Chris Reed
May 8, 2012

Asia's most competitive city is Singapore - can it remain at the top?

Singapore recently emerged as Asia’s most competitive city and third most competitive world wide in a recent Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) survey. Singapore was just behind New York and London ...

Asia's most competitive city is Singapore - can it remain at the top?

Singapore recently emerged as Asia’s most competitive city and third most competitive world wide in a recent Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) survey. Singapore was just behind New York and London in the survey.

Yet Singapore is the upstart in the Asian region and leads where other mightier and much larger countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam try and follow.

The question now is how can they keep growing and keep that competitive edge?

Whether Singapore as a developed country can keep pace with developing countries and their double digit growth is one question.  Cities growing at rapid pace on the heels of Singapore include Abu Dhabi in the UEA, Bandung and Surabaya in Indonesia, Pune in India, Hanoi in Vietnam and Dalian, Hangzhou and Qingdao in China.

The other factors are the non-economic factors that the survey from the same people who run The Economist magazine fascinatingly

revealed.  Singapore rated high in six of the eight factors: economic strength, institutional effectiveness, financial maturity, global appeal, physical capital and environment and natural hazards.

Singapore fell down on grounds which everyone in government and who run companies in Singapore know about; Human capital and social and cultural character.

The ongoing debate on whether there are too many foreigners in the country is part of the first part of a lack of population growth and fostering an entrepreneurial and risk taking attitude.

Singapore has one of the lowest levels of fertility in the world and therefore to keep growing it needs more skilled talent from overseas

which the debate in Singapore is centred upon.

In many respects this is a self made problem, one of which Singaporean citizens seem reluctant to take responsibility for. At the same time they complain about too many foreigners taking jobs which either wouldn’t exist or they couldn’t fill without foreign help anyway.  Ultimately everyone benefits from a growing economy, primarily Singaporean citizens.

Creating entrepreneurial zeal and risk taking skills are not easily taught but Singapore has been investing heavily in these very areas in education but this has still not manifested itself in creating new companies and running companies in Singapore as much as they would like. Time will tell whether this factor will rise in the EIU survey.

The lowest score Singapore gained was social and cultural character where it is only 42nd in the survey. This includes controversial aspects such as freedom of expression, human rights and ethnic diversification and more culturally desirable aspects such as the quality of restaurants and the presence of international book fares.

There is an argument to say that these two factors are connected, risk taking and entrepreneurial spirit would be better accentuated

through more freedom of expression without the fear of what was said or done leading to shame on a family or worse.

Singapore’s ambition is not just to remain as one of the most competitive cities in the world but to become a thought leader in the world too.

Many have come to Singapore to learn about the amazing growth through the government’s own risks with the amazing success of the two integrated Casino resorts, the amazing Changi Airport, the ultra reliable public transport, the social housing and the openly ethnical diversity and true multiculturalism.

As the major of the top city in the EIU index, New York, Mike Bloomberg said

“Singapore has always had a desire to win, to change with the times, to be open. Singapore will have to fight every single day with rival foreign cities and that’s good. Competition is Singapore’s ray of hope, which keeps it going”.

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