singapore, business, manufacturing

The Malaysian island of Singapore was originally known as Temasek (“Sea Town”) after the first settlers found it in AD 1298-1299. The small island would later be given a new name by a prince from Palembang, the capital of Srivijaya, naming it Singapura (“The Lion City”), from the Sanskrit words “simha” (lion) and “pura” (city). Strategically located at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapura flourished as a key trading post for many years.

In 1819, the British East India Company established a trading settlement on the island, which set modern Singapore into motion. In 1963, Singapore joined the Malaysian federation but became independent two years later. Singapore is one of the most prosperous countries in the world with its strong international trading links and busy ports. Located in southeastern Asia between Malaysia and Indonesia, Singapore is made up of a series of islands. Singapore’s landmass is only 719 sq. km, making it one of the smallest countries in the world. Singapore is about three and a half times the size of Washington D.C. in the United States.

Manufacturing in Singapore

Singapore had a $528.1 billion GDP in 2017, giving it the seventh highest per capita rate in the world. Industry makes up 24.8% of the total GDP. Typical manufactured products include electronics, chemicals, oil drilling equipment, petroleum refining, biomedical products, scientific instruments, telecommunications equipment, processed food and beverages, ship repair and offshore platform construction.

Industrial production is growing at about 5.7% annually as of 2017. Singapore has attracted major investments in advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, medical technology and pharmaceutical production.

Other Important Industries

Financial services and entrepot trade (duty-free re-exports) are mainstays of the economy in Singapore. Singapore is ranked as the third most competitive financial services sector in the world, behind only London and New York. Singapore is also an oil trading hub for Asia. Tourism and medical tourism are important sectors as well, with more than 800,000 people traveling to Singapore for health care each year.

Only about .7% of the workforce is involved in agriculture, and agriculture’s share of the economy is so small it doesn’t even show up in Singapore’s GDP. However, Singapore does produce poultry, eggs, food fish, ornamental fish and orchids.

Supply Chain Infrastructure for Manufacturing

Singapore’s transportation and communication infrastructure are both strong, making Singapore one of the easiest countries in the world to deal with when it comes to moving goods. Singapore is the first “Smart Nation” to implement a sensor network to manage essential services such as applying for permits, monitoring security and managing traffic. The Smart Nation initiative is also about achieving efficiency and effectiveness for enterprises.

The efficient and streamlined processes and excellent seaport mean that imports and exports can be managed smoothly, helping to ensure on-time deliveries at a low cost.


Singapore has nine airports with paved runways and moved 6,154,365,275 mt-km of freight on registered air carriers as of 2017. As an island nation, air transport of goods is nearly as important as water transport, and Singapore rises to the challenge.

Singapore is currently the world’s largest transhipment hub as well as the world’s top bunkering port, despite producing none of its own oil. The country’s merchant marine consists of more than 3,400 vessels, the eighth largest fleet in the world.

A lack of rail transport is due mostly to the size of the island, making rail freight irrelevant. However, Singapore still utilizes an extensive Mass Rapid Transport System for commuters, which is mostly underground.


Singapore’s workforce of 3.657 million people is technologically skilled and well-educated, but aging. As a result, Singapore has had to rely on other foreign nationals to round out its workforce. Slightly over 25% of the workforce is devoted to industry and 73.7% is employed by the services sector. Unemployment is low at 2.2% and inflation is at 0.6%.

More than 97% of the population is literate, and most people can expect to spend 16 years in school. Much of the population is bi-lingual, fluent in more than one of the official languages, which include English, Malay, Tamil, Mandarin or other Chinese dialects.


Singapore has an open and corruption-free government, with stable prices, low unemployment, good wages, and a per capita GDP that ranks high among developed countries. Singapore is a member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the ASEAN Economic Community.

In 2017, Singapore exported $396.8 billion worth of goods to countries including China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the US, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. The primary commodities included machinery and equipment, electronics and telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, refined petroleum products, and food and beverages.

Imports in 2017 totaled $312.1 billion of machinery and equipment, mineral fuel, chemicals, food and consumer goods. Import partners were China, Malaysia, the US, Japan and South Korea.

Political Landscape

Singapore’s government is stable, but both Singapore and Malaysia engage in frequent disputes over territory, airspace and the price of fresh water.

Tax Rules

The World Bank ranks Singapore as the easiest country to do business within East Asia and the Pacific, and number two in the world. The total tax and contribution rate is 21% of profit, with the largest portion of that number allocated to labor and contribution taxes at 17.8 %. Taxes are simpler to calculate than in many other countries, requiring only 64 hours per year on average. The low tax rates make Singapore an enticing location to start a manufacturing business.

It’s relatively easy to start a business in Singapore, requiring only two procedures and about one and a half days.

Getting Down to Business

Doing business in Singapore has many advantages and only a few challenges. QAD Internationalization enables companies to identify and overcome the challenges associated with taxes, regulations and globalization in countries like Singapore. QAD Adaptive ERP can help your Singapore business adapt to changes as conditions or requirements change, and it has solutions focused on both High Tech and Life Sciences businesses, two important segments in Singapore manufacturing.

How would you describe the state of Manufacturing in Singapore? Learn more about manufacturing and doing business in other great countries around the world.