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Singapore

Basic Information

Area: 707.1 km²

Calling code: +65

Population: 4,588,600

Official Language: English, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil

Time zone: SST (UTC+8), Local time: 15:56

Overview

Singapore is an independent island located in South East Asia, just below Malaysia to which it is connected via the Johor-Singapore Causeway. Its territory spans 697 km2, the majority of which is the mainland island of Singapore. It also covers several smaller islands including Sentosa, which is primarily used as a tourist destination, and the man-made island of Jurong, which is used as a base for many petroleum companies such as Shell DuPont, Esso and BP.

Singapore gained its Independence in 1965, after becoming a member of the Malaysian Federation System. It has since grown into a bustling city, with a thriving economy. The total population stands at 4.6 million (2009) making it the most densely populated state in Asia, and the second most crowded area in the world after Monaco. The current currency is the Singaporean dollar (SGD).

Economy

Due to the importance of manufacturing and exporting goods, the country has excellent shipping links; the Port of Singapore is one of the largest in the world - based of tonnage export figures. Popular products made in the country include consumer electronics, pharmaceuticals and chemicals, with the manufacturing industry accounting for over a quarter of Singapore's total GDP figure of $235 billion. Major exports partners are Hong Kong, Malaysia, the United States, Indonesia, China and Japan.

Aside from manufacturing, tourism is prominent in Singapore, with 10 million visitors coming to the country a year and over 30,000 hotel beds available, with a high average occupancy rate of 85%. Banking and finance are of importance too, and the foreign exchange centre is the second largest in Asia after Tokyo.
Singapore is a member of numerous organisations such as The European Free Trade Association (ESFTA) in total it has signed 16 trade agreements, with 24 partners. The government aims to attract new investment over the coming years, and predicts a 3%-5% increase in economic growth over 2010.

Infrastructure

Singapore is known for being a technologically advanced country, where it is clear that serious planning and thought has gone into the transportation structure, to make it efficient and convenient for commuters and tourists alike. The country is served by a total of 8 airports, the largest being Singapore Changi Airport (SIN), which offers flights to over 190 worldwide destinations and is also used as a stop-over point for flights from Europe to Australasia. The airport is a major cargo hub and transported over 1.6 million tonnes of goods in 2009.
The public transportation system is well maintained and consists of buses, a mass rapid transport system (MRT) and a light rail system (LRT). Roads are designed to allow easy access through the main city and other major areas, with toll booths in operation on some of the routes to collect money which is later re-invested to improve the existing network.
Singapore has virtually no fresh water lakes and relies heavily on rainfall to fulfil its water supply needs. There are a number of reservoirs and dams which help collect, store and treat the rainwater. In total these reservoirs produce 50% of the countries water, the remaining water is imported from Malaysia.
The vast transportation network makes Singapore one of the leading hubs for international travel in Asia, investments and expansion help keep the system modern and cope with the increasing passenger demand.

Workforce

Singapore has a total labour force of 3 million, and it has some of the lowest unemployment rates in South-East Asia, which was just 3.5% in 2009. Singapore has one of the highest foreign population levels in the world, only 64% of the population are official Singaporean residents, while non-residents come from China, Malaysia, India, the Philippines and Europe. Due to its multicultural make-up, the country has 4 official languages: Chinese, Malay, English and Tamil. The majority of Singaporeans are fluent in English as schools classes are taught in the language, and it is favoured in business meetings. Much of the large immigrant population however do not speak the language, and many more dialects can be heard in ethnic communities.

Singaporeans emphasize the importance of a strong education from an early age. Schools are structured to ensure the development of each child's abilities, the Ministry of Education oversees curricular development. There are three major public universities in the country: the National University of Singapore, Singapore Management University and Nanyang Technological University, a fourth is due to open in 2011. There are also a number of private, international and polytechnic universities, along with SIM University (UniSIM), which helps further the skills of working professionals. Singapore takes pride in its educational system and invests 3.7% of its total GDP figure back into improving existing facilities, the PRIME Programme is also pumping £4.5 billion into the schooling system, to upgrade and re-furbish old educational buildings.

Business Costs

Renting commercial space in the CBD of Singapore costs an average $58.74 per square foot per year, this puts it on par with rental prices in Brussels and Amsterdam. Commercial office space costs have dropped over the past year: In 2009 Singapore was ranked as having the 9th most expensive commercial space in the world, yet now it stands at 14th place and offers economical space. Other costs associated with renting property such as utility prices are low.

Taxes have remained low over the years, helping attract numerous high profiles companies to the country. The corporate rate was reduced from 18% to 17% in 2010. There are many insentives and breaks which provide an even more fertile environment for a new business, this includes a three year tax exemption period for all companies making less than S$100,000 profit a year. To qualify for this tax break you must fit a few specifications, including being a tax resident in Singapore, and having no more than 20 shareholders in the company. The individual income tax rate is low and works on a progressive scale which ranges from 0% to 20% depending on income earned per year. The VAT rate is just 7% for most goods and services in the country, and all exports are exempt from taxes.
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