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Business Environment in Singapore

Like most financial centres, Singapore was hit badly by the recent recession, and growth tumbled from around 7.8% of GDP in 2007 to 1.1% in 2008 and -2.6% in 2009. However, growth of between 7% and 9% is predicted for 2010. GDP per capita was estimated in 2009 to be $50,300, putting Singapore fifth in the world and ahead of the USA.

Singapore’s main industries include electronics; financial services; chemicals; oil-drilling equipment and petroleum refining; ship repair; rubber processing and products; offshore platform construction; life sciences; and entrepot trade.

Exports are key to Singapore’s economy; in 2009, it was estimated that exports amounted to $245 billion (a drop from an estimated $343 billion in 2008). Singapore’s main export partners are Australia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and the USA. Imports amounted to an estimated $210 billion in 2009, down from around $310 billion in 2008; main import partners include China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and the USA. Both imports and exports shot up in early 2010, however.

Singapore has excellent telecommunications. It is estimated that, with landline and mobile phones combined, there are approximately 175 phones per 100 people. In 2008, there were 3.37 million internet users.

There are eight airports in Singapore, the main one being Changi International Airport. There is a good road network, with a causeway linking Singapore with Malaysia. There is also a train service linking Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, with trains running to Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Bangkok.

The Port of Singapore is the world’s busiest in terms of total shipping tonnage, trans-shipment and containers, handling some 140,000 vessels each year. The port is also the world’s third largest petrochemical refiner, and operates South-East Asia’s most technically advanced and efficient shipbuilding and ship-repair facilities. The Singapore Registry of Ships has over 3,000 registered vessels totalling more than 29 million gross tonnes, and offers tax advantages and financial incentives to Singapore-registered vessels under the Approved International Shipping Enterprise scheme, the Approved Shipping Logistics scheme, the Maritime Finance Incentive scheme, and the Maritime Cluster Fund.

There are six Singapore-incorporated banks which are owned by three banking groups: DBS Bank Limited, Far Eastern Bank Ltd, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. Ltd, Singapore Island Bank Ltd, The Islamic Bank of Asia, and United Overseas Bank Ltd. Over 100 foreign commercial banks are registered in Singapore, including some 40 or so offshore banks.

There are five free trade zones (FTZs) located at the Port of Singapore, Jurong Port, Sembawang Wharves, Pasir Panjang Wharves, and Airport Logistics Park of Singapore. No duty or taxes are payable on goods stored in an FTZ, but they are payable when the goods leave the FTZ and enter into customs territory for local consumption. Customs procedures for movement of goods within FTZs have been simplified and paperwork reduced.

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