Economic and Political Overview

flag Singapore Singapore: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Outline | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response

 

Economic Outline

Economic Overview

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

Singapore's economy is characterised by excellent finances and a high degree of openness, with the country being highly dependent on international trade. However, GDP only grew 1.3% in 2019, the worst the slowdown in 10 years at the time, mainly due to the trade war between the US and China and to a cyclical global downturn in the electronic sector. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country registered a negative GDP growth of -5.4% in 2020 before a strong rebound at +6% in 2021. The latest IMF forecast is expecting a 3.2% rate in 2022 and 2.7% in 2023, subject to the post-pandemic global economic recovery. Growth factors include Singapore business-friendly regulatory system, 176.2% of GDP in exports and domestic demand.

The country's government balance was positive at 1.8% of GDP in 2019 but dived to -9.6% due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public spending before a come back to -2.4% in 2021. It is expected to come back to -0.3% and then -0.2% in 2022 and 2023 (IMF, October 2021). Singapore's gross debt remained high at 137.9% of GDP in 2021 and is projected to increase slightly to 139% in 2022 and 140.2% in 2023. While public debt is high, financial assets held by the country more than compensate for it.  As for the previous year, inflation is well under the 2% target fixed by the central bank. It even turned negative in 2020 (-0.2%) before reaching 1.6% in 2021. The IMF is forecasting inflation of 1.5% for 2022 and 2023. The Monetary Authority of Singapore is expected to maintain its policy in 2022. Economic challenges include slower exports due to Chinese economic slowdown, the U.S.-China trade war, decreasing global demand for electronics (19.7% of exports), a lagging construction sector, and a tight monetary policy, according to Coface.

In 2022, the country’s most immediate challenge remains related to the economic, social and public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although per capita wealth in Singapore is amongst the highest in the region, unemployment has appeared due to structural economic changes (outsourcing of low-skilled work) and the COVID-19 crisis. Singapore’s annual average unemployment rate reached 2.7% in 2021 and is expected to slightly decrease to 2.5% in 2022 and 2.4% in 2023 despite the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 (IMF, October 2021). Singapore ranked the best country in the world in human capital development in 2021 (World Bank, 2022). According to Labour Market Advance, Singapore made improvements in total employment and local employment towards the end of 2020. Singapore’s labour market will bottom out by 2022, but according to analysts, the recovery will be uneven and may widen the national income gap. Social challenges include rising income inequality and social discontent caused by overpopulation, high competition for employment and housing, lack of skilled labour, an ageing population, and distrust towards immigration.

 
Main Indicators 201920202021 (e)2022 (e)2023 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 374.39e339.98e378.65397.00418.39
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 1.3e-5.4e6.03.22.7
GDP per Capita (USD) 65,641e59,795e66,26369,12972,492
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) 1.8-9.6-2.4-0.3-0.2
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 129.0154.9137.9139.0140.2
Inflation Rate (%) 0.6-0.2e1.61.51.5
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force) 2.33.0e2.72.52.4
Current Account (billions USD) 53.4059.78e60.1262.3264.95
Current Account (in % of GDP) 14.317.6e15.915.715.5

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database, October 2021

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 

Main Sectors of Industry

Singapore's economy is based on electronics, petrochemicals, trade, finance, and business services. The agricultural sector is almost non-existent except for cultivation of orchids, vegetables and fish for aquariums. Its contribution to GDP (0%) and employment (0.7%) is negligible (World Bank, 2022), although the country intends to increase food resilience by developing a new aquaculture centre. The sector is registering regular growth rates since 2019. Singapore does not have mineral resources.

Singapore's economy is highly industrialised. The industrial sector represented 24.4% of GDP and employed 15.2% of the active population in 2021 (World Bank, 2022). Electronics and petrochemicals dominate the industry, which also includes biomedical sciences, logistics, and transport engineering (GuideMe Singapore).

The services sector contributed 70.9% of GDP and employed 84.1% of the active population in 2021 (World Bank, 2022). It is dominated by trade, business services, transportation, communications and financial services. As a regional commercial hub, the Port of Singapore is one of the most important in the world. It ranks second in total volume of container transshipment traffic after Hong Kong. The growth in transport and storage services, health and social services sectors did not compensate the decline in the recreation and personal services, and the education services.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a powerful impact on the global economy since 2020. Nevertheless, the global recovery continues, even if the momentum has weakened towards the end of 2021 and uncertainty has increased as the pandemic resurged, leaving lasting imprints on medium-term performance. The surge in global inflation has investors fretting about future growth, but many economists say price surges will subside, making way for 4.7% global GDP growth in 2022 (International Monetary Fund - IMF, 2022 & Morgan Stanley, 2021). The impact of the pandemic appears to have affected both sides of most sectors and markets in Singapore for the second year in a row - demand disruptions having run up against supply problems - making the short-term outlook uncertain for agriculture, industry and service sectors.

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 0.0 15.6 84.4
Value Added (in % of GDP) 0.0 24.4 70.9
Value Added (Annual % Change) -10.0 n/a -6.4

Source: World Bank, Latest available data.

 

Find more information about your business sector on our service Market Reports.

