How Singapore Became a World Class Regional Financial and Commercial Hub

From the Third World to the First: The Story of a Remarkable Transformation

The story of how Singapore became a world class regional financial and commercial hub is fascinating and indicates the city state’s innovative and entrepreneurial nature as far as catering to businesses and global institutions are concerned. for instance, until 1965, when it was first a colony of the British and then under Malaysian control, Singapore was a backwater that was ill developed and remained stuck in the low income trap.

However, once it became independent and its founder, Lee Kuan Yew, took over, it rapidly transformed itself from being a Third World backwater into a First World City State. This remarkable transformation was done in a ruthless manner by Yew and his cabinet, most of whom, shared his passion and vision.

Slowly, it began to attract Western financial institutions drawn to the allure of its promise as an Asia Pacific regional hub, thanks to its strategic location between Asia and the Pacific Rim.

Indeed, as they say, Geography is Destiny, and Singapore was especially poised to take advantage of its geostrategic location as well as dynamic policies which other aspiring hubs in the region were either lacking or implemented only later.

In other words, Singapore’s success is a lesson for Indian cities in how limitless ambition backed by cold logic of execution play a role in making cities world class.

Smart City Much Before Its Time

Talking about world class cities and hubs, Singapore epitomizes all the characteristics of a Smart City much before the term was being used by urban planners. Indeed, no visitor to the city state is left without being amazed at the machine like precision and the equally efficient manner in which Singapore operates.

Right from mundane activities such as Garbage Collection to the more serious aspects such as allocation of housing and Water Supply, and including City Transport and other urban management initiatives, Singapore is administered with an efficiency that is enabled by automation as well as guided by trained humans in charge of the processes.

Further, it boasts of an elite who are often western educated and bring with them the best practices followed abroad and apply them to the administration and attracting capital to the city state.

Indeed, the fact that global corporations often flock to it indicates the ease of doing business as well as relative lack of corruption among the governmental machinery that make transacting business in Singapore a businessperson’s dream come true.

Financial Prowess and Technical Excellence

Apart from this, Singapore is also known as tourist and electronics hub wherein the latter is marked by a high presence of several Semiconductor firms that have setup their base there. In addition, it boasts of world class firms specializing in Software and cutting edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence.

Indeed, given the technical skills of its populace as well as its targeted immigration laws that attract the best and brightest from around the world, Singapore is known for its prowess in technical excellence.

Moreover, its reputation as a knowledge hub means that several Asian firms innovating in healthcare, finance, and the newly emerging FinTech space are based there due to its status as a regional hub as well as to its skilled human resources, comprising of both locals and immigrants.

Indeed, Singapore can also be noted for its relative success in attracting immigrants from around the world and especially from India due to the deep cultural linkages it has with South Asia. For instance, its ethnic population has many native Tamilians who are descendants of early migrants and whose language and ethnicity are recognized officially by the government of Singapore.

Some Clouds on the Horizon: Why the Future Looks a Bit Uncertain

Having said that, in recent years, Singapore has had to contend with a serious public debate over its future as a regional hub and more importantly, its racial and ethnic diversity as well as its immigration policy.

Moreover, its closed and relatively authoritarian government has had to deal with several instances of dissent and debate over whether it is time for it to be more democratic. Indeed, these issues, which were long discussed but yet simmering beneath the surface, are now out into the open, thanks to the generational change underway in Singapore.

With the younger segments of the population no longer willing to countenance strict controls on their behavior, some experts believe that Singapore is ripe for an Arab Spring kind of awakening which would severely dent its attractiveness to global firms based there.

On the other hand, the government can no longer afford to ignore these concerns without provoking unrest and hence, Singapore, now is at a crossroads where the choices and decisions it takes would affect its future.

Competition from Regional Peers

Moreover, other regional hubs such as Sydney, Kuala Lumpur, and Hong Kong, which were always competing with it, are now preparing to be more aggressive in their marketing efforts which mean that Singapore faces more intense competition to its regional status.

In addition, there are newer rivals emerging from Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as from India, which all have the advantage of a high English speaking resource base. Apart from this, the global elite too seem to be favoring multiple locations for their regional hubs and this is where, Singapore now has additional competition from.

On the other hand, its port and its commercial shipping sectors are well entrenched and despite the development of several deepwater ports in adjoining countries, it is unlikely that Singapore would lose its preeminence.

Lastly, its world class airport and its equally super efficient airline are also its crown jewels which would take much competition before they can be seriously challenged.

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