Catching up with the Singapore lion

Source: Mr George M. Mangion¸ PKF Malta

As published on The Malta Today on Wednesday 22nd January 2013

My second visit to Singapore after a seven-year absence has left me impressed at how the small city-state with no natural resources managed to break free of the post-2008 global recession and like a lion¸ roar to success.

Comparisons with Malta stop dead when one realizes that the economic renaissance of Singapore exceeded expectations with its corruption-free administration (no juicy kickbacks at its national oil procurement agency) and its meteoric progress in all its social and economic status. Yes it is odious to compare¸ but one cannot help falling into the trap when considering how affluence has flourished at all levels of society in Singapore.

Readers may question that Malta’s own home-grown success post-2008 recession¸ when compared with other laggards in the Med¸ cannot be understated¸ as politicians remind us that the EU average jobless rate is around 11% and ours is a respectable 7%. One need not forget the added bonus of a free welfare and education system for all citizens.

Granted that our politicians have led us up the garden path¸ extolling the merits of a grand vision of a future strategy which is expected to cut annual deficits¸ repay accumulated debt¸ and see us all drive expensive imported cars and taking holidays¸ owning yachts in our over-flowing marinas. This looks like a pipe dream that has come true for the 5 million inhabitants of the tiny island of Singapore¸ which had to develop its own solutions to constraints such as land shortage and the lack of natural resources such as water.

Singapore has limited arable land and relies on the agro-technology park for agricultural production. Many of the agro-commodity players in Singapore today have also moved beyond trading functions¸ to establish significant activities along the business value chain¸ including marketing¸ trade finance¸ shipping.

It is no secret that its citizens have a high propensity for saving and investment through policies such as the Central Provident Fund¸ which is used to fund its citizens’ healthcare and retirement needs. Since the Natural Resources Strategy encompasses aquaculture¸ agriculture¸ metals and minerals¸ Singapore aims to be a nerve centre playing a part in fulfilling global demand for these resources¸ and create technologies to ensure future sustainability.

Presently¸ the growing number of international companies has generated a buzz of activity. This exploits Singapore’s ideal location in the centre of a region which is home to some of the top producers of several commodities. Hence companies in the commodities or natural resources business find it attractive to choose Singapore as the epicentre of their operations. Needless to say¸ branded as a global business city Singapore’s well-established trading infrastructure and comprehensive network of international agreements¸ backed by established financial¸ logistics and shipping industries¸ flourish thanks to the country’s low