Singapore Country Guide 2004


 

Chapter 1. Singapore’s Economy

 

 

In 2003, Singapore’s trade was 2.98 times its GDP. Total

trade reached S$473.9 billion, of which S$251.1 billion were exports and S$222.8 billion were imports. Singapore’s major imports and exports are concentrated in the electronics and petro-chemical industries. Singapore’s venture into the bio-medical/pharmaceutical industry should begin to pay-off with this sector’s greater contribution to Singapore’s over-all trade.

 

 

In 2003, Singapore’s real GDP grew by 1.1% slower that the 2.2% for 2002. Official and private sector analysts are cautiously optimistic about prospects for the Singapore economy in 2004/5. The estimate for 2004 is between 8% to 9%. There are opportunities to use Singapore as a distribution center and springboard to sell to neighboring countries. The country’s role as a regional commercial hub is underscored by the fact that for 2003, a little over 50% of Singapore’s imports are re-exported. Singapore implements practically no barriers to the free flow of goods in and out of Singapore and are a vocal champion of global free trade. The primary objective of Singapore’s trade policy is to guard its trading interests by ensuring a free and open international trading environment.

 

 

Singapore is generally a free port and an open economy. There are no restrictive or discriminatory trade and investment policies of any consequence outside of a very small number of product areas and services sectors. Parallel imports are allowed. More than 99% of all imports into Singapore enter the country duty-free. The only exceptions are heavy tariffs on the import of motor vehicles, liquor, petrol, and cigarettes / tobacco products. Singapore currently (increased on 1 January 2004) has a goods and services tax (or sales tax) of 5.0%.

 

NOTE:

1. The Ministry of Trade and Industry issues quarterly economic surveys at: www.mti.gov.sg

2. Extensive GDP data can be found at the Department of Statistics Internet site at: www.singstat.gov.sg

3. Monthly trade data for Singapore is posted on the Internet at: www.iesingapore.gov.sg

4. More balance of payments and financial sector data is available in the report “Recent Economic Developments in Singapore,” posted at the MAS Internet site at: www.mas.gov.sg


 

Chapter 2. Political Environment

 

 

Singapore is a parliamentary republic, with a multi-ethnic population. It prides itself on political and social stability and the predictability this atmosphere offers to foreign investors and traders.

 

 

The Singapore political environment is stable. The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has dominated Singapore politics since 1965 and currently controls 81 of the 83 regularly contested parliamentary seats. The most recent parliamentary elections took place in November 2004; the next elections are due by late 2007.

 

 

Opposition parties, which hold two regularly-contested parliamentary seats and one additional seat formally reserved to the opposition by the Constitution, do not usually espouse views that are radically different from the mainstream of Singapore political opinion. The expression of political differences takes place predominantly in a non-confrontational way. There has been no political violence in Singapore in over 30 years. Tough internal security laws (e.g., the Internal Security Act) have not been used for politically-related detentions in recent years. Such laws remain a factor in the maintenance of political order but are secondary to other economic, social and cultural factors.

 


 

Chapter 3. Marketing Products And Services

 

 

Establishing an Office

 

 

The Singapore Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) publishes an excellent guide that takes the first time registrant through the process of establishing an office. General information on establishing a business in Singapore can be viewed at www.acra.gov.sg or at www.business.gov.sg. With the new electronic bizfile, the registration process, whether for sole proprietorships, partnerships or incorporated companies, takes about one day. The more complex incorporation of companies may require the assistance of lawyers and accountants to help with

incorporation documents. One point to bear in mind is that registration of a company does not automatically mean that expatriate staff can be assigned to Singapore. Foreign staff must obtain employment passes from the Singapore Ministry of Manpower.

 

 

Need for a Local Lawyers

 

 

Non-Singapore law firms are not allowed to practice Singapore law. Legal matters involving Singapore law must be handled by a local lawyer. The exception is when the foreign law firm is part of a Joint Law Venture or a Formal Law Alliance with a local Singapore law firm. Details regarding the registration of foreign law firms can be found at Legal Profession (International Services) Secretariat .

 

 

Performing Due Diligence

 

 

Anyone carrying out a business in Singapore must register with the Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority. Thus, checks on Singapore companies can be carried out by accessing the ACRA database which is linked to several credit agencies like Singapore Network Service (www.crimsonlogic.com.sg), Dun & Bradstreet (www.icdnb.com.sg), Yellow Pages (www.yellowpages.com.sg) and DP Information Network (www.dpgroup.com.sg/dpinfo/). This can be done via the Internet at their respective websites.

 

 

Distribution and Sales Channels

 

 

Singapore’s distribution and sales channels are simple and direct. Most consumer goods are imported by stocking distributors who resell to retailers. Some goods are imported directly for sale in the importer’s own retail outlets.

 

 

Information On Typical Product Pricing Structures

 

 

Depending on the type of product, importer mark-ups range from 20-40%, while retail mark-ups are often more than 100%. Industrial goods are brought in by stocking distributors, who add on at least 20% before sale to end-users, or by agents whose commissions generally run about 7-10%. These mark-ups are approximate, and will vary widely, depending on the product and the contractual relationship between the various parties.

 

 

Franchising

 

 

Despite its small size, Singapore is home to many international franchises. There are more than 300 franchises operating in the country. The Singapore government actively encourages local firms to employ franchising to increase productivity and also for business development and international expansion. It also wants to develop Singapore into an

international franchise hub to showcase international franchises and to use

Singapore as a launching pad for local and foreign franchisors expanding into

the region. Many local franchisors have been successful in exporting their

concepts to the region. The Franchise And

Licensing Association (Singapore), formerly known as Singapore International Franchise Association (SIFA), was established in 1993 with the mission to nurture and develop Singapore’s franchise industry.

 

 

Direct Marketing

 

 

The direct marketing industry in Singapore began about 14 years ago and now includes direct mail, telemarketing, television sales, mail order, call centers, fulfillment and e-commerce firms. The Direct Marketing Association of Singapore represents users and service providers who are engaged in database marketing, call center activity, fulfillment and e-commerce. There are many creative consultants in Singapore who provide advice, market research, mailing lists, printing and mailing services. Several companies provide telemarketing services and are involved in direct marketing through television. Typical products sold through direct marketing in Singapore include consumer goods such as gifts, cosmetics, health supplements, stationery, fitness equipment, household appliances, bags and accessories.

 

 

Direct Selling

 

 

Direct selling entails the sale of a consumer product or service in a face-to-face manner, away from a fixed retail location.

 

 

The Direct Selling Association of Singapore (DSAS), a self-regulatory body, was established in 1976. It provides a forum for all direct-selling companies in Singapore to discuss problems of common concern and to codify a high standard of business practices throughout the industry. The DSAS has adopted a Code of Conduct by which member-companies in the Association are to adhere to in every aspect of the business. Through the Code of Conduct, DSAS aims to further inculcate the spirit and practice of ethical direct-selling within its member-companies, setting examples for others to follow.

