Below is an exhaustive guide on all things pertaining to living, working and doing business in Singapore.
Singapore is one of the few first-world countries in Asia, with a highly efficient infrastructure, free market economy, stable socio political environment, attractive tax regime and per capita income among the top five nations in the world, the Lion City’s economy was the fastest growing in Asia in 2011, surpassing even China at 14.5%.
At the same time, Singapore has consistently been ranked as the easiest place to do business and one of the most competitive economies worldwide by key ranking reports by top institutions like World Bank and World Economic Forum. The main source of revenue is exports of consumer electronics, information technology products, pharmaceuticals, port and financial services.
Moreover, Singapore is well known a thriving cosmopolitan city, brimming with diversity of culture, language, arts and architecture. One in three persons in the Republic hail from abroad adding to the nation’s unique blend of different cultures, lifestyles and religions, all coexisting harmoniously.
The city-state is safe and orderly, and is also recognised as one of the cleanest and greenest cities in the world. It has an efficient and affordable public transport system, along with world-class healthcare services. Singapore’s primary, secondary and tertiary education all match international standards, making it an esteemed education hub and great place to raise a family.
Singapore is open for business, and open to investors, entrepreneurs and professionals who can complement its economy. It boasts a highly-skilled workforce, and welcomes high-skilled global talent with open arms. It is regarded as one of the most desirable Asian cities to live, work and play, thus aiding recruitment. It also invests heavily in training and education to meet the evolving needs of businesses. With over 110,000 expatriates and 7,000 multinational companies operating, Singapore provides an excellent opportunity for global citizens to forge a rewarding career.
Furthermore, pro-business policies make it easy for corporations to do business in Singapore. For the investor within the company, Singapore offers several ways in which one can enter and re-enter the country with relative ease. Like the Global Investor Programme (GIP) which eases the way for foreigners to set up and operate businesses in Singapore. Under this scheme, applicants must invest at least S$2.5 million in a new business or to expand an existing business operation, or invest at least S$2.5 million in a GIP-approved fund.
Another option is the EntrePass, a visa that is designed to facilitate the entry and stay of entrepreneurs who will be actively involved in starting-up and operating a company in Singapore. The EntrePass has an initial validity period of up to 2 years and is issued upon the submission of a sound business proposal.
For individuals looking to work in Singapore, the Personalised Employment Pass (PEP) is worth considering. The PEP is issued to overseas applicants who have a minimally last drawn monthly salary of S$8,000 or hold a skilled migrant visa.
With regards to cost of living, Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey 2012 ranked Singapore as the sixth most expensive city in the world, for expatriates. Within Asia, Singapore remains the most expensive, after Japanese megacities Tokyo and Osaka. The major expenses are likely to be house rent, transport – if owning a car, and children’s education.
A check-list after arriving in Singapore is – to get the employment pass endorsed, do house-hunting, open a bank account and apply for a credit card, sign up for a mobile phone, register for various government services, and learn how to get around.
Various housing options include private condominiums and the subsidised Housing Development Board flats; major banks are DBS, OCBC, UOB and Citibank; and telecommunications service providers are Starhub, Singtel and M1.
Even though the earliest known settlement in Singapore dates back to 2nd century AD, its modern history is not very old. Founded in 1819 as a British trading colony by Sir Stamford Raffles, Singapore formed an important strategic trading and military base in the eastern borders of the British colonial empire. When the wave of decolonisation started after the Second World War, Singapore joined the Malaysian Federation in 1963. But owing to serious ideological differences with the ruling party in Malaysia, Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore from People’s Action Party (PAP), separated from the federation and declared the republic sovereign on August 9, 1965.
Since then, Singapore has adopted a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government representing 87 constituencies for which members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms. The head of the state is the president, also elected by popular vote for a six-year term. Presently serving president is Tony Tan, who won the Singapore presidential election on 1 September 2011 by a narrow margin (0.34%).
Notably, the PAP has won a majority of seats in all the elections and formed successive governments in Singapore ever since independence, with Goh Chok Tong succeeding Lee in 1990. Subsequently, Lee Hsien Loong, eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, has been serving as the republic’s third PM from 2004.
Singapore has also won accolades the world over for its highly efficient judicial and legal system, which is based on the English common law. The Supreme Court is the highest court of law, with its chief justice appointed by the president on the advice of the PM.
Singapore is a tropical country of 63 islands with total land area of 704km sq, coastline of 193 km, and population of around 5 million. Among these, about 74.2% are of Chinese race, 13.4% Malay, 9.2% Indians and 3.2% others.
Also, according to the latest census data, Buddhism is the most widely practised religion in Singapore [33%] with Chinese Mahayana being the predominant form. This is followed by Christianity, 18%, Islam, 15%, Taoism, 11%, and Hinduism, 5.1%.
Singapore also has four official languages, with English being the dominant one as it is the language of governance and business, as well as the medium of instruction in schools. Other languages spoken are Chinese, Malay and Tamil.
A people-centred land transport system is integral to Singapore’s development. Last year, the ministry of transport spent S$4,185.84 million on road and public transport infrastructure, among other projects, to provide an affordable, efficient and effective transport system for all. The ministry expects to spend another S$3,592.03 million this year as part of its plans for an inclusive, liveable and vibrant global city. Of this, S$1,976.04 million will be used for constructing more rapid transit system lines.