What the 2012 GMU MS Technology Management cohort noticed was the word that kept being used time and time again to describe why companies come to do business in Singapore is ‘Efficiency’. Whether it was Technips’ decision to locate staff from a recently acquired Houston Texas based company (Global Industries) to Singapore, or GE’s decision to form a partnership with the National University of Singapore to explore technologies that would make better use of scarce water resources (interesting fact presented by Dr. Adil Dhalla – Less than 1% of the earth’s water is naturally useable for drinking water), each company in Singapore takes total advantage of the efficiencies engineered in Singapore. For Technip (much like many other companies) they utilize Singapore as a springboard and rally post for all their Asian Pacific operations. Employees move their families to Singapore to take advantage of the great school system, and easy to access government resources, while they, the employees, execute Technip operations in Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Laos, Vietnam and even Australia. For GE Water Technologies, the efficiencies are monetized through New Product Introductions and Intellectual Property. The Singapore government has created the conditions for companies to create, retain, protect and exploit IP like no other country in the world. The Singaporean Government has also fostered effective and efficient R&D activities through pro-business worker immigration policies. In Singapore there is no limit on the foreign talent that can be employed by companies –Foreign Companies or Singaporean Companies – in order to the solve the worlds hard problems. Contrast with Malaysia which has a policy that for every one foreign worker, three Malaysians must be employed, or compare with the United States which caps the number foreign worker visas. GE was not the only company that expressed how much this pro-business worker visa policy increased their ability to efficiently do their jobs. Flextronics clearly noted that their highly skilled manufacturing team is comprised of people not just from Singapore but also from Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere.
Efficiency was also expressed on our final day of the residency when we visited Spring Singapore. Spring is the Singapore government’s Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) business outreach and enabling enterprise. Their mission is “to help Singapore enterprises grow and to build trust in Singapore products and services”. Stated another way, their expertise is to exploit the Singapore governments efficient pro-business polices and create the environment that will enable Singapore’s entrepreneurs to thrive and grow. What we learned visiting Spring was that Singapore’s corporate tax rate is only 17% and that SMEs receiving grant funding from Spring are tax exempt for the first three years of operation. An entrepreneur only has to fill out a few documents to start a business and the entire licensure process takes only three days. On an individual level, filling for taxes can be accomplished in as little as 10 minutes and fascinatingly enough, their Internal Revenue Service, the Internal Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) is a highly respected organization and revered for the efficiencies created to minimize the taxation burden on the Singapore citizenry and business community.
No doubt I could carry on about the ‘Efficiencies’ of conducting business in Singapore but proof is on display right in plain view. The staggering number multinational corporations, manufacturing facilities and R&D shops conducting business in Singapore are evident as soon as you arrive in Singapore. And to this point, it is not cheap to do business in Singapore but companies are not deterred because of the high cost. Flextronics noted that they capitalize on internal and external efficiencies in order to create competitive advantage in this “high cost region”. Obviously, businesses that have settled on Singapore’s high dollar shores are rewarded with efficiencies so numerous and great that the increased cost of conducting business in this high dollar region are more than offset by the efficiencies engineered within the pro-business Singapore landscape.
The 2012 GMU Master of Science in Technology Management cohort was treated to a wonderful display of pro-business policies at work. With laser focus, the Singaporean pro-business government will continue Singapore’s reputation as THE place to conduct business in the Asian Pacific region and remain one of the top 5 places to conduct business worldwide.