 

 

In Singapore, Direct Selling practices come under The Multi-Level Marketing and Pyramid Selling (Prohibition) Act, which was amended on 1st June 2000. An amendment to the Exclusion Order was made on 14 December 2001, and came into effect on 01 January 2002. Under the Order, there are classes of schemes that are automatically allowed to operate. Any company could, on the strength of the legal advice they presumably sought and received, make the case that they are excluded by the Order, as long as they fulfill the criteria for one of the excluded classes of schemes. There is no application for approval required for any of these excluded schemes. The onus of making sure a compensation plan complies with the Exclusion Order lies with the company.

 

 

Selling Factors and Techniques

 

 

Price, quality and service are the main selling factors in Singapore. Prospective exporters to Singapore should be aware that competition is strong and that buyers expect good after-sales service. Selling techniques vary according to the industry or, the product involved, but are comparable to the techniques used in any other sophisticated market.

 

 

Advertising and Trade Promotion

 

 

There are many specialised trade magazines in Singapore and scores of trade fairs that can be used to promote goods and services. The major English-language daily newspapers are the Straits Times and the Business Times. A leading business magazine is Asia Inc. The major Chinese daily is Lian He Zao Bao. Leads for local companies can be found at www.yellowpages.com.sg.

 

 

Product Pricing

 

 

Pricing is very competitive. Major department stores and retail chains offer fixed-price merchandise, while the smaller shops expect buyers to bargain. Bargaining/negotiation is common in the commercial and industrial sectors as well, where buyers usually want a discount and vendors inflate their initial offers accordingly. Credit terms of 30-60-90 days are common. Buyers will often retain 10% of the sales price for major electronic equipment purchases until the vendor has installed the machine and it is performing according to specifications.

 

 

Sales Service/Customer Support

 

 

Good sales and customer support are vital in Singapore. The market is so price competitive that good after-sales support or customer service can make a big difference. Singapore distributors respond well to training on new products, and if properly supported by the international manufacturer will do a good job cultivating old customers and developing new ones.

 

 

Selling to the Government

 

 

International firms generally find Singapore to be a receptive, open and lucrative market. The Singapore Government procurement system is considered to be fair and transparent. Bidders must meet the specifications set out in the tender and offer a competitive price in order to be successful. The Singapore Government also advertises its tenders on their website at www.gebiz.gov.sg.

 


 

Chapter 4. Trade Regulations, Customs And Standards

 

 

Trade Barriers

 

 

Singapore has very few trade barriers. There are

restrictions in a few sectors, such as in broadcasting, news media, legal

services, some financial and banking services, professional engineering services, trade in tobacco products and ownership of landed residential property. Of these, the telecommunications, power, financial and legal services sectors are slowly being liberalized with fewer barriers to foreign ownership/operations.

 

 

In the area of intellectual property rights, the Singapore Government have in recent years, as part of its obligations under the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, strengthened the

laws to protect against piracy and copyright infringement. In general, Singapore

maintains one of the most liberal trading regimes in the world.

 

 

Customs Regulations

 

 

In Singapore, the value of imported goods and locally manufactured goods subject to the ad valorem rate of duty is determined according to the price actually paid or payable for the imported goods when sold for export to the country of importation adjusted in accordance with the provisions of Article 8 of WTO Valuation Agreement. It pre-supposes that the sale has taken place in the open market between an independent buyer and seller.

 

 

An ad valorem rate, which is the most commonly applied, is a percentage of the assessed value of the imported goods. Alternatively, a specific rate may apply where is a particular amount of duty is imposed per unit of weight or other quantity.

 

 

Cost, insurance, freight, handling charges and all other charges incidental to the sale and delivery of the goods are taken into account when duty is assessed.

 

 

Exporters are required to ensure that the declared values of goods for customs purposes are correct. If the goods have been undervalued, the Customs and Excise Department will increase the values declared. Severe penalties may be imposed on traders attempting to evade duty.

 

 

Tariff Rates

 

 

Singapore is generally a free port and an open economy. Almost all imports into Singapore enter the country duty-free. The only exceptions are heavy tariffs on the import of motor vehicles, liquor, petrol, and cigarettes / tobacco products.

 

 

Goods And Services Taxes on Imports

 

 

The Singapore Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a tax on domestic consumption within Singapore. It is paid whenever customers buy goods or services from GST-registered businesses within Singapore. The rate is charged at 5.0%. The GST Act says, “…Goods and Services Tax shall be charged on the supply of goods and services in Singapore…and on the importation of goods and services…to Singapore”.

 

 

GST is a multi-stage tax and is collected at every stage of the production and distribution chain. A registered trader/company will be able to claim credits from the Comptroller for GST paid on goods or services imported and used within the production chain.

 

 

All imported goods (whether for domestic sale or re-exports), are taxable unless the goods are specifically given GST relief by the Comptroller of GST (A list of GST reliefs is available from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore). If the goods are kept in the Free Trade Zones (Changi Airport and the seaports of Pasir Panjang, Keppel, Jurong and Sembawang) they are not treated as imports; GST is not charged until the goods leave the Free Trade Zones (FTZ) for sale in Singapore. Re-exported goods from the FTZ are exempt from all GST.

 

 

Outside the FTZ, when goods are imported, GST Input Tax must be paid to the Customs and Excise Department at the point of importation, irrespective of whether the importer is a trader or a final consumer. At the point of importation, GST is charged, on the landed CIF (Cost of Insurance and Freight) value inclusive of actual duty (if dutiable and as assessed by Customs).

 

 

When a Singapore company/agent imports goods on behalf of an overseas non-taxable person who has no business establishment in Singapore, the Singapore company will be treated as the principal importing the goods, irrespective of whether the Singapore company calls itself an agent or not. The Singapore company must pay GST Input Tax to Customs and Excise Department.

 

 

Assuming that the non-resident person is liable for GST because of an agent agreement with the Singapore company/agent importing on behalf of a non-resident person, it is required to account for GST Input Tax on behalf of that non-resident. Separate accounts must be kept for the taxable non-resident.

 

 

Import License Requirements

 

Companies must make an inward declaration for all goods imported into Singapore. Most goods can be imported freely without licenses. The import of a few items such as, non-medicinal chewing gum, certain products from Liberia, CITES controlled items, lighters in the shape of pistols or revolvers and fire crackers are prohibited. Generally, the import of goods which the government says pose a threat to health, security, safety and social decency are controlled. Licenses are required for pharmaceuticals, hazardous chemicals, films and videos, arms and ammunition. Companies exporting controlled items to Singapore must apply for licenses from the appropriate government agencies Further information can be found at www.tradenet.gov.sg.