Learn more about Market Analyses about Singapore on Globaltrade.net, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Score:
89,7/100
World Rank:
1
Regional Rank:
1

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 

Business environment ranking

Definition:

The business rankings model measures the quality or attractiveness of the business environment in the 82 countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Forecast reports. It examines ten separate criteria or categories, covering the political environment, the macroeconomic environment, market opportunities, policy towards free enterprise and competition, policy towards foreign investment, foreign trade and exchange controls, taxes, financing, the labour market and infrastructure.

Score:
8.54/10
World Rank:
1/82

Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit - Business Environment Rankings 2021-2025

 

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

 

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: Mrs. Halimah Yacob (since 14 September 2017)
Prime Minister: LEE Hsien Loong (since 12 August 2004, reelected 10 July 2020) - PAP
Next Election Dates
Presidential: 2023
Parliamentary: 2025
Current Political Context
Even though it won 83 out of 95 seats, the People's Action Party (PAP), which has governed the country since independence in 1965, came out relatively weakened in the July 2020 general election, where it won 61% of the vote, down from 70% in 2015. The biggest opposition group, the Workers' Party, had its best result to date, winning 10 seats. Although he initially promised he would step down from power before he turned 70 in February 2022, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, son of founding statesman Lee Kwan Yew, has eventually said he will not resign until the economic and health crisis is resolved. The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the Singapore economy has been broad and significant since 2020, affecting different sectors of the economy to varying degrees. The country has injected an aggregated 73.7billion USD stimulus into the economy, its biggest in history. Despite social restrictions and border closures, Singapore's economy returned to growth in 2021.
Main Political Parties
Although Singapore is a multi-party nation, the centre-right People's Action Party (PAP) has dominated its legislature since 1959 and continues to hold an overwhelming majority of the single-chamber parliament.

Opposition parties are widely considered to have no real chance of gaining power. Some opposition groups include:
- Singapore Democratic Party (SDP): a liberal democratic party
- Workers' Party of Singapore (WP): centre-left, opposition party with the most seats
- Progress Singapore Party (centre-right)
Type of State
Singapore is a parliamentary representative democratic republic.
Executive Power
The President of Singapore is the head of State. The role of the President is largely ceremonial. Following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed Prime Minister by the President as head of the Government. The Prime Minister enjoys all of the executive powers, which include implementation of the law and running day-to-day affairs.
Legislative Power
The legislature is unicameral in Singapore. The Parliament consists of up to 105 seats: Ninety-three are elected by the people while up to 12 Non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMP) and up to nine Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP) may be appointed. After the 2020 general election, 93 MPs were elected and two NCMPs were appointed (or, in the terms of the Parliamentary Elections Act, declared elected) to Parliament. Parliament controls the action of the government. This depends on the support of parliament, often expressed by a vote of confidence.
 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
160/180

Source: World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders

 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Partly Free
Political Freedom:
4/7
Civil Liberties:
4/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

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COVID-19 Country Response

COVID-19 epidemic evolution
To find out about the latest status of the COVID-19 pandemic evolution and the most up-to-date statistics on the COVID-19 disease in Singapore, please visit the GOV.sg portal COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) with the official data, as well as the website of the Ministry of Health.
For the international outlook you can consult the latest situation reports published by the World Health Organisation as well as the global daily statistics on the coronavirus pandemic evolution including data on confirmed cases and deaths by country.
Sanitary measures
To find out about the latest public health situation in the Singapore and the current sanitary measures in vigour, please consult the website of the Ministry of Health, including the up-to-date information on the containment measures put in place and public health recommendations. Further updates can be found on the website of the US embassy in Singapore.
Travel restrictions
The COVID-19 situation, including the spread of new variants, evolves rapidly and differs from country to country. All travelers need to pay close attention to the conditions at their destination before traveling. Regularly updated information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related travel restrictions in place including entry regulations, flight bans, test requirements and quarantine is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
It is also highly recommended to consult COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on the daily basis by IATA.
The US government website of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention provides COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination.
The UK Foreign travel advice also provides travelling abroad advice for all countries, including the latest information on coronavirus, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.
Import & export restrictions
For the up-to-date information on all the measures applicable to movement of goods during the period of sanitary emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak (including eventual restrictions on imports and exports, if applicable), please consult the website of Singapore Customs.
For a general overview of trade restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Singapore on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
For information on the economic recovery scheme put in place by the Singaporean government to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Singapore economy, please visit the Solidarity Budget website of Budget 2020 the and the GOV.sg website COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019).
For a general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) taken by the Indonesian government to limit the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Singapore in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses

For information on the local business support scheme established by the Singaporean government to help small and medium-sized companies to deal with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic on their activity, please consult the Government Assistance page website of GoBusiness and Gov.sg’s page “Support for businesses through the circuit breaker period”. Up-to-date information is available on the website of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
For a general overview of international SME support policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak refer to the OECD's
SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of
SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.

Support plan for exporters

For the up-to-date information on possible support plans for exporters in Singapore, if applicable, please consult the the page of the Ministry of Trade and Industry's website Updates on COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) and goBusiness Covid's Supporting Our Businesses section.

 

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Latest Update: May 2022