in; paying taxes, protecting investors, and closing a business, Singapore is working to not only create a special environment for business but also in making it easy to start a business. Unlike other lesser known business havens, Singapore also supports the interests of those who choose to do business with Singaporean companies.
Holding the number 4 ranking for protecting investors and number 7 for obtaining credit, Singapore protects investors while freeing up the availability of credit needed for business growth. This is a far sighted practice for a growing economy. While some countries make licensing a business more challenging than opening one, Singapore ranks number 5 for the ease in which one may handle licensing. With GDP growth rates in excess of 7%, entrepreneurs can get their business open and licensed for business much more easily than many other locations. Trading extensively with; China, The United States, Australian, India and Europe the opportunities are vast for those calling Singapore home. Companies like; Keppel, SembCorp Industries, and United Overseas Bank have all found fertile soil in Singapore to gain admission into the coveted Forbe's 2000. One may ask how the government of Singapore has been able to develop a relatively small island with minimal natural resources into an economic powerhouse. The answer, at least in part has been the superior management and dedication to honesty demonstrated by Singapore's leaders.
In an area where political corruption is as common as rice at supper time, Singapore stands out as a bastion of honesty and integrity. Like the Vatican, Singapore is a city-state where corruption would spread like a wildfire yet is kept at bay with honest leadership. One key to the success of the government has been the establishment of laws to prevent things like, pornography, corruption and social decay. Long recognized as a clean city, the city leadership intends to keep it that way. Laws and penalties are posted to remind citizens and visitors alike of their importance. Particularly strong penalties are imposed for violations like jay-walking and littering. Bring drugs or arms into the region and one is likely to pay the ultimate penalty of death.
Perhaps the seriousness that the Singaporeans apply to the legal system is what has kept the crime rate lower than other industrialized countries according to the Central Intelligence Agency's World Fact book (Singapore, 2007). Originally a British port-of-call, modern Singapore is a thriving and independent republic. On December 22, 1965 Singapore became an independent state recognized by the League of Nations. The government established a parliamentary democracy which is led by a Prime Minister and President. Singapore has exceeded the vision of its Colonial roots. Pressing to become the leader of Asia's financial operations and an example of good governance, Singapore offers pride to the older generation that helped build the country and hope to future generations.
As mentioned earlier, the world is fast becoming closer and more interconnected. Singapore offers a rich and fertile environment to plant and grow a business. With a free market economy that is growing faster than many in the region, Singapore is open for business. High marks in every category measured by the World Bank should provide skeptics the confidence to consider Singapore strongly when planning a relocation or startup. Safe, secure, and educated, Singapore provides the opportunities for the bright entrepreneur to succeed.
The forces that drive economies are all working favorably in Singapore. STEEP driving forces offer nothing but positive signs and encouragement for those looking for a business location. Yet, as always, one should visit the site and check with local authorities before diving in. Singapore makes this process easy as well by visiting http://www.contactsingapore.org.
James T Crawford is a business owner and consultant. Currently involved with on-line learning and the benefits of on-line tutoring. He has been involved in planning and execution for several hundred business concerns from high tech to healthcare. He resides in Hampton Roads, Virginia with his wife and four sons.
Economy Rankings. (2007). Retrieved November 24, 2007
Singapore Expats. (2007). Singapore culture. Available from Online Information
Singapore. (2007). Retrieved November 24, 2007, from Central Intelligence Agency Web site:
Tan, K. J. A. (1998). Preliminary assessment of Singapore environmental law. In APCEL Reports (Singapore). Singapore, Singapore: Asia Pacific Center for Environmental Law. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from sunsite.nus.edu.sg/apcel/dbase/singapore/reports.html