 

Temporary Goods Entry Requirements

 

 

For goods entering Singapore on a temporary basis, companies can apply for an ATA Carnet with the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce. The ATA Carnet serves as a guarantee against payment of import duties/taxes should the temporary admission period be exceeded. Goods imported under a carnet may not be sold and must be re-exported within the temporary admission period. If the items to be imported are subject to controls, companies must obtain endorsement/approvals from the relevant Government agencies before importing the goods into Singapore.

 

 

Bona fide trade samples may be imported without payment of duty if they are imported solely:

 

  1. for the purpose of soliciting orders for goods to be supplied from abroad; or 
  2. for demonstration in Singapore to enable manufacturers in Singapore to produce such articles to fulfil orders from abroad; or
  3. by a manufacturer for the purpose of copying, testing or experimenting before he produces such articles in Singapore.

 

Special Import/Export Requirements And Certification (Health, Pharmaceuticals, Pre-Shipment Inspection)

 

 

Health Supplements Import Regulations

 

 

Vitamins with very high dosages of certain nutrients must be licensed or registered. However, most over-the-counter vitamins and dietary supplements need not be licensed although certain guidelines have to be followed. If a pharmaceutical manufacturer has any concerns regarding licensing of its products, these can be addressed by contacting the Health Sciences Authority or by requesting its potential distributor to submit samples to the Health Sciences Authority.

 

 

There is also labeling and advertising legislation which applies to the sale of vitamins and dietary supplements. Generally, labeling laws require that: 1) the composition of the products be disclosed in English: 2) labels/packaging materials do not contain any reference to diseases/conditions as specified in the schedule to the Medicines (Advertisement & Sale) Act; and 3) the advertising/sales promotion of the product in the public media be approved by the Health Sciences Authority’s Centre for Pharmaceutical Administration.

 

 

The Regulations which govern the sale of vitamins and dietary supplements in Singapore include:

 

 

     

     

  • The Medicines Act & Its Subsidiary Legislation, 

     

  • The Medicines (Advertisement & Sales) Act, 

     

  • The Sale of Drugs Act & Its Subsidiary Legislation, 

     

  • The Consumer Protection (Trade Description & Safety Requirements) Act 

     

  • The Poisons Act & The Poisons Rules

 

 

The sale of Vitamin B15 (Pangamic Acid) and Vitamin B17 (Amygdalin) is prohibited under the Sale of Drugs (Prohibited Drugs) (Consolidation) Regulations.

 

 

Pharmaceuticals Imports Regulations

 

 

All medicinal products, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, imported or sold in Singapore are required to be licensed by the Centre for Pharmaceutical Administration, Health Sciences Authority. The onus of applying for a product license rests with the license holder, ie: a locally registered company that is responsible for the safety, quality and efficacy of the product.

 

 

Labeling Requirements

 

 

Labels are required on imported food, drugs, liquors, paints and solvents and must specify the country of origin. Repackaged foods must be labelled to show (in English) the appropriate designation of the food content printed in capital letters at least 1.5 mm high; whether foods are compounded, mixed or blended; the minimum quantity stated in metric net weight or measure; the name and address of the manufacturer or seller; and the country of origin.

 

 

A description (in English) of the contents of the package may be added to the face of the label, providing the additional language is not contrary to, or a modification of, any statement on the label. Pictorial illustrations must not mislead about the true nature or origin of the food. Foods having defined standards must be labelled to conform to those standards and be free from added foreign substances. Packages of food described as “enriched”, “fortified”, “vitaminised” or in any other way which implies that the article contains added vitamins or minerals must show the quantity of vitamins or minerals added per metric unit.

 

 

Special labels are required for certain foods, medicines and goods such as edible and non-edible animal fats as well as liquors, paints and solvents. Processed foods and pharmaceuticals must be inspected and approved by the Health Sciences Authority and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority’s Food Control Division. Electrical goods must be checked and registered under Spring Singapore’s CPS Scheme before they can be installed.

 

 

Prohibited Imports

 

 

Singapore prohibits the import of chewing gum (except for medicinal purposes), firecrackers, silencers and other items such as cigarette lighters in the shape of pistols and revolvers. A full list of prohibited products and controlled goods can be obtained from the TradeNet website, www.tradenet.gov.sg, under “List of Controlled Goods – Imports”.

 

 

Export Controls

 

 

Companies must make an outward declaration to export or re-export their goods out of Singapore. Except for selected items, there are very few controls on exports of goods from Singapore. Quantitative restrictions exist for certain textiles and garments to Canada, EU countries and the U.S. Items such as rubber, timber, granite, satellite dishes and receivers, and chlorofluorocarbons are subject to export control and licensing. Items under export control must be endorsed or licensed by the appropriate government agencies before they can be exported.

 

 

Standards

 

 

Singapore uses the metric system. While industrial standards applied in the engineering and construction fields are basically those used by other developed countries, the Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board (SPRING) Singapore, administers the development of Singapore Standards for certain products and services.

 

 

Under the Consumer Protection (Safety Requirements) Registration Scheme that was first introduced in 1991, 45 products are listed as controlled goods. These include adaptors, LPG systems, cooking ranges, electric irons, gas cookers, hair dryers, microwave ovens, televisions, video display units, video cassette recorders, table fans, high-fidelity equipment, immersion water heaters, kettles, refrigerators, rice cookers, room air-conditioners, vacuum cleaners and washing machines which are considered potentially hazardous to consumers, must be registered and declared safe before they can be sold in Singapore.

 

 

The “Safety Mark” is a compulsory stamp of approval given by safety regulators, SPRING Singapore, to ensure that consumers are safe from hazards such as fire, explosion and electrical shock when using these appliances. However, test reports issued by accredited testing laboratories and national certification bodies are recognised by SPRING Singapore. A list of accredited laboratories and national certification bodies is also available from SPRING Singapore. Suppliers of these products planning to expand sales into Singapore should check with SPRING Singapore before exporting to Singapore. More information can be obtained from the website, www.safety.org.sg

 

 

Similarly, telecommunications equipment imported for use in Singapore is subject to “Type-Approval” by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore.

 

 

For the construction industry, the Building and Construction Authority uses the Construction Quality Assessment System (CONQUAS) to objectively rate building works. Details of the system are available at their website, www.bca.gov.sg.

 

 

Free Trade Zones/Warehouses

 

 

Free Trade Zones (FTZ) were first established in Singapore on 1

Sep 1969 to facilitate entrepot trade in dutiable goods. All dutiable goods can

be stored in the FTZs except for liquors and cigarettes. Besides storage, other

operations such as repacking, sorting and re-conditioning can also be carried

out in the FTZ with minimum customs formalities.

 

The FTZs are located at the Port of Singapore, Jurong Port,

Sembawang Wharves, Pasir Panjang Wharves and the Cargo Terminal Complex of

Changi Airport.

 

 

The FTZ’s at the port facilitate entrepôt trade and promote the handling of transhipment cargo. They offer free 72-hour storage for import/export of conventional and containerised cargo and 14-day free storage for transhipment/re-export cargo.

