After talking to many people in Singapore from all walks of life, my impression is that it is no longer the uplifted, high energy place it once was. In fact, many factors that are contributing to its long term well being are no longer there. Similar to Hong Kong, Singapore can no longer depend on what it built in the past to thrive in the coming decade.
Real Estate and Financial Industry
The decline in Singapore’s real estate market has been on-going since 2014. Many analysts in Singapore think that the bottom is near. Well, I am not that optimistic. From my conversations with many people who work in the financial industry there in Singapore, many firms are ending their contracts with local staff and sending their own people back to their home countries. That means one segment of high income earners in Singapore is disappearing which is the real reason why Singapore’s real estate markets are under pressure.
In other words, Singapore is facing its biggest challenge ever as its role being an important financial centre in Asia is now at risk. We cannot tell if these major financial institutions will expand their businesses there in Singapore in the near future, but usually this type of business planning is at least 5 years or longer. Hence it is reasonable to say that if, ever, these firms will be thinking of growing their businesses in Singapore, it will be at least 2 years from now. The 2 years estimate is based on the fact that these firms moved out since 2014.
As a tourist destination, Singapore is usually a one to two day tour city because of the overall size of the place. Majority of tourists who visited Singapore for leisure purpose would revisit the place for just once or twice more, unlike resort destinations where various resorts each offering a different experience where the visitors can enjoy their stay for longer time to rest and relax.
For seasoned business travellers, they have already enjoyed touring the city in the past hence they are no longer big spenders when they stay in the city. And the trend of rising prices at restaurants and shops targeting tourists and foreign business people is also a big turn off for the visitors as there are many alternative locations in Asia where they can better spend their money.
So I think it is reasonable to say that it can be difficult for Singapore to grow its tourist industry into something more significant for its economy.
For many years, Singapore has been very focus in ensuing their citizens being better educated to deal with the industrial world back in the last century. However, since the beginning of this century, the internet has completely upset the balance of the world economy. This wave of technology shock has affected economy worldwide. One thing that really messed up the world is that the education of people around the world were all pointing to the wrong direction since the internet revolution has started. Nothing in the education of young people are preparing them for the new economy.
This problem affects Singapore much more than the other countries in Asia. Even though in college level education, younger generations can be trained with more computer knowledge, but that implies that at least 2 generations of young workers in Singapore need training before they can be redirected into the knowledge based economy or Singapore will lose all the advantage they used to have against the rest of the countries in Asia.
More importantly, the education up to high school level has to put a lot more emphasis on computer skills which was never the focus. Without reform, the education system will continue to produce workers without the skill sets necessary to thrive in the new economy era. This is no difference from other high tech places like Hong Kong, Korea or Japan. Just that Singapore economy has always been driven by one or two main industries while other Asian countries have better diversifications. Thus, being able to stay at the forefront of knowledge based economy is more important for Singapore than other places.
Tough Time Ahead
In this modern time, as people demand more and more from their government while in reality the government is really nothing more than a construct to manage a place, Singapore is really dealing with a serious identity crisis at this point. Singapore, being a special sovereign entity situated at the centre of South East Asia, has enjoyed great economic growth and endured tough times while bouncing back gracefully every time.
Yet, as the world is entering this crossroad all together this time around, Singapore is facing a very tough time ahead as its government leading approach to its society and economy is facing its biggest challenge ever. To thrive into the future, Singapore has to figure out not only what lies ahead but also resolutions that has to be put in place as soon as possible before the tides turning.
Feature Photo: Singapore Changi Airport