Singapore curtailing foreign workers

Singapore curtailing foreign workers

Singapore curtailing foreign workers

Singapore's Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam turned his attention to the prickly subject of low-skilled foreign workers continuing to flood into the island state. Unveiling the country's budget for 2013, he announced that Singapore would be imposing limits on the numbers of foreign workers entering the island state. Further to this, he added that Singaporean businesses had a duty to assist with the upgrading of the skills levels of the local workforce.

His intention was that firms who continued to employ foreign workers, because their low skills meant they did not have to be as remunerated as skilled staff, would be suitably levied. In addition, foreign workforce quotas would be reduced, and there would be far stricter qualification requirements for aspiring entrants.

The question of foreign workers and their place in the Singapore market has been a hot political issue for some time. There has been increased criticism of the country's immigration policies. This has grown steadily more vocal until it has reached the state where many local Singaporeans are blaming unfettered foreign workers for rises in both property prices and the cost of living.

In a keynote speech, Shanmugaratnam mentioned that the influx of foreign workers had been far "too high" in recent years. However, he was particularly cautious about any knee-jerk reaction. A sharp reduction in the numbers of foreign workers was certainly not a recommended course of action. "We cannot cut off the flow of foreign workers abruptly but we have to slow the growth".

Shanmugaratnam stressed that his government's policies were all about encouraging Singapore money by inspiring businesses to reduce any over-reliance on manpower. It was not about replacing foreign workers with locally recruited counterparts. The ultimate aim of these tactics was to improve productivity, avoiding the likelihood of an indefinite increase in the numbers of foreign workers being attracted to jobs in Singapore at the expense of the local workforce.

The Singaporean budget has been tabled at a time when locals are increasing in voicing concerns over the burgeoning numbers of foreign workers being attracted to work in the island state. Recently, a government white paper was published on workforce demographics. This demonstrated that Singapore's population is projected to rise to almost 7 million over the next decade and a half – an increase of some 30%. One of the most obvious areas that would account for this rise would be in the numbers of foreign workers.

Best country for a new business

Best country for a new business

Singapore as best country for a new business

According to an annual report by the World Bank, Singapore is the best country in the world in which to start a business. The plucky little Asian nation beat some strong competition to top the list of the recent World Bank's ‘Doing Business' study.

The research evaluated 183 countries based on certain criteria, such as the ease with which they encouraged new business start-ups. Each country was evaluated on key aspects, such as how easy it was to obtain credit, or the degree of government support initiatives available. Singapore ranked number one, followed by Hong Kong and then New Zealand. The UK came in fourth and the US fifth. The former French African colony of Chad occupied the lowest rung of the ladder.

The World Bank have been publishing their studies since 2004, scoring their subjects according to nine main criteria. Amongst these factors are payment of tax, the ease of cross-border trading, registration of property, dealing with construction permits, the ease of closing down a business, how contracts are enforced, and how investors are protected. The research does not study the wider conditions such as infrastructure, skills of the workforce, security or political stability.

Of the 183 countries that were surveyed, the World Bank commented that 117 had implemented new business-friendly regulations between June 2009 and May 2010 (the 12 month period that was covered for the 2011 report).

A World Bank analyst commented that governments were reacting to the global economy. "Against the backdrop of the global financial and economic crisis, policy makers around the world took steps in the past year to make it easier for local firms to start up and operate. While some economies have been hit harder than others, how easy or difficult it is to start and run a business - and how efficient courts and insolvency proceedings are - can influence how firms cope with crises and how quickly they can seize new opportunities."

The report's co-author Dahlia Khalifa said that Singapore continued to spearhead the economic elite due to a variety of reasons. "Singapore has now been top of our survey for the past five years. It is simply the most efficient place from which to import and export. For example, you only need four documents to export and import goods, which remains global best practice. Singapore is also the leader in protecting investors and minority shareholders."

The People's Republic of China, now the second-largest economy on the planet, actually trailed Singapore by some distance (at 79th place on the list).