 

 

The PSA Corporation Limited is the single largest owner of warehouse space in Singapore, managing over 500,000 sq. meters of space. PSA Corporation is the privatised arm of the former Port of Singapore Authority. It manages the Tanjong Pagar, Alexandra and Pasir Panjang Distriparks. Located close to the port and within easy reach of the airport and Jurong Industrial hub, the PSA distriparks are home to many established multinationals. The distriparks in varying designs and sizes, cater to a host of Central Distribution Center operators, manufacturers, traders, forwarders and others.

 

 

Membership in Free Trade Arrangements

 

 

Singapore is a party to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Since January 1993, Singapore has participated in the ASEAN Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) program for the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA). The program involves the application of preferential tariffs to goods of ASEAN origin as defined under the Rules of Origin for CEPT. Under the rules, a product is of ASEAN origin if it is wholly produced or obtained from an ASEAN country. The product can also be deemed to originate from ASEAN Member States if at least 40% of its content originates from any member states. The 40% local content requirement refers to both single country and cumulative ASEAN content. To date, Singapore has signed FTAs with New Zealand (ANZSCEP), Japan (JSEPA) and European Free Trade Association (ESFTA), United States of America and Australia.

 


 

Chapter 5. Investment Climate

 

 

Investment Policy Summary

 

 

With the exception of restrictions in the financial services, professional services, and media sectors, Singapore maintains an open investment regime. Foreign investment, combined with investments through government-linked companies (GLCs), underpins Singapore’s heavily trade-dependent economy.

 

 

The government is strongly committed both to maintaining a free market and to taking a leadership role in planning Singapore’s economic development. That role has traditionally relied heavily on industrial policy; the government’s active use of the public sector as both an investor and catalyst for development has given rise to the characterisation of Singapore as “Singapore Inc.” The dominant role of GLCs in the commanding heights of the economy has been criticised by some observers, who charge it has displaced private entrepreneurship. The Singapore Government where appropriate has reduced the role of GLCs in Singapore’s economy to encourage entrepreneurship.

 

 

Attracting foreign investment into the country – initially to spearhead industrialisation and subsequently to climb the technological and value-added ladders – has been the other key economic strategy of the government. Through it, Singapore has evolved into a base for multinational companies (MNCs) to engage in high-end manufacturing and product development, and coordinate regional procurement, production, marketing, and distribution operations. Singapore continues to have a sophisticated investment promotion strategy designed to attract major investment in knowledge-intensive manufacturing and service activities. The Economic Development Board (EDB), Singapore’s investment promotion agency, has a reputation for being highly responsive to changing business conditions and investor needs.

 

 

Openness To Foreign Investment

 

 

The country’s legal framework and public policies are in general very friendly to foreign investors. Foreign investors are not required to enter into joint ventures or cede management control to local interests, and local and foreign investors are subject to the same basic laws. Apart from regulatory requirements in some sectors (financial and telecom services), the government screens investment proposals only to determine eligibility for various incentive regimes. Singapore places no restrictions on reinvestment or repatriation of earnings or capital. The judicial system upholds the sanctity of contracts, and decisions are effectively enforced.

 

 

Limits on National Treatment and Other Restrictions

 

 

Exceptions to Singapore’s general openness to foreign

investment exist in broadcasting, the domestic news media, retail banking, legal and other professional services, multi-level marketing, and property ownership. In addition, companies’ Articles of Association may include shareholding limits that restrict ownership by foreign persons. Some, but not many, companies include such shareholding restrictions, the most common being companies that hold landed residential properties in Singapore..

 

 

The local free-to air broadcasting, cable and newspaper sectors are effectively closed to foreign firms. Section 44 of the Broadcasting Act restricts foreign equity ownership of companies broadcasting to the Singapore domestic market to less than 49 percent, although the Act also gives the minister authority to waive this requirement. The Government also imposes limits on individual equity stakes in broadcasting companies. Part X of the Broadcasting Act, states that no person shall, without prior approval, hold more than 12% of the shares issued by a broadcasting company. The Newspaper and Printing Presses Act restricts equity ownership (local or foreign) to 12% per shareholder, without approval from the Government, and requires that all the directors of a newspaper company be Singapore citizens. The Act defines “newspaper” broadly as “any publication containing news, intelligence, reports of occurrences, or any remarks, observations or comments…printed in any language and published for sale or free distribution.” Newspaper companies must issue two classes of shares, ordinary and management, with the latter only available to citizens of Singapore or Singapore companies who have been approved by the Government. Holders of management shares have an effective veto over board decisions.

 

 

In practice all current local radio and television broadcasters are government-owned or government-linked. Currently, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and MediaCorp are the only two newspaper licensees and broadcasting licensees. Prior to 2000, SPH held the principal newspaper license and MediaCorp the only broadcasting license; now each company operates in both sectors. However in September 2004, both SPH and MediaCorp announced that they will be merging their mass-market television and free newspaper operations in a rationalisation move to stem losses and enhance shareholder value. The exclusivity given to Singapore Cable Vision (now Starhub CableTV) as the sole provider of pay television services ended on June 30, 2002. However since then they remain the sole provider of pay television in Singapore.

 

 

In late 1997, the government began a comprehensive program to revamp the country’s financial services sector to promote Singapore as an international financial center. While the Government in 1999 removed the 40 percent ceiling on foreign ownership of local banks, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has reiterated that it is not prepared to approve any foreign acquisition of a local bank. Acquisition of 5%, 12%, and 20% or more of the voting shares of a local bank requires approval from the Minister of Finance.

 

 

The MAS gradually liberalised restrictions on foreign banks in the domestic retail banking sector. Since October 1999, it has granted “qualifying full bank” (QFB) privileges to six foreign banks, most of which had existing retail operations in Singapore. QFBs can operate in up to 15 locations (branches or off-premise ATMs) of which up to ten can be branches (there are no such restrictions on local retail banks); share ATMs among themselves; provide debit services on an electronic funds transfer at point of sale network; and offer Supplementary Retirement Scheme accounts and Central Provident Fund investment accounts.

 

 

Foreign law firms with offices in Singapore cannot practice Singapore law, cannot employ Singapore lawyers to practice Singapore law, and cannot litigate in local courts unless they do so in joint law ventures and formal law alliances with a local Singapore law firm. In general, foreign law firms and foreign lawyers can only advise clients on the laws of their home country or international law. With the exception of law degrees from certain Australian/New Zealand universities and British universities, no foreign university law degrees are recognised for the purpose of admission to practice law in Singapore. The regulator of such foreign law firms is the The Legal Profession (International Services) Secretariat.

 

 

While professional engineering firms can be 100 percent foreign-owned, the chairman and two-thirds of the firm’s board of directors must comprise engineers, architects, or land surveyors registered with local professional bodies. In the case of a partnership, only registered engineers may have a beneficial interest in the capital assets and profits of the firm, and the business of the partnership must be under the control and management of a registered professional engineer who ordinarily resides in Singapore. Similar requirements apply to architectural firms.

