There is something to be said about a country that has achieved tremendous economic success in barely half a century – despite having no natural resources and only 700 sq km of land space. The tiny nation of Singapore has literally gone from third world to first in a single generation.
Located just north of the equator, Singapore epitomises excellence in all that it does. The country has been lauded on the international stage for its infrastructure and industry sectors like healthcare that have been deemed world-class.
|When the financial crisis hit Singapore in 2009, the government acted swiftly and implemented policies such as the Jobs Credit Scheme, which was introduced to encourage businesses to preserve jobs in the downturn by offering employers cash grants to alleviate staff costs. Springing into action quickly proved effective as Singapore managed to weather the storm and bounce back quite fast while many other countries were still mired in recession.
In fact, the country was pegged as the fastest growing economy in the world, with a growth rate of 17.9% for the first half of 2010. This was buoyed by a gross domestic product estimated at S$303.7 million for the entire year.
Through such forward-thinking policy design, Singapore has secured an enviable position as the world’s most probusiness country. It has been ranked top in terms of the overall ease of doing
business by the World Bank consecutively from 2008 to 2011. Whether it is starting a business, securing credit, cross-border trading, employing workers or protecting investors, Singapore ranked within the top 10 in each of the categories. It is thus no surprise that Singapore is today home to 7,000 multinational companies and a thriving community of small & medium-sized enterprises.
|Since 1995, Singapore has also consistently been ranked the second freest economy in the world by the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, which rates countries according to 10 economic measurements. As a very vocal global advocate of free trade, the city state has also been highly active in forging Free Trade Agreements with countries and regional groupings, evidenced by several bilateral and multilateral trade agreements worldwide.
Indeed, Singapore is today a hub for finance, research and development, manufacturing, shipping, education, technology, healthcare, and a range of other industrial and economic activities. Aptly termed a gateway to the East, Singapore’s standard of living and economic achievement is
admired by many countries in the world. This recognition was hard won by generations of citizens descended from early immigrants who had only intended to make a transient living here before returning home with their ‘newfound’ wealth. But eventually, they chose to stay and build a nation. And this nation has grown by leaps and bounds, underscored by numerous achievements to date.
The World’s Best
The pride of the nation is certainly Changi Airport. Among its international accolades, Changi Airport has been named the best in the world almost 300 times since opening in 1981. The airport is a benchmark for efficiency and service excellence, having been consistently named the best in a range of categories such as customs clearance time, security, services, retail, dining facilities and many others. World-class innovative systems are also in place at Changi Airport. For instance, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority’s Enhanced Immigration Automated Clearance System is the first biometric system in the world for secure immigration clearance at the checkpoints. The system tackles the challenge of increasing visitor traffic volume, without compromising on security.
|Singapore also boasts one of the best ports in the world, upholding its roots as a dominant port of call. The city was the world’s busiest port for many years till 2010, when it was overtaken by Shanghai. In terms of TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) handled, Singapore was just half a million short behind the Chinese city, with 28.6 million TEUs going through its port.
Lauded for its efficiency, Singapore’s transportation system is another model for modern
cities. An intricate but efficient network of buses, trains and taxis serve the nation. Other than the peak hour morning and evening traffic jams around the central business district and key expressways, traffic is generally smooth. Traffic congestion on the small island was eased largely thanks to another effective government initiative – the electronic road pricing (ERP) system. Singapore was the first city in the world to implement the ERP system and the model is now being studied by other cities.
Melting Pot of Cultures
As Singapore’s forefathers were largely immigrants from around the world, Singapore is a mix of cultures and religions, woven together by a common respect and understanding. One only has to visit Chinatown, Little India and Geylang Serai to witness this rich cultural and religious heritage that Singaporeans have preserved and cherished.
Tourists and visitors are treated to a melting pot of diverse cultures as Singaporeans maintain their distinct religious, cultural and racial identities while co-existing in peace and harmony. The majority of Singaporeans are Chinese, but Singapore is also home to sizable Malay and Indian communities, all living together with a common national identity. The country has four official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. Malay is the national language – a special recognition for the historic legacy of the Malays in this region. The national anthem, “Majulah Singapura”, is in Malay.
With a population that has just surpassed over 5 million people spread across only 700 sq km of space, Singapore is the third most densely populated nation in the world. The major religions of the world, namely Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam are significantly represented in Singapore. Interestingly, more than 20 percent of the populace constitutes foreigners. Singapore is a firm believer in imported talent. Many who come to work in Singapore eventually decide to call it home – a testimony to its attractiveness as a place to work, live, play and raise a family. Well-heeled foreigners who have decided to relocate here even include a few high profile celebrities from the region who have attained Singapore citizenship in recent years.
Singapore’s evolution in the span of a single generation is simply staggering. Its economic and political stability, mature infrastructure, high quality of life, safe and secure environment, and extremely low unemployment rate have certainly made Singapore a model city the world over.