I Salute all our Entrepreneurs

Because most of them run small and medium eterprises, they are not celebrated in the way that the leaders of our large companies and MNCs are. This often blinds us to the the importance of SMEs which account for 99% of all enterprises in Singapore and 70% of our jobs.

-extracted from the Foreword by Professor Tommy Koh, Singapore Ambassador-at-Large & Special Advisor, Institute of Policy Studies, in the prestigious publication of GRC Press Holdings, '2010 Successful Entrepreneur – A New Journey

Enterprising in Singapore

Trade & Economy

Often, Singapore has been known to the world as an economic miracle because of how extensive it has achieved in a short span of time, and in spite of its lack of natural resources.

In the post-independence 1960s, all that this former English colonial settlement possessed was a strategic entrepôt location, a hardworking population and visionary leadership. It has since built up its foreign reserves that total S$251,452.1 million (Monetary Authority of Singapore, May 2009), and generated a money supply of S$84,579.2 million. Its total GDP in 2008 was S$244 billion, contributed mainly by the services sector.

Singapore’s core industries lie in electronics, chemicals, financial services, oil drilling equipment, petroleum refining, rubber processing and products, processed food and beverages, ship repair, offshore platform construction, life sciences, and entrepôt trade.

Singapore’s major trading partners are Malaysia, United States, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, People's Republic of China, Thailand, Republic of Korea, Federal Republic of Germany, Philippines, Europe and Indonesia. Singapore’s pro-enterprise environment makes it one of the easiest countries to set up a business in, while property, business and income tax rates remain competitively low.

Singapore’s free-market economy and political stability, together with a modern infrastructure, business transparency and favourable tax conditions, make it attractive to both investors as well as international companies eager to set up a regional base in South East Asia.

Singapore maintains 14 bilateral and multilateral trade agreements worldwide:-

· Association of Southeast Asian Nations Free Trade Area (AFTA)

· India (CECA)

· ASEAN-China (ACFTA)

· ASEAN-Korea (AKFTA)

· Australia (SAFTA)

· European Free Trade Association (EFTA: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland)

· Jordan (SJFTA)

· Japan (JSEPA)

· New Zealand (ANZSCEP)

· Panama (PSFTA)

· Peru

· South Korea (KSFTA)

· Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement

· (Trans-Pacific SEP: Brunei, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore)

· United States (USSFTA)

Government

Singapore is a republic with a parliamentary system of government. The city-state and former British colony adopted the Westminster model after it gained independence on 9 August 1965.The first Constitution of Singapore was drawn up in 1867 with the establishment of the Straits Settlements to unite the British colonies of Singapore, Malacca and Penang. The constitution was drawn up colonial-style, in which the governor ruled with the help of his Legislative Council (Legco) and Executive Council (Exco). In March 1946, the Straits Settlements was dissolved and Singapore became a Crown Colony.

In 1955, a new Constitution came into effect. After Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock succeeded in attaining self-government for Singapore, the first Constitution of the Republic of Singapore was enforced in June 3, 1959 and amended twice, in 1965 and 1991.

Prior to 1991, the President was appointed by Parliament and had a largely ceremonial role. With the 1991 amendment, the President was to be elected by the citizens of Singapore. President S R Nathan was elected on 18 August 1999. He was re-elected on 17 August 2005 for a second term of office.

The Cabinet has been led by the current Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, since 12 Aug 2004.

Structure of Government

There are three branches of government: Executive, Legislative and the Judiciary.

The Executive

The Executive branch comprises the Head of State, the President who is elected on a six-year term, and the Cabinet led by the Prime Minister.

Former Presidents of Singapore

Legislative

The Legislative branch is the Parliament, which is elected by general election every five years.

The first sitting of Parliament was held on 8 December 1965. The first general election for Parliament was held on 13 April 1968. There are 25 registered political parties.

The current Parliament was elected on 6 May 2006. It has 84 elected Members, with 82 Members of Parliament (MPs) from the People's Action Party, 2 MPs from opposition parties, 1 Non-Constituency MP, and 9 Nominated MPs.

