The economy of Singapore is a highly developed capitalist mixed economy. While government intervention is kept at a minimum, government entities such as the sovereign wealth fund Temasek control corporations responsible for 60% of GDP. It has an open business environment, relatively corruption-free and transparent, stable prices, and one of the highest per capita gross domestic products (GDP) in the world. Exports, particularly in electronics and chemicals, and services provide the main source of revenue for the economy, which allows it to purchase natural resources and raw goods which it does not have. Singapore could thus be said to rely on an extended concept of entrepot trade, by purchasing raw goods and refining them for re-export, such as in the wafer fabrication industry and oil refining. Singapore also has a strategic port which makes it more competitive than many of its neighbours to carry out such entrepot activities. The Port of Singapore is the busiest in the world, surpassing Rotterdam and Hong Kong. In addition, Singapore's port infrastructure and skilled workforce, which is due to the success of the country's education policy in producing skilled workers, is also fundamental in this aspect as they provide easier access to markets for both importing and exporting, and also provide the skill(s) needed to refine imports into exports.
On 14 February 2007, the Singapore government announced that economic growth for the whole year of 2006 was 7.9%, higher than the originally expected 7.7%
The government promotes high levels of savings and investment through a mandatory retirement savings scheme known as the Central Provident Fund, and large portions of its budget are expended in education and technology, with the former having a current rate as of 21% in 2001 compared to spending in the United States of 4%. However, the figures may be misleading as the majority of US education funding comes from the state level, not federal. It also owns Temasek-linked companies (TLCs, companies that are linked to the government's investment arm) - particularly in manufacturing - that operate as commercial entities and account for 60% of GDP. As Singapore looks to a future increasingly marked by globalization, the country is positioning itself as the region's financial and high-tech centre in competition with other East Asian cities.
Singapore's strategic location on major sea lanes and industrious population have given the country an economic importance in South-east Asia disproportionate to its small size. Upon separation from Malaysia in 1965, Singapore was faced with a lack of physical resources and a small domestic market. In response, the Singapore Government adopted a pro-business, pro-foreign investment, export-oriented economic policy combined with state-directed investments in strategic government-owned corporations. Whilst nominally socialist in the 1960s, the ruling party increasingly became openly capitalist but self-described itself as 'pragmatic', a euphemism for capitalism with authoritarian social controls. Singapore's government moved towards guiding the economy and investing in medicine and infrastructure.
Singapore's economic strategy proved a success, producing real growth that averaged 8.0% from 1960 to 1999. The economy picked up in 1999 after the regional financial crisis, with a growth rate of 5.4%, followed by 9.9% for 2000. However, the economic slowdown in the United States, Japan and the European Union, as well as the worldwide electronics slump, had reduced the estimated economic growth in 2001 to a negative 2.0%. The economy expanded by 2.2% the following year, and by 1.1% in 2003 when Singapore was affected by the SARS outbreak. Subsequently, a major turnaround occurred in 2004 allowed it to make a significant recovery of 8.3% growth in Singapore, although the actual growth fell short of the target growth for the year more than half with only 2.5%. In 2005, economic growth was 6.4% while there was 7.9% growth in Year 2006.
Singapore's largely corruption-free government, skilled workforce, and advanced and efficient infrastructure have attracted investments from more than 3,000 multinational corporations (MNCs) from the United States, Japan, and Europe. Foreign firms are found in almost all sectors of the economy. MNCs account for more than two-thirds of manufacturing output and direct export sales, although certain services sectors remain dominated by government-linked corporations.
Manufacturing and financial business services are the twin engines of the Singapore economy and accounted for 26% and 22%, respectively, of Singapore's gross domestic product in 2000. The electronics industry leads Singapore's manufacturing sector, accounting for 48% of Singapore's total industrial output, but the government also is
prioritizing development of the chemicals and biotechnology industries.
To maintain its competitive position despite rising wages, the government seeks to promote higher value-added activities in the manufacturing and services sectors. It also has opened, or is in the process of opening, the financial services, telecommunications, and power generation and retailing sectors to foreign service providers and greater competition. The government has also attempted some measures including wage restraint measures and release of unused buildings in an effort to control rising commercial rents with the view to lowering the cost of doing business in Singapore when central business district office rents tripled in 2006.
Singapore is aggressively promoting and developing its biotechnology industry. Hundred of millions of dollars were invested into the sector to build up infrastructure, fund research and development and to recruit top international scientists to Singapore. Leading drug makers, such as GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Pfizer and Merck & Co., have set up plants in Singapore. On 8 June 2006, GSK announced that it is investing another S$300 million to build another plant to produce pediatric vaccines, its first such facility in Asia. Pharmaceuticals now account for more than 16% of the country's manufacturing production.
Trade, investment and aid
Singapore's total trade in 2000 amounted to S$373 billion, an increase of 21% from 1999. Despite its small size, Singapore is currently the fifteenth-largest trading partner of the United States. In 2000, Singapore's imports
totaled $135 billion, and exports
totaled $138 billion. Malaysia was Singapore's main import source, as well as its largest export market, absorbing 18% of Singapore's exports, with the United States close behind. Re-exports accounted for 43% of Singapore's total sales to other countries in 2000. Singapore's principal exports are petroleum products, food/beverages, chemicals, textile/garments, electronic components, telecommunication apparatus, transport equipment. Singapore's main imports are aircraft, crude oil and petroleum products, electronic components, radio and television receivers/parts, motor vehicles, chemicals, food/beverages, iron/steel, textile yarns/fabrics.
Singapore continues to attract investment funds on a large-scale despite its relatively high-cost operating environment. The U.S. leads in foreign investment, accounting for 40% of new commitments to the manufacturing sector in 2000. As of 1999, cumulative investment for manufacturing and services by American companies in Singapore reached approximately $20 billion (total assets). The bulk of U.S. investment is in electronics manufacturing, oil refining and storage, and the chemical industry. More than 1,500 U.S. firms operate in Singapore.
The government also has encouraged firms to invest outside Singapore, with the country's total direct investments abroad reaching $39 billion by the end of 1998. The People's Republic of China was the top destination, accounting for 14% of total overseas investments, followed by Malaysia (10%), Hong Kong (8.9%), Indonesia (8.0%) and U.S. (4.0%). The rapidly growing economy of India, especially the high technology sector, is becoming an expanding source of foreign investment for Singapore. The United States provides no bilateral aid to Singapore, but the U.S. appears keen to improve bilateral trade and signed the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.