Singapore was consistently ranked the leader amongst other nations in terms of ease of doing business, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business annual reports since 2007. The speed of incorporating a business only takes a day for small entities, to a few weeks for larger corporations – the convenient availability of company incorporation agents makes it even more painless. For international trading across borders, Singapore was ranked as the best because it requires a minimum of documents coupled with a low turnaround time for container importing and exporting. Bureaucracy has been reduced to improve efficiency and competitiveness, for example, doing away with the certificate of origin requirements still practiced by neighbouring country Malaysia.
The republic’s success is attributed to its strategic location in the core of South East Asia which intersects international trade routes, currently linked to over 600 ports in 123 countries – making Singapore the busiest port in the world (handling 27.68 million TEUs in 2010). The government of Singapore has adopted a policy of free trade, evidenced by no foreign exchange controls and numerous free trade agreements (FTAs) signed, especially with major players in the economy. Most goods can be imported without licence requirements and quota restrictions.
The labour market is largely unrestricted by the government, allowing corporations freedom to seek the right employees. Singapore provides highly skilled manpower, trained professionals, plus easy entry to foreign talent, making it ideal for business operations. Furthermore, the literacy rate in Singapore is amongst the highest in Asia, which provides a wide market base for companies to launch their products.
Singapore’s Economic Development Board provides various tax incentives such as pioneer status tax exemption, plus expansion, investment, and regional headquarters incentives in a bid to attract foreign MNCs to set up shop in Singapore. Attractive corporate taxation rates, capped at 17% in 2010 are a result of the pro-business tax regime. Potential investors would not go wrong to follow the footsteps of over 14,000 MNCs currently operating in Singapore.
Reading the above, it is no suprise that Singapore remains the top business destination in South-east Asia (I would dare say even Asia) for 2011 and very likely, for many years more.