Judiciary

The Judiciary is made up of the Supreme Court and the Subordinate Courts. The Judiciary administers the law independently of the Executive and this independence is safeguarded by the Constitution.

Arts & Culture

A young nation which gained independence for only 44 years, Singapore arts heritage stretch from the roots of several great ancient cultures of the East. On the streets or in galleries, you will find cultural expressions that reflect the arts and art forms of China, Malaya, and India.

Mixed with regional and Western sensibilities, what has emerged is a contemporary and constantly evolving take on the arts, Singapore-style.

Developing an arts infrastructure

Today, Singapore is into the third phase of the Renaissance City Plan (RCP) to build a complete arts and ecocultural system here. Started in 2000, the five-year plan, executed by the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA) with a $116.25 million budget, has since helped to grow a talent pool, establish arts organisations and cultural facilities, cultivate a healthy audience, and foster international partnerships.

The vision of MICA and its agencies is to develop a “creative people, gracious community, connected Singapore”.

The National Arts Council (NAC) is the national agency spearheading the development of the arts in Singapore, while the National Heritage Board (NHB) actively champions the development of a vibrant cultural and heritage sector in Singapore.

The opening of the Esplanade in 2002 was a testament to the country’s commitment to create arts and performance venues to rival major arts centres around the world.

These venues are complemented by a vibrant arts calendar headlined by the annual Singapore Arts Festival, usually held in the month of June. One of Asia’s largest cultural events featuring performing arts from all over the world, it is truly a global showcase not to be missed. Through this festival and other programmes such as the Singapore Biennale, Singapore Design Festival, Mosaic Music Festival, NUS Arts Festival, Baybeats, and Singapore Fashion Festival, many platforms have been created for local and international artists and performers to present and promote their works.

Such developments are reflected in the growing number of arts activities in Singapore. In 1996, there were just 16 arts activities a day compared to more than 70 activities daily, 10 years later. Audience support has also leapt from 1 in 10 Singaporeans attending at least 1 arts event in 1995, to 1 in 3 in 2007.

Education

Singapore invests heavily in education because people are its primary resource.

Its education system is designed to groom a bright and literate population armed with skills and talent that are relevant to growing Singapore’s economy and ensuring its survival.

The Singapore Education brand spans the full-range of formal education; education is compulsory for children between 6 and 15 years of age, or up to Primary 6 level. Most children here attend national schools that abide by a broad-based public education system which is respected and emulated in other countries. Private education exists to offer alternative routes and courses, especially at tertiary level.

There are three universities in Singapore: the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University. Working adults can enrol in the Open University Degree Programme run by the Singapore Institute of Management.

Singapore’s polytechnics offer tertiary education through a wide-range of diploma courses; these are practical-oriented with plenty of group work. Disciplines included are , biotechnology, digital media, engineering, business studies, mass communications, accountancy and hospitality management. The five polytechnics are Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic, and Temasek Polytechnic.

Expatriates who wish to enrol their children in schools with a curriculum similar to that of their home country can enquire with the various international schools around.

In 2002, Singapore launched an initiative known as the Global Schoolhouse to raise the standards of education here as well as to develop the nation into a global talent hub. Since then, the country has become home to 16 leading foreign tertiary institutions and 44 pre-tertiary schools which offer international curricula.

Singapore’s vibrant and diverse community of world-class pre-tertiary, tertiary and corporate training institutions have been of great appeal to foreign students, faculties, professionals and researchers. To date, Singapore has 86,000 foreign students from more than 120 nationalities, mostly from China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam. Also, up to 20 percent of the undergraduate population in Singapore’s top universities are made up of foreigners.

Technology & Communication

Singapore’s transformation from a backwater trading post to one of the world’s most advanced ports was paved by the development of modern infrastructure and a rapid adoption of technology.

The city-state is well-connected to the world via a top-class airport, port and telecommunications infrastructure.

