2023: Doing Business In Singapore

Published on Dec 17, 2023

Doing Business In Singapore

1. What is the current business climate in your jurisdiction including major political, economic and/or legal activities on the horizon in your country that could have a big impact on businesses?

Post COVID-19, the Singapore economy continues to be resilient, with a projected GDP growth of 0.5 to 1.5 percent in 2023, according to MTI Narrows Singapore's GDP Growth Forecast. This is in spite of the economic spillovers arising from geopolitical tensions that weigh on global trade. To help businesses transition to a post-pandemic world and to buffer against elevated inflation and heightened uncertainties, the Singapore Government has implemented a variety of forward-looking policy measures and schemes in its commitment to creating a pro-business environment. Apart from maintaining an overall investor-friendly tax regime, certain economic and manpower policies have been put in place, which include SGD 4 billion to support business growth and upskilling, and SGD 200 million to support businesses in building digital capabilities; grants are also available to support training and to fund research and innovation alongside tax incentives for qualifying expansionary economic activities (learn more). Of particular significance is Singapore's focus on sustainability and the launch of the Singapore Green Plan 2030. Unveiled in 2021, it is a whole-of-nation movement to advance Singapore's sustainable development and to encourage businesses to incorporate de-carbonization and climate risks into their work plans. The start of significant rises in carbon taxes over the next few years will also likely have an impact on businesses as Singapore aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

2. From what countries do you see the most inbound investment? What about outbound?

Inbound: The United States was Singapore's top source economy in 2022, followed by Japan, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Mainland China, according to the Singapore Department of Statistics.

Outbound: Mainland China was Singapore's top investment economy as of the end of 2021, followed by the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and India (Singapore Department of Statistics).

3. In what industries/sectors are you seeing the most opportunity for foreign investment?

While finance and insurance, wholesale and retail trade, and manufacturing were the top three industries for foreign direct investment in Singapore (Singapore Department of Statistics), opportunities in the technology, FinTech, and innovation sectors are also noteworthy—in addition to strategic initiatives aimed at transforming Singapore's digital economy, the Singapore government is taking a sandbox approach to allow innovators, universities and companies to work together and develop and trial new products and ideas for the region and beyond.

4. What advantages and pitfalls should others know about doing business in your country?

Progressively higher indirect taxes and levies imposed on luxury goods consumers over the next few years will factor among global talents alongside the high cost of living and persistent inflation. Nevertheless, the advantages of having a safe and stable environment to bring their business and family to Singapore may mitigate these tax increases. Such advantages include:

  • political stability;
  • low crime rate;
  • business-friendly regulatory environment;
  • transparent tax regime;
  • excellent infrastructure and connectivity;
  • robust IP protection;
  • strong trade links to ASEAN and the Greater China Region (member of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with the other ASEAN members, plus Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand; and
  • strong government commitment to climate action and sustainable development in sync with international efforts and the global sustainability agenda.

Further business efficiencies are anticipated as the local AI startup ecosystem will also see greater support following the launch of the Artificial Intelligence Government Cloud Cluster (AGCC) in 2023. The AGCC is a platform designed to accelerate AI adoption in Singapore's public sector and the development of modern digital applications.

5. What is one cultural fact or custom about your country that others should know when doing business there?

Singapore is an ethnically diverse, multicultural society where English is widely used as the common language of communication. The business culture is based on a strong work ethic with an emphasis on mutual trust and respect as being the foundation of professional relationships.

Our Firm

1. What distinguishes your firm from others in your market?

Our twin strengths in being a market leader in both corporate and transactional as well as disputes work is unique in the market and sets us apart from others. As the youngest of the top Singapore law firms, WongPartnership is today a highly ranked, dynamic, and driven firm with excellence underpinning all our endeavors. We work collaboratively across teams with the common goal of serving our clients beyond expectations.

Above all, we are a people-centric firm. We owe our success to our people and our clients. Our people are our most valuable asset, and this commitment to our people has guided and shaped our motivations over the years. This people-centric philosophy extends to our clients, for whom our best is always what they can expect.

This is why we are a cut above the rest.

2. What are three words that describe the culture of your firm?

Excellence. Collaboration. Innovation.

3. How does your firm participate in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and/or Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives?

In line with our core value of giving back, our lawyers have been volunteering at legal clinics with the Singapore Law Society (SLS) for over 10 years. They are also encouraged to take on pro bono cases and organize and participate in CSR activities such as packing food for the needy and volunteering as role models to troubled youths. We are proud to have received the Gold Award from the Community Chest of Singapore in 2020 for our contributions. Our Firm strives to provide a nurturing workplace, evident from our commitment to SLS's Law Firm Pledge on Preventing Bullying and Harassment in Singapore's Legal Profession. We are also recognized for our progressive work environment, having bagged the “Singapore Firm of the Year” Award more than 10 times at the Euromoney Women in Business Law Awards. As a member of the United Nations Global Compact since 2022, WongPartnership has also progressed on the sustainability front through the adoption of firmwide green initiatives and investing in capacity building for lawyers.

4. Are there any new and exciting initiatives, practice areas or industry focuses in your firm?

WongPartnership celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2022 and was delighted to raise over SGD 388,000 for charities. Community and employee engagement and sustainability will continue to be a key focus on the ESG front. As part of our green efforts, we launched a firmwide initiative in 2023 to cultivate climate champions where every individual is empowered to reduce their carbon footprint and create more sustainable journeys through a "green" application. On the people engagement front, we were delighted that our people-centered programs won us the recognition of the top firm in Asia-Pacific in "innovation in training & development" at the 2023 FT Innovative Awards. We will continue to develop more learning journeys that inspire and engage our people.

On the practice front, we continue to take on the majority of the large public mandates spanning significant cross-border mergers and acquisitions, high-profile investments and start-up-related work, green and sustainable finance work, and large cryptocurrency regulatory and dispute matters, amongst others.