 

 

There are restrictions on foreign ownership of real estate in Singapore. Under the Residential Property Act, foreigners may purchase freehold condominiums, but are not permitted to own landed homes (houses) and apartments in buildings of fewer than six stories, unless approval is first obtained from the Land Dealings (Approval) Unit of the Singapore Land Authority. Such approvals are granted very selectively; an example where approval may be granted is a foreign MNC buying properties to house its executives. There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of industrial and commercial real estate.

 

 

Screening Mechanisms

 

 

There is no overarching vetting requirement for foreign investment, although investments in certain sectors require the advance approval of certain regulatory agencies. For example, telecom firms must be licensed by the Info-communications Development Authority (IDA), while firms in the financial services sector require approval by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). In both cases, license approval is not automatic, and may depend on agreement to performance requirements or commitments to transfer certain additional functions to Singapore.

 

 

Conversion And Transfer Policies

 

 

Singapore places no restrictions on reinvestment or repatriation of earnings and capital, and maintains no significant restrictions on remittances, foreign exchange transactions and capital movements although there are certain restrictions on the borrowing of Singapore Dollars (SGD) for use offshore.

 

 

Expropriation And Compensation

 

 

To date, there have been no significant disputes between the Government and foreign investors. The Government has not taken expropriatory actions against foreign investors and there are no laws that force foreign investors to transfer ownership to local interests.

 

 

Singapore has signed investment promotion and protection agreements with a wide range of countries. These agreements mutually protect nationals or companies of either country for a specific period (usually 15 years) against war and non-commercial risks of expropriation and nationalisation.

 

 

Dispute Settlement

 

 

Singapore has institutionalised and internationalised arbitration through the creation of arbitration bodies and ratification of international conventions. The Singapore International Arbitration Center (SIAC), a non-profit organisation, was set up in 1991 to promote the settlement of disputes by arbitration and conciliation. Mediation or conciliation is also actively promoted in Singapore by the Singapore Mediation Center (SMC) which has a high rate of success in settlement of disputes including those involving foreign investors. Both the SMC and the Subordinate Courts have also developed virtual Internet-based dispute resolution processes.

 

 

In Oct 2001, Singapore adapted the UNCITRAL Model Law for domestic arbitration, through the enactment of the Arbitration Act 2001. The International Arbitration Act was also amended on October 2001 to ensure that the Act remains consistent with internationally recognised principles of arbitration law. Singapore ratified the recognition and enforcement of Foreign Arbitration Awards (New York, 1958) on 21 August 1986; and the International Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes on 13 November 1968.

 

 

An alternative dispute resolution process for Internet domain names registered in Singapore was also established in 2001. Called the Singapore Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (SDRP), it is modeled after ICANN’s UDRP (Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy).

 

 

Performance Requirements

 

 

In general, Singapore complies with WTO TRIMS (Trade-Related Investment Measures) obligations. However, as stated above, in a number of cases the approval of licenses in the facilities-based telecom sector and the retail banking sector has been conditioned on performance requirements or the transfer of certain functions to Singapore. The application process for such licenses effectively requires the submission of proprietary business data, although the data appears to be treated confidentially and is not disclosed to third parties. The ability of facilities-based telecom operators to expand infrastructure beyond that envisaged in an initial license has also been conditioned on the fulfillment of certain performance requirements.

 

 

In all cases where a foreign investor requests investment incentives, the company’s track record, the amount of its investment, and its contributions to Singapore’s goal of becoming a knowledge-based economy become important considerations in the selection process.

 

 

There are no discriminatory or preferential export or import policies affecting foreign investors. The government does not require investors to purchase from local sources or specify a percentage of output for export. The government also does not require local equity ownership in the investment. There are no general rules forcing the transfer of technology. Foreign investors face no requirement to reduce equity over time and are free to obtain their necessary financing from any source.

 

 

Employment of host country nationals is not required. Visa and residency policies are generally foreign-investor friendly. While the government discourages dependency on unskilled foreign labour (by setting quantitative lists and imposing special monthly levies), it actively seeks to attract highly-skilled foreigners to work in Singapore, including by offering companies a double tax deduction on approved hiring and relocation expenses related to hiring talent from abroad.

 

 

Rights To Private Ownership And Establishment/Incentives

 

 

Foreign and local entities may freely establish, operate, and dispose of their own businesses in Singapore. Except for representative offices, where foreign firms maintain a local representative but do not conduct commercial transactions in Singapore, there are no restrictions on carrying out business activities.

 

 

All businesses in Singapore must be registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority . Foreign investors can operate their businesses in one of the following forms:

 

  • sole proprietorship: an individual operating as a 

    sole trader regulated under the Business Registration Act with a manager who

    can be a Singapore Citizen or foreigner with right of residence in Singapore

    (e.g. Employment Pass holder or Singapore Permanent Resident);

  • partnership: 2 to 20 persons, regulated under theBusiness Registration Act;
  • incorporated company: which could be a private orpublic company limited by shares or as an unlimited company regulated by the

    provisions of the Companies Act;

  • foreign company: registered as a branch of the parentcompany under the Companies Act but not incorporated as a Singapore company;

    or

  • representative office: offices of foreign corporations, which undertake promotional and liaison activities on their parent company’s behalf. They must not engage in business, conclude contracts, provide consultancy for a fee, undertake transshipment of goods, or open or negotiate any letters of credit directly or on behalf of their parent companies.

 

Protection Of Property Rights

 

 

Singapore’s legal system is based on English common law and offers effective means for enforcing property rights. Common law protects and facilitates the acquisition and disposition of all property. Secured interests in property are recognised and enforced.

 

 

Intellectual property protection has improved significantly since the late 1990s. Singapore has enacted a series of laws and amendments to strengthen IP protection and implement obligations under the WTO Agreement on Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights and pursuant to the Singapore-US FTA. These measures include numerous amendments to its Copyright Act, the Trade Marks Act, the Plant Varieties Protection Act and Registered Designs Act.

 

 

Singapore is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) but has not yet ratified the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. Singapore is a signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Patents Cooperation Treaty, the Budapest Treaty, the Bern Convention, and the Madrid Protocol.

 

 

On enforcement, there have been sharp reductions in the production of pirated material and blatant storefront retail piracy (piracy rates for motion pictures and music are now around 20%). But problems remain. Pirated optical discs continue to be available from vendors in street markets, housing estates, and at other high pedestrian volume locations. The Singapore Police are working to address such activities. The software piracy level in Singapore, while among the lowest in Asia, remains almost double the level in the United States.

 

 

Procedures exist to compel Internet Service Providers

(ISPs) to remove infringing materials from servers under their control. Under

the ‘take-down’ procedure, rightholders who want an Internet Service Provider

(ISP) to remove infringing material need only swear a statutory declaration that they are the owner of the copyright and provide information regarding the infringement, ie that infringing copies are found on servers controlled by the ISPs. If the ISPs refuse to remove the infringing copies, the ISPs may be liable for infringement themselves.

