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Company SpecificsFounded: 1837 (SICC is the oldest chamber of commerce in Asia)
Headquarters: 6 Raffles Quay #10-01 Singapore 048580
Structure: SICC members come from both within and outside of Singapore, with 40+ nationalities which represent both multinational and locally-owned businesses. The membership by country is primarily Singaporean (39%), American (14%), Japanese (7%) and British (7%).
Service: The SICC has two major functions:
- Be a respected voice of the private sector
- Be a source of assistance and information
In addition, the Chamber has the following (partial) list of duties:
- Protect and advocate the business interests of our members.
- Create stimulating opportunities for members to exchange views on issues of interest and importance to their business operations and strategy.
- Promote constant dialogue with the Singapore Government so that members’ views may be incorporated in any decision-making process.
- Build relationships with other international trade organizations.
- Provide up-to-date business intelligence and information.
- Provide trade and investment advice to locals and overseas visitors.
Members: Development Bank of Singapore Ltd, Keppel Corporation Ltd, PSA Corporation Ltd, Singapore Power Ltd, Singapore Telecommunications Limited, Singapore Technologies Limited, Singapore Airlines Ltd, Temasek Holdings Ltd., and more
HostsMr. Phillip Overmyer, Chief Executive, Singapore International Chamber of Commerce
Ms. Nancy Teo, Senior Manager, Corporate Services
OverviewUpon our arrival at the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce headquarters, Ms. Teo escorted us to a conference room for a lunch meeting with Mr. Overmyer. He discussed the history of Singapore as well as relevant issues that the country is now facing; the presentation was followed by a Q&A session.
Key TakeawaysSingapore has become a major global player by the government planning out Singapore’s growth
Singapore is a highly developed country with very low corruption, a free market economy, and a per capita GDP of $49,900. This is equal to the per capita GDP of four of the largest West European countries (and higher than the US per capita GDP of $45,800).* Singapore has evolved from a manufacturing economy producing low value-add products like toys and garments to a knowledge-based economy attracting major players in sectors such as solar panels, high-end pharmaceuticals and biotech.
Throughout Singapore’s history the government has carefully guided the economy’s growth by providing necessary incentives, tools, and infrastructure to develop the desired industries. The Singaporean government guided the country up the value chain from a manufacturing to knowledge-based economy by persuading the best companies and minds to move to Singapore.
*Source: The World Factbook website
Singapore operates like a world class business
The Singaporean government views itself as a first-rate business and acts accordingly. The Prime Minister acts like the CEO of the country, with the government structured as business units. The focus is on how to continue to grow the economy, and the real GDP growth of 7.7%,* suggests this approach to be working. The government recruits and retains the smartest, the brightest…the best. This highly selective recruitment process also promotes faith that the growth of the economy has been entrusted to the best Singaporeans and that faith likely pays dividends in obtaining citizen cooperation with the government’s plans.
*Source: The World Factbook website
Singapore subscribes to the theory "make them come to you"
Early in its history, before its current prosperity, Singapore was just Malaysia's castoff, with few political alliances and natural resources. From that inauspicious beginning, Singapore has emerged as one of the foremost powerhouse economies in the world. By providing for companies’ every want, Singapore forced others to seek it out rather than vice versa. The government had a clear growth plan for Singapore’s economy; by reasoning backwards from the end goal, Singapore was able to design the necessary incentives to lure businesses to the island.
The Singaporean government provided companies with the complete package: the government would train the local workforce, build roads, factories and other necessary infrastructure, and provide a safe, familiar business environment. Singapore has attracted top talent from across the globe, including Professor Ian Wilmut, the Scottish scientist best known for cloning Dolly the lamb. A nice place to live that is still at the heart of everything – what could top that? Judging by the prominence and high number of its expatriates (1/4th of the population), not much!
Singapore may have built an unsustainable model
In the span of one lifetime, Singapore has reinvented itself numerous times and while the economy continues to grow, the nature of the jobs has changed significantly. Singapore now faces the challenge of moving the workforce up the value chain, requiring many to retool their skill sets rapidly.
Many of the workers from Singapore’s era as a low-value-add manufacturing economy must adapt as the country moves to a knowledge-based economy. At the same time, the tourism sector is being cultivated and is one of the country’s fastest growing sectors. The growing of labor-intensive sectors like tourism has proven challenging as well. While many of the older generation would be qualified to perform activities such as cleaning hotel rooms, many children insist that their parents should not take those menial jobs. In addition, the birth rate of 1.2 children per woman means the population is aging at a rapid pace. The influx of low-wage expatriates needed to fill the hotel and construction jobs creates a need for low-cost housing, and the resulting public dormitories have brought some complaints from the citizens living nearby.
The Singaporean government is working to extend the economic growth, but faces numerous challenges in matching the skill set of the local population to the best opportunities, the low birth rates of its residents, and the increasing reliance on migrant workers for low-end jobs.
Posted by A. Shyr
We settled in to await the SICC presentation.
Professors Toppel and Tsay introduced our hosts.
We posed for one last picture before departing.