Small business, big opportunities
With a passion for education, great food and connections, Singapore has quickly become an economic powerhouse and a hotspot for tourism – the perfect place for you to mix business and pleasure.
Just one-twentieth the area of Greater Sydney, with no natural resources, the island Republic of Singapore has bootstrapped itself into becoming an economic powerhouse with a simple but powerful strategy: create the world’s friendliest business environment. And Australian businesses are lapping it up.
According to Austrade, Singapore is Australia’s largest trade and investment partner within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and our fifth-largest overall, with over 3500 businesses with Australian links operating in Singapore across industries such as infrastructure, education, financial services and IT.
The attractions for businesses are numerous: Singapore’s historic geographical advantages have been enhanced by world-best infrastructure for sea and air transport; a simple, investor-friendly tax environment with the top rate of corporate tax pegged at 17 per cent (compared to Australia’s rate of 30 per cent) and no capital gains tax; and effective legal and IP protection systems. Foreign companies seeking to set up operations get support and incentives from agencies such as International Enterprise – Singapore (formerly the Singapore Trade Development Board (STDB)). Singapore is and, once trading, companies can operate in one of the world’s least corrupt business environments.
The city-state also has an established reputation as a very capable conference host, with large groups of academics, researchers and practitioners from a variety of industries across the globe choosing Singapore as the place to meet. As such, the city provides bountiful opportunities for networking, learning and developing your business. It also has a strong start-up hub to gain valuable insights from.
According to authorities such as the World Bank and Business Environment Risk Intelligence (BERI), more than 7000 multinational companies now have subsidiaries in Singapore. But the island nation is not only a popular port of call for business – it’s also an ideal location for sojourns of a more explorative nature.
Singapore has changed in all kinds of ways over the past decade to cater for business travellers who wish to add a few days to the end of their trips to relax and explore the island. It now packs in entertainment, cultural variety and some of the world’s most impressive tourism products, along with a swathe of new swish boutique hotels and top-notch restaurants. It’s full of wonderful cultural discoveries, too: multi-armed goddesses, night safaris, contemporary art and a blend of Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures.
Start your downtime downtown with a look at Singapore’s whitewashed British-era buildings and the excellent collection of furniture, porcelain and fine arts at the Asian Civilisations Museum. You could wander around the colonial-era Raffles Hotel, now a Singaporean National Monument, or sit along the riverbank at Clarke Quay and nibble on satay sticks while enjoying a spot of people watching.
From here, you’re a short walk to Chinatown and iconic Smith Street. Nicknamed Food Street, it’s lit by lanterns and flaring woks and dishes up finger-licking chilli crab and laksa noodles right in the street – a dramatic atmosphere that will impress any business guests you’re with. Linger into the evening and the trendy Tanjong Pagar district of Chinatown is lively with chic cocktail lounges and raucous karaoke bars, which are perfect for entertaining.
Another good place to be in the evening is the redeveloped Marina Bay area overlooked by the giant Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel, which has a new high-tech Journey of Dreams attraction. The theatres here host classical concerts, drama and contemporary dance, while on The Esplanade outside, singers, fire-swallowers and other street performers entertain. The light-twinkling view of the city is lovely.
Sentosa Island, a stone’s throw from the mainland, offers the perfect antidote to a hectic day of business negotiations with its adventure rides, beaches, golf and luxury resorts. It’s also home to Universal Studios Singapore, so you no longer have to go to Los Angeles to take Jurassic Park rides and scream on the Revenge of the Mummy rollercoaster.
Although the city is small, Singapore has a surprising number of beaches, parks and protected areas. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve has walking trails through million-year-old rainforest teeming with butterflies and lizards, while Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve sees the winter arrival of migrating birds from as far afield as Siberia. Far more manicured, but just as green, is the Chinese Garden, a great escape featuring a bonsai collection, lakes and traditional Chinese architecture.
Back among the urban bustle, head to the city’s famous shopping drag along Orchard Road for the latest in big-name brands and department stores, or visit eccentric shops in Little India crammed with silks and spices. Kampong Glam, the Arab and Malay quarter, is great for batiks and regional handicrafts that will improve give your office back home a unique look. Back alleys in these areas are also well worth exploring; expect to come across mosques, traditional shopfronts, peeling colonial-era buildings and fresh-food markets popping with odd-looking tropical fruits.
You might go for the business but you’ll stay for the pleasure. Within such close proximity of Australia, Singapore really does have it all.
Words by James Anderson and Brian Johnston
The articles represent the views of the authors and not necessarily that of the Bank. You should seek independent professional advice before acting on any matters set out in the articles.