SINGAPORE: Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Economic Development Board (EDB) managed to secure S$13 billion worth of fixed asset investment commitments in the first four months of 2020.
That was among the highest in recent years, and reflected businesses’ confidence in Singapore’s “high levels of connectivity, openness, and brand of trust”, according to the latest public sector report released on Thursday (Nov 26).
It was one example showing how Singapore continues to be among the most competitive and pro-business economies in the world, according to the Singapore Public Sector Outcomes Review (SPOR).
The report, which is coordinated by the Ministry of Finance every two years, looks at how the public sector and Singapore have fared in key areas of national interest.
Singapore has “sound economic fundamentals” and remains an “attractive location” for businesses to grow and invest, the report said.
It cited real gross domestic product growth of 2.9 per cent a year and labour productivity growth of 2.5 per cent per a year from 2014 to 2019, as well as high regard internationally for the country’s business environment and workforce.
Singapore was ranked among the world’s most competitive economies by the World Economic Forum in 2019, and by the International Institute for Management Development (IIMD) in 2020. This year, it was also the only Asian country in the top 10 of the IIMD’s world talent ranking.
“Singaporeans remain resilient and competitive in the workforce, able to tap new job opportunities,” the report said.
“They are assisted by a wide range of support including Adapt and Grow, SkillsFuture and other employment support schemes as well as initiatives to ensure fair consideration for Singaporean jobseekers.”
As of August, the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic has made 117,500 opportunities available, with more than 33,000 placed, according to the report.
Between 2014 and 2019, more than 100,000 jobseekers were placed in jobs through Adapt and Grow, and more than 14,500 reskilled to take on new jobs through Place-and-Train programmes, it added.
READ: IN FOCUS – Graduating into a COVID-19 jobs market - short-term challenges and longer-term issues?
SEIZING BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
Singapore businesses have been “looking beyond immediate challenges and preparing to seize longer-term opportunities by harnessing growth in Asia, going digital and promoting innovation”, the report also said.
This could be seen in the 37 per cent increase (over five years) in direct investment into Southeast Asia by Singapore-based companies. Most of the 600 projects that Enterprise Singapore facilitated globally last year were in China and Southeast Asia, the report added.
It noted that 216,000 business have registered for PayNow Corporate and are now able to send and receive e-payments instantly.
The report also highlighted an increase in business expenditure on research and development, at a compound annual growth rate of 3 per cent from 2014 to 2018, as well as sales revenue from the commercialisation of R&D rising from S$25.2 billion a year to S$31.8 billion a year over the same period
EASE OF DOING BUSINESS
Singapore also continued to be highly regarded as a place to do business, the report said. This year, the country ranked second in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, after consistently placing in the top three for the past 14 years.
The country also did well in two other indicators, placing fourth in the world for starting a business and first in the world for enforcing contracts, according to the report.
“Streamlined regulations and improved government to business (G2B) services make it easy to start and grow a business, as well as pursue innovation. It takes only 1.5 days to start a business in Singapore,” the report said.
The country also ranked first in digital infrastructure in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Asian Digital Transformation Index 2018, and has built “a robust foundation of strong digital connectivity over the years”, according to the report.
It said that “improved and secure digital connectivity” was underway, including the Networked Trade Platform, which functions as a single window for all customs- and trade-related services, as well as cybersecurity enhancements and 5G trials.
A majority of businesses and citizens, at 77 per cent and 86 per cent respectively, also described themselves as “very or extremely satisfied” with the quality of government e-services last year, according to the report.
Singaporeans now enjoy more ready access to digital government services such as through the LifeSG app, the report added.
“POCKETS OF RESILIENCE”
Noting that Singapore’s economy is expected to shrink between 6 per cent and 6.5 per cent this year, the report said this reflected a “sharp deterioration in the domestic and global economic environment” caused by COVID-19.
“Nonetheless, there remain pockets of resilience in Singapore’s economy such as biomedical manufacturing, and information and communications and media,” said the report.
“With our openness to talent and respect for fair consideration, Singapore remains an attractive hub where businesses can build their best teams and create good jobs for Singaporeans,” it added.
“Singapore stands on strong economic fundamentals that will help us to rebound from this crisis and capture new opportunities.”