A City Of Possibilities
By Colin Lim

Singapore is a cosmopolitan city that offers global talents a high quality of life and endless career opportunities.

Drawing talent
A small country with no natural resources, Singapore has always known the importance of investing in human capital. Providing quality education for all has been one strategy, as can be seen from how Singapore is an increasingly popular study destination for international students. Today, other than the four local universities that boast a diverse mix of local and foreign students, there are eight international universities established in Singapore, as part of the Economic Development Board's Global Schoolhouse programme. Including the Chicago Graduate School of Business, DigiPen Institute of Technology and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, these institutions provide a wide range of high-quality programmes at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Singapore has also been consistently acknowledged as a global business hub. Factors contributing to this include developed infrastructure, political stability, open business policies, a skilled workforce, the use of English as the main working language and respect for intellectual property rights. According to Doing Business 2009 (an annual report by the World Bank Group which compares business regulations in 181 countries), Singapore ranks first for its ease of doing business, and has clinched this top spot for three consecutive years. The 2008-2009 Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum has also named Singapore the most competitive economy in Asia.

To date, more than 7,000 multinational companies have set up base in Singapore, next to 100,000 small and medium enterprises. Business-owners all over the world regard Singapore as an ideal location to grow their businesses, with many of them using the country as a springboard to tap on other emerging markets in Asia.

Naturally, employment opportunities in Singapore have grown exponentially for global citizens, as the country has always opened its doors to foreign talent who are highly sought-after across all industries. Current growth sectors include biomedical sciences, banking and financial services, tourism and hospitality, construction and interactive digital media, to name a few.

Foreign talents account for about 30% of the workforce, attracted by open recruitment policies, low personal taxation, a meritocratic society which embraces diversity, and last but not least, a high quality of life in Singapore's cosmopolitan environment. These have been proven by the Worldwide Quality of Living Index 2007 (by Mercer Human Resource Consulting) which ranked Singapore as the top Asian country for its quality of life, as well as a 2007 survey by ECA International, which revealed Singapore as the best city in the world for Asian expatriates to live, work and play.

Meanwhile, to effectively compete with emerging markets, Singapore has developed its R&D capabilities in both public and private sectors, in line with the nation's Science & Technology Plan 2010 (S&T Plan 2010). Launched in 2006, S&T Plan 2010 has allocated more than S$12 billion of public funding to support R&D programmes, and aims to boost Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD) to 3% of the nation's Gross Domestic Product, Singapore is well on her way towards achieving that aim. In 2007, the nation's GERD was 2.61% (S$6.3 billion), up from 2.39% in 2006, and a stark contrast to 0.85% in 1990.

Creating a buzz
However, Singapore is not resting on her laurels. Numerous new developments are creating an exciting buzz that point towards an even more vibrant economy to come. Two new integrated resorts at Marina Bay and Sentosa, poised to be Singapore's biggest tourist attractions, are slated for completion in end-2009. Preparations for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games 2010 are also underway, as Singapore gears up for playing host to the event. These, coupled with Singapore's success in hosting the first-ever FORMULA 1™ city night race in September last year, will continue to establish Singapore's presence in the global arena, while creating more jobs for locals and foreign talent alike.

The 2008 Master Plan unveiled by the Urban Redevelopment Authority also signals numerous upcoming changes for land use here, geared towards making Singapore an even better place for work and recreation. For instance, under the Leisure Plan, 900ha of new park space and 260km of park connectors will be added in the next 10 to 15 years. There will also be new facilities such as a Sports Hub at Kallang, an Olympic-sized ice skating rink in Jurong and a motor-racing circuit in Changi.

The expected increase in visitor arrivals has also paved the way for the planning of a fourth terminal at Changi Airport, announced just two months after Terminal 3 opened its doors in January 2008. The Budget Terminal will also undergo a S$10 million expansion to increase its handling capacity, and is currently looking into "going green" by including solar panels (that convert direct sunlight to electricity) into its current infrastructure. To cope with the growing population, construction is also underway to improve the public transport service by adding new Mass Rapid Transit lines, with several new stations slated to officially open this year.

Opportunities abound
Whether you are a Singaporean currently working abroad or a foreigner who has never been to Singapore, you will be amazed by the rapid progress and growth potential here. Recognising the need to balance work and play, the government has taken efforts to transform the island state into a dynamic and modern city. Believe it or not, the nightlife in Singapore frequently tops global polls, while qualities that have propelled Singapore to where it is today remain, such as a safe, clean environment and a multi-racial population that lives in harmony.

Globalisation and the knowledge economy have led to a single worldwide market for talent. But not every country can provide the abundance of opportunities and cosmopolitan environment that Singapore offers. Since her independence, Singapore has overcome the odds to become one of Asia's most advanced economies. Numerous talents and entrepreneurs have already arrived in Singapore to live and work, while limitless possibilities await global citizens who are keen to apply their skills and knowledge to the opportunities available here.