Singapore offers a world-class telecommunications infrastructure, and its endeavour to wire up every citizen to the information highway is taking shape.

Singapore is not only the most wired country in the world, with a household broadband penetration rate of 115.2% (Infocomm Development Authority, May 2009) it is also the world leader in terms of ICT utilisation. (Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, 2009)

According to a survey by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Singapore ties with the US as the cheapest place in the world to make a phone call or surf the internet using a broadband connection.

The total number of mobile subscriptions hit 6,475,500 in May 2009, bringing mobile penetration rates to 133.8%. This means there are more mobile phone lines than the number of people on the island.

These developments were sparked off by the Singapore ONE initiative launched in 1998, to enable every citizen to connect from their homes, offices, schools and public places through a high-speed multimedia broadband network infrastructure.

Such widespread Internet access has created an e-lifestyle among Singaporeans, allowing everyone to chat, take lessons, make business and banking transactions, apply for government services, or simply watch a movie on demand – all online.

In its pursuit to make Singapore an intelligent island, the Singapore government itself has come up tops for its e-government initiatives.

In a 2009 study by Japan’s Waseda University Institute of e-Government, Singapore ranks ahead of 33 countries, including the United States and Sweden, in a list comparing the strengths of their e-government initiatives. Into its fifth year, the study put Singapore in first place for its use of infocomm technology to optimise the productivity of its ministries and departments. It was also singled out for “big progress” on its government online portals.

All in all, Singapore’s extensive connectivity, coupled with a pro-business environment and legal and regulatory framework, make the island an ideal e-commerce hub.

Transportation

Singapore’s public transport system is well-developed. The network of MRT trains, buses and taxis serves to shuttle its population of over 4 million across the city state every day, at relatively inexpensive fares.

MRT (Mass Rapid Transit): SMRT operates two main rail lines; the North-South Line which runs from Marina Bay to Jurong East via Woodlands, and the East-West Line which runs from Pasir Ris to Joo Koon.

If you wish to connect to the North-East Line, which is run by SBS Transit, simply change trains at Dhoby Ghaut or Outram Park.

For travellers bound for Singapore Changi Airport, hop on board the Singapore Changi Airport Express which calls at Tanah Merah Station.

LRT (Light Rapid Transit): Residents in Bukit Panjang or Choa Chu Kang use the Bukit Panjang LRT to connect to the main MRT line or travel to other parts of the neighbourhood.

All stations on the Sengkang LRT and Punggol LRT lines are within walking distance of most apartment blocks in the Sengkang and Punggol New Town areas. Both lines also provide a seamless transfer to the North-East Line.

For MRT and LRT train routes, fares, and schedules, visit Transitlink Electronic Guide.

Rail Developments: The Circle Line (CCL) is an underground, fully automated rapid transit system with 29 stations. It will run from HarbourFront to Dhoby Ghaut, and help commuters transfer between existing lines without the need to travel to the city centre. Five stations; Bishan, Marymount, Lorong Chuan, Serangoon and Bartley are in operation. The remaining 24 stations will open from 2010. Using the CCL, you will be able to bypass City Hall or Raffles Place stations. This way, you can cut travelling time and avoid transfers at the busy interchanges. At 33.3 km long with 29 stations, the CCL will interchange with the North-South Line, East-West Line and North-East Line.

Buses and Taxis: SBS Transit runs 257 bus services with a fleet of more than 2,800 buses, 96% of which are air-conditioned. Daily ridership stands at an average of 2.14 million rides (SBS Transit, December 2008). For bus routes and timetables, go to www.sbstransit.com.sg

However, if you prefer to take the taxi, just flag one down by the road (or at any taxi-stand if you are in the Central Business District), call 6-3425-222, or tap out the alphabetical prompter 6-DIAL-CAB.

Tourism

For hundreds of years, travelers all around the world have found Singapore to be a welcoming stop. As far back as the 13th century, trading boats and merchant ships would take refuge in its safe harbour along the Malacca Straits, even making the island their new home. These early inhabitants would bestow upon Singapore a cultural heritage that is considered exotic today.