 

 

There is no specific legislation on trade secrets. Rather, investors’ confidential and proprietary information is protected under common law by the Law of Confidence.

 

 

Transparency Of The Regulatory System

 

 

The Singapore Government promotes its regulatory environment as business-friendly, with transparent and clear regulations. Tax, labour, banking and finance, industrial health and safety, arbitration, wage and training rules and regulations are formulated and reviewed with the interests of foreign investors and local enterprises in mind, and the Government is usually open to comments from interested businesses.

 

 

With some important exceptions, Singapore is beginning to develop a system whereby proposed regulations are published for public comment on the internet at www.feedback.gov.sg. In addition, prior to implementing any law or regulation, the government usually consults relevant stakeholders, although the consultative process may not necessarily be conducted in public. Local laws give regulatory bodies wide discretion to modify regulations and impose new conditions, but in practice agencies use this in a positive way, such as adapting incentives or other services on a case-by-case basis to meet the needs of foreign companies.

 

 

Procedures for obtaining licenses and permits are generally transparent and not burdensome. There have been occasional exceptions. Procedures appear faster in areas considered by the Government as national priorities. Investors in areas not considered priorities, or in new areas that may be unfamiliar to the Government, may experience a longer process.

 

 

Efficient Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

 

 

Policies in Singapore facilitate the free flow of financial resources. Credit is allocated on market terms, and foreign investors can access credit on the local market, both Singapore dollars (SGD) and other foreign currency. The legal, regulatory and accounting systems are transparent and either already match or are being upgraded to match international norms and best practices.

 

 

Singapore has a liberal exchange control regime, with virtually no restrictions on currency and capital account flows and with market-driven exchange rates. At the same time, the Government’s Singapore Dollar non-internationalisation policy limits the borrowing of SGD by non-residents. All non-residents can borrow SGD freely if the SGD proceeds are used in Singapore, but non-resident financial entities may only borrow SGD freely for their activities outside Singapore provided they swap or convert the SGD proceeds into foreign currency.

 

 

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) formulates and implements the country’s monetary and exchange rate policy, and supervises and regulates the country’s sophisticated financial and capital markets. The Government has sought to boost the country’s asset management industry by placing a significant portion of the government reserves managed by MAS and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) with external asset managers. Some S$307.0 billion in funds is now managed in Singapore. The Government moved in the late 1990s to develop an SGD debt market. The total issuance of SGD-denominated debt in 2004 was S$22.0 billion, a significant increase over 2000.

 

 

Singapore’s banking system is sound and well-regulated. Total assets of the domestic banking sector were S$375 billion in January 2002. Local Singapore banks remain relatively small in Asian terms, but are more profitable and have stronger credit ratings than many of their Asian peers. In 2004, non-bank non-performing loans as a percentage of total non-bank loans ranged from under 10% for lending to Singapore borrowers to between 19-26% for loans to regional borrowers.

 

 

A new statutory requirement prohibiting banks from engaging in non-financial business will take effect in 2004. This will require local banks to undertake profound restructuring and divest non-financial assets. In the future, banks will only be able to hold 10% or less in non-financial companies as an “equity portfolio investment.” Revised rules on property-related loans, to limit and monitor more effectively bank’s exposure to the property sector, are also due to take effect.

 

 

While some government-linked companies (GLCs) are listed on the Singapore Exchange, their “free float” is relatively small, and in all cases the Government remains the largest single shareholder. The Government has yet to divest any major GLC completely, although it has not ruled out doing so. At the same time, the Government has said that it will continue to keep majority control of GLCs that are considered “strategic.”

 

 

The participation of foreign investors in industry standards-setting consortia or organisations is often actively solicited.

 

 

Corporate Governance

 

 

The Government has moved to codify various corporate governance principles into legislation and regulation. This effort began in 1996 when the Singapore Exchange first set out a chapter on corporate governance in its listing manual. The Ministry of Finance, together with the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Attorney-General’s Chambers, then set up three private-sector-led committees in December 1999 to review and enhance the existing framework for corporate law and governance.

 

 

A Code of Corporate Governance for listed companies was released in April 2001, and sets out recommended corporate governance principles and practices in areas such as board composition, board performance, directors’ remuneration, accountability, and communication with shareholders. Listed companies are required by the Singapore Exchange (SGX) to disclose and explain any deviation from Code, effective 1 January 2003.

 

 

In 2001, the Singapore Parliament passed the Securities and Futures Act (SFA), which requires corporations listed on SGX to disclose material information on a continuous basis (previously only a requirement under the SGX Listing Manual). Failure to disclose will either constitute a criminal offence or give rise to civil liability, and not just a breach of the listing rules. Listed companies are required to do quarterly financial reporting as of 1 Jan 2003. The SFA imposes a requirement on persons acquiring substantial shareholdings of five percent or more of the voting shares of a listed company, to disclose such acquisitions as well as any subsequent changes in their holdings directly to the Exchange within two days.

 

 

The SFA also contains enhanced market misconduct provisions. In particular, liability for insider trading will no longer be dependent upon proof of a person’s connection with the company, but upon whether the person traded while in possession of undisclosed price-sensitive information.

 

 

Rules on mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are generally aligned with international standards, particularly after the recent release of a revised Code on Takeovers and Mergers. The new Code provides better protection to minority shareholders and more time to consider offers (28 days vice 21 days previously). However, there have been instances where companies violated the spirit of the rule designed to protect minorities, while adhering to its text, but these actions were not targeted at foreign investors.

 

 

Singapore’s accounting standards, already largely aligned to International Accounting Standards, are being further refined to be consistent with international norms. Compliance with prescribed accounting standards is likely to be made a legal requirement in Singapore. MAS recently said local banks will have to change their audit firms every five years, in order “to enhance auditors’ objectivity.” Banks will be given till the end of 2006 to comply with this requirement. In addition, the Public Accountants Board, the statutory body regulating auditors in Singapore, is currently undertaking a review of the existing rules and regulations governing auditor

independence and in April 2002 circulated proposed rules for public comment.

 

 

Corruption

 

 

Both Transparency International and Political & Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd rank Singapore as the least corrupt country in Asia, and one of the least corrupt in the world, a view shared by most observers and foreign investors. The rankings are found in the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau website . Singapore has and actively enforces strong anti-corruption laws. The Prevention of Corruption Act and the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act provide the legal basis for government action by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau. These laws cover acts of corruption both within Singapore as well as those committed by Singaporeans abroad. When cases of corruption are uncovered, the government deals with them firmly, swiftly and publicly, as they do in cases where public officials are involved in dishonest and illegal behavior.

 

 

Singapore is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery, but the Prevention of Corruption Act makes it a crime for a Singapore citizen to bribe a foreign official.

