This year marks Singapore’s 50th year of independence and, with its growing status as the major commercial hub in south-east Asia, the nation has plenty to celebrate.
Over the past ten years, we have witnessed a growth spurt that has seen Singapore become much more commercial through investment in two casino resorts – Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa – and establishing the country as the home to a Formula One Grand Prix. This boosted Singapore to a new level, bringing it on a par with other global financial centres.
Businesses, including the advertising and media industry, have moved their Asia-Pacific hubs to Singapore, from the likes of Hong Kong and Bangkok, to reap its many benefits, including competitive tax rates and a great talent pool from which to pick.
Singapore is a very multicultural society that is easy to do business in: English is the first language and education levels are higher than in other parts of Asia, while the expatriate population is also high at about 38 per cent, according to the Department of Statistics.
The melting-pot environment has made Singapore the perfect market for piloting new innovations
This melting-pot environment has made Singapore the perfect market for piloting new innovations and products. Not only is the population representative of south-east Asia, it offers a controlled market that is sophisticated, connected and advanced with technology.
The government has invested heavily in technology, making Singapore as connected as any part of the Western world. Asia’s status for advanced technology means that this continues to be a great test market for mobile innovation. Among its counterparts in the region, Singapore has one of the highest levels of smartphone penetration.
Singapore has a very safe and stable environment. In terms of creative culture, unfortunately, it is just that – safe and stable. There is an obvious gap when compared with the likes of Japan, Australia and even the major cities in China: Beijing and Shanghai. A typical example of this is the nonexistence of any strong overt and underground cultures. Singapore remains somewhat suppressed – reflective of the island’s overall sentiment of "keeping within the boundaries". It is rare to see groundbreaking creative ideas executed (especially those with a tint of political, social or culture tension), mainly due to strict censorship by the government.
However, it’s easy to see why Singapore has been on a steady and healthy growth path, with a very strong economy, low unemployment rates and an insurgence of foreign investment. Its population may be just over five million, but the country’s vibrancy and the eclectic mix of people that it attracts mean that the next 50 years will no doubt be as significant and fast-paced as the past 50 have been.
Susana Tsui is the chief executive, Asia-Pacific, at PHD