Even as Singapore celebrates its diversity of cultures, it embraces the future and worldwide trends in leisure and entertainment. As a result, tourists find Singapore to be full of fresh surprises and worthy of repeat visits.

Visitor numbers to the country have been growing consistently over the years. In 2008, Singapore received 10.1 million visitors, mainly from Indonesia, the People’s Republic of China, Australia, India, Japan, United Kingdom and Malaysia.

Traditional Attractions

Singapore’s cultural and heritage trips showcase the old traditions which are still very much alive. Get a blast from the past by heading down to any of these ethnic enclaves: Chinatown, Kampong Glam, Arab Street and Little India. Each quarter unveils traditional artefacts, clothing, ethnic delicacies and other cultural treasures.

For starters, you could enjoy the Chinese antiques, traditional costumes or calligraphy of Chinatown, then have a whiff of assorted spices at Little India and purchase a sari or some jewellery for a loved one. Finally, hurry down to Kampong Glam and Arab Street for bazaar-style shopping and be intrigued by the exquisitely hand-made batiks from Indonesia and Malaysia – without ever leaving the country!

Singapore has many attractions. In September 2008, Singapore played host to the annual Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix, marking a milestone in the history of F1: it was the first street race in Asia as well as the first night race in the world. A total of 1,600 projectors were used to illuminate the 5.067-kilometre circuit to 4 times brighter than that of a stadium; spectators were surely as dazzled as they were thrilled to get up close and personal with the F1 racers.

Two eagerly awaited developments on the entertainment scene are the integrated resorts: Marina Bay Sands

(a world-class luxury resort and casino with convention facilities and upmarket restaurants) and

Resorts World, Sentosa,

which will house Southeast Asia’s first Universal Studios Theme Park, the world’s largest marine life park, and six hotels.

Come 2010, look forward to the Gardens by the Bay, which will comprise three waterfront gardens in the Marina Bay area. Visitors to the Gardens will be greeted with a super surprise; they will be dwarfed by SuperTrees - tree-like structures that measure up to 16 storeys high! This lush-looking bay area will surely support the Singapore dream of being ‘A City in a Garden’.

Also in 2010, Singapore will host its first Youth Olympics Games. With a total of 26 sports – which include innovative ones like BMX biking and beach wrestling – and a whopping 3,200 athletes and 800 officials involved across 12 days, this youthful, bustling city will only get younger.

Employment

People are Singapore’s richest resource. The city-state welcomes the best talent from all over the world to contribute to its growth and range of expertise. This is evident during the morning rush hour, as you cut through a sea of different races and languages on your way to the office.

The national labour force numbers 2.93 million and unemployment stands at an average of 2.6% (as at December 2008) compared to Switzerland at 3% and the US at 7.2% for the same period.

Central Provident Fund

All employers and employees are required to contribute a percentage of their salaries to the Central Provident Fund (CPF). This social security savings scheme aims to help Singaporeans save for old age, healthcare and home ownership. Currently, employees below the age of 50 contribute 20% monthly while employers contribute 13%. Employees who are 50 and above contribute at lower rates. As at March 2009, there were 3.26 million CPF members with a total balance of S$156,096 million in their CPF accounts.

Wage Policies

Salaries in Singapore are largely influenced by guidelines issued by the National Wages Council. The Council is made up of representatives from the government, employers’ groups and trade unions. The guidelines are consistent with Singapore’s long-term economic objectives.

There are 70 registered employees' trade unions and three employers’ unions. The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is the only federation of employee trade unions in Singapore. It works closely with the government and business sector to protect worker interests.

Medical

Singapore is fast positioning itself as a medical hub — about 200,000 foreigners seek medical care in the country each year and Singapore medical services aim to serve one million foreign patients annually by 2012 and generate USD 3 billion in revenue. The government expects that the initiative could create an estimated 13,000 new jobs within the health industries.