 

 

Bilateral Investment Agreements

 

 

Singapore has signed General Investment Guarantee Agreements (IGA’s) with ASEAN member nations, the Belgo-Luxembourg Economic Union and the following 21 economic partners: Belarus, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Mauritius, Mongolia, The Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States and Zimbabwe. These agreements mutually protect nationals or companies of either country against war and non-commercial risks of expropriation and nationalisation.

 

 

Singapore has concluded free trade agreements with the United States, Australia, New Zealand, European Free Trade Association and Japan and are negotiating a number more. Singapore has tax treaties with a number of countries, but not with the United States.

 

 

Investment Insurance Programs

 

 

Under a 1966 investment guarantee agreement with Singapore, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) offers insurance to U.S. investors in Singapore against currency inconvertibility, expropriation and losses arising from war. Singapore became a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) in 1998.

 

 

Labour

 

 

Singapore’s labour market totals about two million persons, including nearly half a million unskilled and semi-skilled foreign workers and about 100,000 foreign professionals. Local labour laws are flexible, allow for relatively free hiring and firing practices.

 

 

Labour-management relations in Singapore are excellent. About 29% of the workforce is unionised. The vast majority of unions are affiliated with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), which has a close relationship with the Government. Although workers, other than those employed in the three essential services of water, gas and electricity, have the legal right to strike, the chances of strikes taking place are minimal. Industrial disputes, when they exist, are usually settled through mediation by the government. When this fails, the matter is decided by the Industrial Arbitration Court (IAC), whose rulings are binding. Once the IAC recognises a dispute, strikes or lockouts are illegal under the Trade Disputes Act.

 

 

Singapore has no minimum wage; the Government follows a policy of allowing market forces to determine wage levels. Singapore has a flexible wage system in which the National Wage Council (NWC) recommends non-binding percentage increases (if any) in salary on an annual basis, and largely based on prevailing economic conditions. The NWC comprises of 30 members: ten trade union leaders, ten employer group leaders, and ten government officials. Following NWC recommendations apply to both domestic and foreign firms, but are not mandatory; unionised companies tend to adopt NWC recommendations more readily than do non-unionised companies.

 

 

To help companies adjust employment costs, the Government has urged companies to include an “annual variable component” of up to 20% of wages; after discussion with employees, firms in difficulty could lower wages by up to the amount. The NWC has also recommended that companies and employers agree to set aside an additional 10% of wages in a “monthly variable component,” allowing for quicker wage cost adjustments. Only a minority of firms has implemented the monthly variable component.

 

 

The government places a ceiling on the ratio of unskilled/semi-skilled foreign workers to local workers that a company can employ, and charges a monthly levy for each unskilled or semi-skilled foreign worker. At the same time, the Government provides incentives and assistance to firms to automate and invest in labour-reducing technology. Firms pay a levy equivalent to 1.0% of wages paid to employees earning S$1,500 per month or less, to the Skills Development Fund (SDF), a pool from which the government draws to provide incentives and grants for manpower training.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Chapter 6. Trade and Project Financing

 

 

Brief Description of the Banking System

 

Singapore is a well-established international financial center. It is a leading world foreign exchange trading center and trader in derivatives. There are about 700 local and foreign banking and financial institutions in Singapore that provide services relating to trade financing, foreign exchange, derivatives products, capital markets activities, loan syndication, underwriting, mergers and acquisitions, asset management, securities trading, financial advisory services and specialised insurance services.

 

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) performs all the functions of a central bank including the issuance of currency which it took over from the Board of Commissioners of Currency on 1 October 2002. The unit of legal tender is the Singapore dollar. The MAS is a wholly-owned and controlled statutory board under the Ministry of Finance; it is responsible for all matters relating to banks and other financial institutions. Besides regulating financial institutions, the MAS has a Financial Sector Promotion Department. The department aims to promote new financial activities, develop IT infrastructure and manpower resources for the financial sector, and design appropriate incentives to attract international financial firms to conduct activities in Singapore.

 

 

Singapore does not have a deposit insurance program. However, the MAS plans to institute one, which is targeted at providing a basic financial safety net for small depositors. The MAS has released a consultation paper on this scheme on 6th August 2002.

 

 

The MAS is known and respected as an effective regulator/supervisor of the financial services sector. The MAS requires branches of foreign banks operating in Singapore to meet the minimum BIS capital adequacy ratio (CAR) of 8.0%, but locally-incorporated banks meet a more stringent ratio of 12.0%. Financial statements are in compliance with international standards and internationally recognised accounting firms perform audits.

 

 

Foreign Exchange Controls Affecting Trade

 

There is free movement of capital and profits in Singapore. Restrictions placed on Singapore-dollar loans to non-residents (aimed at preventing the internationalisation of the Singapore currency) have recently been significantly reduced. Banks can grant Singapore dollar credit facilities to non-residents for trading or investment purposes in Singapore, and to fund offshore activities if the Singapore Dollar proceeds are swapped into foreign currency.

 

General Availability of Financing

 

There are 120 commercial banks in Singapore. The Government recently announced that a shift from a three-tier license regime for commercial banks (full, restricted, and offshore) to a new regime that distinguishes only between retail and wholesale (non-retail) banks. Presently, there are 28 commercial banks (six local and 22 foreign banks) that are licensed to engage in retail banking. Wholesale banks are not permitted to provide retail-banking services. They may accept Singapore-dollar fixed deposits above S$250,000, operate Singapore-dollar checking accounts and grant Singapore Dollar-denominated credit facilities. Commercial banks may also engage in treasury and offshore banking activities in the Asian Dollar Market (the Singapore equivalent to the Euro Dollar Market).

 

Several large commercial banks offer a variety of banking services to manufacturing firms and other clients. Most banks extend credit for five to ten years at competitive interest rates, covering up to 50% of plant and machinery costs and up to 65% of the value of factory buildings. Higher percentage loans are available for particularly desirable projects and for expansion loans. Many larger Singapore banks have subsidiaries that carry out merchant banking, insurance, property development, securities trading as members of the stock exchange, and underwriting issues of government bonds. 55 merchant banks provide a wide range of services not covered by some commercial banks, including investment portfolio management, investment advisory services, advice on corporate restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, financing, lending or participating in syndicated loans, capital equipment leasing, and underwriting and floating bond and stock issues.

 

 

The exchange rate is the MAS’ most important tool for controlling inflation. It engages in limited money market operations to influence interest rates and ensure adequate liquidity in the banking system. The Government does not set targets for monetary aggregates. Money supply and domestic interest rates are primarily determined by international, rather than local conditions.

 

 

How to Finance Exports/Methods of Payment

 

Singapore has a well-developed financial system, and Singapore offers the complete range of export finance instruments. Shipments are generally made under letters of credit and sight drafts, depending on the exporter’s preference and the extent of past dealings with the purchaser. Standard credit terms are generally 30 to 90 days. Quotations are generally made on a C.I.F. basis. Exporters making quotations in Singapore dollars should consult their banks for the prevailing exchange rate. Singapore uses the metric system, so it is often beneficial for price/quantity quotations to be prepared accordingly.


