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Let's play a quiz: which country has made a speedy transformation from a tiny fishing village to a hi-tech civilisation in just 40 years? I'll give you a hint. It also prides itself in having one of the most stable currencies in the world, a healthy lifestyle and unprecedented safety. Some of its monikers are: "small Asian tiger" and "the country of the future". The orrect answer is: Singapore.

The Republic of Singapore lies about 100 km away from the equator. It is an island with a surface area of 700 sq km and 5,000,000 inhabitants. Singapore's population is speedily increasing, not because of natural causes but because of the inflow of immigrants, of which about 1,000,000 have come here over the last five years. It looks like it is not going to stop at this number, as new workplaces are constantly created and Singapore's human resources are quite limited. In terms of population density, the city-state comes second to Monaco.

Singaporeans are very career-oriented: they strive to make good money and work really hard. Their lives are akin to a competition and, as in any competition, results are best visible in numbers and positions according to various ratings. So, today, we'll speak about Singapore's rankings while focusing on its economy.

Pillars of the Singaporean Economy

The great leap taken by the local economy was the result of the sound investment policy masterminded by Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's ex-Prime Minister and current Minister Mentor, during the first 40 years of the country's development. Its pillars today are shipping, port services, oil refining, banking and tourism.

The investment inflow to the Singaporean economy is about US$10 billion annually. This highly impressive amount may be explained by the Lion City's second position, after Switzerland, as a country with the least degree of risk for foreign capital. The main spheres for foreign investment in Singapore are industry, trade and financial services. More than 3,500 branches of the world's leading companies are located in Singapore. According to a World Bank report, Singapore is the easiest country in which to do business due to its low tax rates and the simplicity of tax calculations.

Singapore is a global financial hub, taking third place in terms of the number of large banks present locally – about 120 – with only London and New York being ahead of it. Concerning its banking system, Singapore is ahead of even Switzerland due to its stricter regulations in bank account confidentiality. The annual turnover of Singapore's stock exchange is about US$100 billion. The Republic's main trading partners are China (19.7 per cent), the EU (18.7 per cent), the USA (14.3 per cent), Malaysia (8.7 per cent) and Japan (6.7 per cent). Its foreign trade volume fluctuated at about US$500 billion last year.

Singapore's favorable geographic position – a ort city lying on the crossroads of numerous seaways  – is the main reason behind its economic growth: there are 400 sea lanes leading to 128 countries from Singapore. Its port is the largest in the world in terms of tonnage, while its international airport, Changi, has held the top position as the "World's Best Airport" for 22 years, only recently giving way to those of Seoul and Hong Kong. Yet, in the latest review, Changi, which sees 44 million passengers every year, received first place for "Best Airport Entertainment." Any person visiting Changi for the first time is usually taken aback, for this is what the airport of the future looks like. This future, however, starts even earlier for passengers aboard the planes of Singapore Airlines, which is the world's leading air carrier.

The Republic is the third largest oil refining centre worldwide, with Houston and Rotterdam being first and second. Oil refining makes up 10 per cent of Singapore's industrial manufacturing, while its exports keep growing by more than 10 per cent every year.

Tourisms has been developing at a fast pace in Singapore recently, bringing the country more than US$10 billion annually. There are 130,000 people working in Singapore's tourism sector, which has become a goldmine for a country, that is so tiny in size yet so rich in attractions. Singapore's population is of Asian origins and Asians are known for their real talent in making money on the "must-sees". More than 100 large hotels with a wide range in price welcome tourists to Singapore.

Overall, Singapore takes sixth place in terms of global economic competitiveness (first place belongs to the USA).

Text Vitaly Lipik (Research Fellow at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Illustrations Ekaterina Protsenko


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