Most exclusive Singapore property

Most exclusive Singapore property

Most exclusive Singapore property

In any society, an accurate barometer of the buoyancy of the local economy is to consider the direct correlation with exclusive property prices. Singapore money is certainly benefitting from some large-scale investments, and this is being reflected in many of the stunning properties dotted across the island state.

Recently two casinos have opened their doors to well-heeled Singaporeans, signalling increased levels of affluence. In tandem with these developments, the prices of luxury homes are striking new heights. The buzz in the coffee houses or on the social media networks is of Singapore slowly evolving into Asia's Monaco as a playground for the wealthy.

Singapore's most exclusive properties may mostly be beautiful bungalows, but they remain very much out of the price range of all but a very elite club of multi-millionaires. At the ‘cheaper' end of Singapore's super-rich developments are bungalows along Victoria Park Road. One of these was recently valued at S$48 million. Perched on 32,000 square feet of land, this ageing two-storey home is built to the old colonial style, conveying a sense of austerity and class, despite the wealth of fabulous modern amenities inside. There are eight bedrooms, as well as a staff outhouse containing two maids' rooms and another for the chauffeur.

At slightly more than that price tag (circa S$48.5 million) you can purchase a fine bungalow in the Queen Astrid Park vicinity of Singapore. Occupying 40,500 of square foot, your property here includes 10 bedrooms and nine bathrooms. Outside the property there is a well-appointed garden, not to mention two swimming pools.

In a densely-populated and heavily urbanised vicinity, luscious and well-designed gardens are an obvious selling point for any new property coming onto the market. In Bishopsgate there are several examples of beautifully landscaped gardens making for the perfect backdrop to sumptuous living quarters. With upwards of 22,000 square feet of property available, strolling through the exclusive terraces beneath tropical flora will really give the impression of escaping into the countryside.

Colonial style housing doesn't get more exclusive than the S$55 million dollar bungalow sitting on Leedon Road. For your money, you'll receive 44,000 square feet of prime real estate, with six bedrooms and five bathrooms. The living area is fairly compact but the gardens are immense, with ample scope for dining and entertaining on your shaded patio areas.

Green investment for Singapore

Green investment for Singapore

Green investment for Singapore

Singapore has been welcoming an influx of non-governmental environmental organisations wishing to set up shop in the island city state. Various factors have been cited for this benign invasion, including the availability of office space, the key amenities to hand and the fact that funding is being offered.

Amongst the outfits being attracted to the Singapore market are the global conservation partnership BirdLife Inernational and Fauna & Flora International. In taking advantage of Singapore's green welcome mat, these groups are joining the prestigious list of organisations already enjoying Singaporean patronage, such as Conservation International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Although all of these groups still face a daunting array of challenges, not least in persuading Singaporeans of the importance of environmental issues, what these organisations can certainly count upon is government support. Back in 2007 the Singapore government instigated a formal program aimed at enticing global environmental organisations to invest in the area.

The International Organisations Programme Office was set up at the Economic Development Board, primarily to keep non-government organisations informed about the generous opportunities available in Singapore.

The Board's assistant managing director, Quek Swee Kuan, pointed out that, until fairly recently, Singapore had not regularly shown up on the radar for environmental bodies seeking to expand their global platform. There were several reasons for this, not least the fact that the bulk of their beneficiaries were situated in other locations.

The World Wide Fund for Nature was the only notable exception to this trend. However, since the government became far more proactive in explaining the benefits of the Singapore market, this situation had altered radically.

A combination of government grants and tax incentives had sent out messages that, environmentally speaking, Singapore is very much open for business and investment. The World Wide Fund received help in becoming registered as a charity.

Tanglin International Centre opened as a dedicated environment for non-profit outfits operating in Singapore, with both the World Wide Fund and Wildlife Conservation Society enjoying the excellent facilities available. The Economic Development Board has set itself a target of attracting 150 such organisations to Singapore by 2015. There will be obvious benefits to Singapore money; not least in the creation of a potential 2500-3000 new jobs.