 

Chapter 7. Business Travel

 

 

Business Customs

 

 

Business discussions are usually conducted in a very straightforward manner. English is widely spoken, and most businesspeople are skilled and technically knowledgeable. Most agents/distributors are familiar with foreign exporters/manufacturers and often handle several foreign product lines. Corruption is virtually non-existent.

 

 

Business cards are a must as they are immediately exchanged during business and social meetings. The East Asian practice of presenting a business card with both hands is observed. There is no need to have special business cards printed in Chinese, however.

 

 

Travel Advisory and Visas

 

While in Singapore, a foreign citizen is subject to Singapore’s laws and regulations. Penalties for breaking the law can be severe. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Visitors should be aware of Singapore’s strict laws and penalties for a variety of offences that might be considered minor in other countries, including jaywalking, littering and spitting. Singapore imposes a mandatory caning sentence on males for vandalism offences. Caning may also be imposed for immigration violations and other offences. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines. Singapore has a mandatory death penalty for many narcotics offences. There are no jury trials in Singapore. Judges hear cases and decide sentencing. The Singapore Government does not provide legal assistance except in capital crime cases.

 

A valid passport is required for tourist and business travel to Singapore. Visas are necessary for citizens of certain countries visiting Singapore. To facilitate regional travel, it is advisable to replace any passport that has less than six months validity.

 

 

Holidays

The dates on

 

which holidays are observed in 2004 are listed below:

 

 

 

 

 

January 1, Wednesday –

 

 

New Year’s Day

 

 

February 1, 2 & 3, –
Saturday, Sunday &

Monday

 

 

Lunar New Year

 

 

February 12, Wednesday –

 

 

Hari Raya Haji

 

 

April 18, Friday –

 

 

Good Friday

 

 

May 1, Thursday –

 

 

Labour Day (Singaporean)

 

 

May 15, Thursday –

 

 

Vesak Day

 

 

August 9, Saturday –

 

 

National Day

 

 

October 24, Friday –

 

 

Deepavali**

 

 

November 25, Tuesday –

 

 

Hari Raya Puasa

 

 

December 25, Thursday –

 

 

Christmas Day

 

** This date is confirmed after checks with the Indian Almanacs.

 

 

Workweek

 

Singapore is 8 hours ahead of GMT. Business hours normally are 8:30am – 5:00pm, Monday-Friday, 8:30am – 1:00pm, Saturday. Shops are normally open from 10:00am – 9:00pm.

 

Business Infrastructure

 

Taxis are abundant, metered, inexpensive and air-conditioned, and most drivers speak English. Drivers should be given place names for the destination as these are often more familiar than street names. Traffic flow is quite good. The Government limits the total number of cars on the road through heavy fees/taxes payable for a Certificate of Entitlement and imposes a surcharge on vehicles entering the Central Business District during much of the day and for traveling on certain designated roads using the Electronic Road Pricing System. In addition, an exceptionally clean, efficient, mass rapid subway system links the major business/shopping areas.

 

Singapore’s unit of currency is the Singapore dollar. Travelers’ cheques and currency may be exchanged in the baggage claim area at Changi Airport (at a reasonable rate) or at any hotel (at a less favorable rate). Singapore features dozens of Government-authorised “money changers” located in major shopping centers, who offer competitive rates and will usually accept travelers’ cheques as well as major currencies. International credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and retail shops.

 

 

In addition to having one of the world’s best airports and container ports, Singapore features an exceptionally modern telecommunications system. Public telephones accepting cash cards or cash are located throughout. ‘Cyber cafes’ are popularity, and internet connections are available in most hotels. Electrical current is 220V, 50Hz.

 

 

Located a few degrees from the Equator, Singapore has a constant tropical climate year-round. Daytime temperatures average between 28 and 34 degrees Celsius. Humidity is very high and rain showers are frequent. Temperatures at night average between 24 and 30 degrees. All public buildings, indoor restaurants and taxis are air-conditioned.

 

 

Summer-weight suits/dresses, several dress-shirts, an umbrella and swimsuit are recommended for the traveller. Singapore business dress is shirt and tie for men, although one will not be out of place occasionally wearing a jacket. Businesswomen wear conservative, light-weight attire. Evening dinner-dress is a shirt and tie for men, a dress for women.

 

 

Tipping is not customary in Singapore. Restaurants automatically add a 10% service charge and a 4.0% goods and services tax (GST) to the bill.

 

 

Temporary entry of goods

 

 

There is no restriction on the temporary entry of laptop computers, software and exhibition materials into the country.

 


 

Chapter 8. Country Data

 

 

Geography:

 

Total Land Area: 682.3 sq km

 

Climate:

 

Tropical; hot, humid, rainy; two distinct monsoon seasons – Northeastern monsoon from December to March, Southwestern monsoon from June to September; inter-monsoon – frequent afternoon and early evening thunderstorms

 

People:

 

 

Population:
total – 4.1 million (mid-year 2004)
Singapore residents – 3.3 million

 

 

Population growth rate:
1.7%

 

 

Crude Birth rate:
11.9 births/1,000 population

 

 

Crude Death rate:
4.4 deaths/1,000 population

 

 

Net migration rate:
26.8 migrants/1,000 population

 

 

Total population:
996 males/1,000 female

 

 

Infant mortality rate:
2.2 deaths/1,000 live births

 

 

Life expectancy at birth:
total population:
78.4 years (2004)

 

 

Total fertility rate:
1,416 children born/1,000 female population 15-44 years

 

 

Nationality:
Ethnic groups:
Chinese 76.9%, Malay 14%, Indian 7.9%, other 1.4%

 

 

Language:
English (principal language), Mandarin, Malay and Tamil

 

 

Religion:
Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu

 

 

Literacy:
total population:
93.2% (2004)

 

 

Government

 

 

Type: Parliamentary republic.
Constitution: June 3, 1959 (amended 1965 and 1991).
Independence: August 9, 1965.
Branches: Executive–president (head, 4-yr. term); prime minister (head of government). Legislative–unicameral 83-member parliament (maximum 5-yr. term). Judicial–High Court, Court of Appeal, subordinate courts.
Political parties: People’s Action Party (PAP), Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), Workers’ Party (WP), Singapore’s Peoples Party (SPP).
Suffrage: Universal and compulsory at 21.
Flag: Two equal horizontal sections, red over white, with a white crescent and five stars in the upper left corner.

 

 

Work Week

 

The work week is typically 44 hours.

 

Transportation

 

Changi Airport and Singapore’s seaport are among the best facilities in the world. There is an extensive road network and a modern, efficient Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system serving major business and shopping districts as well as several residential districts.

 

Source: Singapore Department of Statistics, Yearbook of Statistics Singapore, 2003