Capital City: Singapore
Climate: Tropical Rainforest
Language: English, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil
International Dialing Code: +65
Premier: Halimah Yacob
Originally known as Temasek, modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. Raffles was a Lieutenant Governor in the British Navy who saw the strategic importance Singapore would have in the expanding British Empire. Singapore secured Britain a direct trade route between China and India and allowed the British to rival the previously dominant Dutch in the area.
Trade grew rapidly in the area and during World War II the Imperial Japanese Army made Singapore a key target. The Japanese attacked, and held, Singapore until the end of the war. Although the country was returned to the British, war had ignited anti-colonial feeling and in 1956, autonomous Singapore held its first independent general elections.
Singapore experienced continued growth from the 1960’s until the year 2000. During this time it went from a developing nation to First World. Singapore is known to be the most business-friendly countries in the world. Taxes are low for businesses and Singapore has strong relations with China and the U.S. The main drivers of the economy are financial services, manufacturing and logistics.
Singapore is a forward looking country. The emergence of rival financial centers like Abu Dhabi are eroding Singapore’s dominance in the world’s financial markets. Singapore’s reaction to this and is transforming the country into a hub for fintech (financial technology). Extra funding has been made available for fintech startups, while blockchain and other technologies are also being promoted.
Singapore has four official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. The population is drawn from across the world although the major groups are Chinese, Malays and Indians. It is estimated that over a quarter of the population are non-native.
All the major religions are represented in Singapore, and the country has been very successful in promoting religious harmony. The Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple, is used by three different religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism. All the big religious festivals being given as public holidays, which has also contributed to the tolerance of different religions. Another nice perk is that if a public holiday falls on a Saturday, workers get the following Monday off work.
Singapore is one of the food capitals of the world. There are many excellent restaruants, but the street food stalls are where you can get a taste of authentic Singapore. Prices are low and you will expect to pay between US$3 to US$5. The most famous dish is chicken rice which consists of a boiled chicken, rice cooked in chicken broth and a chili sauce which is infused with chicken. Although it may sound slightly bland, it is a highly regarded dish and full of flavor. One street food stall ended up with a prestigious Michelin star for its chicken rice.
Singapore has a high population density and space on the roads is at a premium. As a result the government puts a high tariff on car ownership to discourage drivers. Fortunately, Singapore has an excellent public transport system. The subway carries over 3 million passengers each and are the fastest way to get around Singapore. More money is being spent to improve the rail network with major upgrades being readied for 2030. As in most countries, Uber and taxis are available, but are more expensive than you would usually pay.
Singapore has a thriving expat community from all over the world. The expat community is active here, with lots of activities and meetings throughout the year. Same sex relationships are illegal in Singapore.
Singapore is one of the most expensive places to live anywhere in the world. Apart from the excellent, and cheap, street food, everything here costs more. Part of the reason for this is the high number of millionaires. Amazingly, it is estimated that one in 30 Singaporeans will be a millionaire by 2020.
Everything from the weekly shop, to the gym will cost more in Singapore. A gym membership will set you back around $100 per month. Most of the produce for sale is imported which also puts a burden on your weekly shop prices. Expect to pay at least 25% more than you would at home.
Given the lack of space in Singapore, real estate costs are fairly high although the government has worked hard to avoid a property bubble. Most expats choose to rent condominiums in Singapore. These span all price ranges and usually come with facilities such as a gym, pool and 24 hour security. More affluent expats live in bungalows which are quite rare and surprisingly expensive. Black and whites, built for British officers during the British occupation, are some of the most exclusive of all houses. Generally coming with large gardens they provide a quieter life surrounded by jungle. The downside to this is that jungle animals including, snakes, monkeys and termites are a regular occurrence, something which is not to everybody’s taste.
Finding work in Singapore is not easy if you are a foreigner. Unskilled labor comes exclusively from neighboring countries. You will need to be a skilled professional to get work here if you are from a western country. An Employment Pass (EP) allows foreign professionals to work in Singapore for up to three years. To qualify you must receive a monthly salary of at least S$3,600. Most foreigners who work in Singapore get transferred out here by their company although sharing your resume with headhunting companies in Singapore is also an option.
The taxes for citizens are generous and consists of 10 brackets which peak at 22% tax for people earning more than S$320,000 per year. Tax residents need to spend at least half the year in Singapore and be employed for the full year. Another perk is that income earned outside Singapore is tax exempt.
Singapore has some of the world’s best health care and both in the private and public sectors. This is funded by a national insurance tax, paid by all Singaporeans. The public hospitals are modern and able to handle even complicated procedures.
Despite the high standard of public health care, private hospitals are also popular in Singapore. The main benefit of using private health care is the level of service and the speed you can see a doctor. Although facilities in government hospitals are more than fine, the excellent standard in private is another reason most medical tourists choose to go private.
Private health insurance ranges from S$75 per month to S$400 per month depending on factors such as age, and any previous conditions. Although cheaper healthcare is available throughout Asia, compared with the U.S. prices are a bargain.
Singapore has a tropical climate, with warm temperatures and high humidity all year. It rains most days so carrying an umbrella is essential. The wet season in Singapore is in December and January and during these months you can expect heavy rainfall every day. The best month to visit is February, when there is the least amount of rain. February also benefits from a cooling breeze, which is absent for much of the year.
Why Singapore Is (Nearly) A Perfect Retirement Choice "Singapore is the most developed country in Southeast Asia," writes Asia Correspondent...Read more
Panama City will be the next Singapore… I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that prediction—from Panama property developers, real estate agents, investment advisors, and market pundits—over the years I’ve been doing business in this country. Back now in Panama City after a week in Singapore, I can tell you that Panama City is not Singapore. The infrastructure and levels of quality, service, and overall experience don’t compare. But you’ve got to put any comparison between these two...Read more