Why Singapore is the easiest city in the world to do business

For a decade, one city has been at the top of the World Bank's list as the easiest place on the planet to do business.

Singapore is a virtual no-brainer for many logistical reasons, but according to the World Bank's report, it has the most business-friendly regulations. Commercial disputes are resolved in just 150 days; there is a streamlined method of starting a business; and it has a superior credit information system.

Australian Guy Venable ran a production company exporting creative talent to Singapore for more than a decade and says the island nation is a logical first step to expanding out of Australia. "It's a soft place to land, because of its East/West culture and well-structured business-friendly environment. We saw it as a stepping stone to Hong Kong and then to Shanghai," he says.

'A soft place to land'

But beyond friendly regulations, efficient public servants, and proximity to the rest of Asia, is there something else that makes Singapore so conducive to conducting business? 51698009 took a trip to the 'Lion City' recently to find out what makes it tick.

From the moment you step off the plane you know Singapore has got something special going for it. Changi International Airport was recently voted the World's Best Airport by travellers at the 2016 World Airport Awards – the fourth year in a row, and sixth time in a decade. Not surprisingly, Changi International also won Best Airport in Asia and Best Airport for Leisure Amenities.

Those amenities include cinemas, music bars, swimming pools, rest and napping zones, and free-sightseeing tours. Business passengers are well catered for with a variety of dedicated lounges to choose from. The Ambassador Transit Lounge offers a range of business services such as printing, workstation rentals, gym, showers, massage services, and a private napping suite.

Directly linked to the airport via a covered link-bridge in Terminal 3 is the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport. Voted the Best Airport Hotel in the World for the second consecutive year, it's a cut above the run-of-the-mill airport hotel.

From the laser-cut metal façade with its subtle frangipani motif, to the incredible swimming pool with its Tetris of palm tree planters, it's more like a tropical resort than a hotel that stands 100 metres off one of the world's busiest runways.

The cutting-edge design was by the multi-award winning WOHA studio and each of the 320 rooms are quiet enough that you forget that there are A380s flying over your head.

Advertisement

The journey into the city itself from the airport hotel is an easy 30 minutes by train, taxi or - if you're important enough - limousine.

Expat friendly

Arriving in the city we head straight to ANZA - the Australia and New Zealand Association, a club established in Singapore in 1961 to provide friendship and support for Antipodean expats. Nowadays there are more than 7000 members who enjoy everything from morning teas to whisky tastings and dinner parties. Networking over a gin and tonic is a major drawcard of membership.

At ANZA we meet up with Ryan O'Neill, a Sydneysider who in 2014 established a Singapore branch of International Cycling Executives (ICE), the network he established in Australia for high-level CEOs with a shared love of cycling. "The process of setting up ICE was simple for us because there are really clear regulations that we fitted into as a business supplying a service in Singapore," he says.

O'Neill contends that Singapore has made a real effort to support businesses of all sizes, from a chartered bank relocating with tens of thousands of staff, to small tech start-ups. Once set up, businesses have a strong foundation for growth that is well supported by the government. "That level of support simply doesn't happen to the same extent in Australia," he says.

He believes a lot of the governmental efficiency lies in the fact Singapore public servants are highly paid, which attracts the best people. "Many of Singapore's public servants are incredibly entrepreneurial and so it creates a reverse engineered way to do business," O'Neill says.

He hopes a shared interest in cycling will help ICE to bring together two sides of the Singapore business community: expats using Singapore as a launch pad into the rest of Asia, and Singapore nationals who do business in Singapore. "These are two very distinct business communities that don't usually mix," O'Neill says.

Launch pad into Asia

Our next destination is the InterContinental Singapore, one of the most popular hotels for business travellers and a winner of the World Travel Awards as Singapore's Leading Meetings and Conference Hotel.

The hotel has recently undergone a multimillion dollar upgrade that includes a swanky lobby lounge, new guestrooms and suites, and a fine European dining restaurant called Ash & Elm. At the InterContinental we meet with hotel manager Bruno Fallegger.

Fallegger has worked in both Sydney and Singapore and says the differences, when it comes to conducting business, are stark.

"Everything in Singapore is very well organised and structured, we call it 'the Switzerland of Asia', whereas in Australia there's a little bit more liberty. That can be a good or bad thing, depending how you look at it," he says.

"Also, Singapore is a great city in which to test new concepts and ideas for the rest of Asia. If you do that in Australia, you never really know how the market outside of Australia will respond."

He says when it comes to the hospitality industries or event management, Singaporeans see their role as part of a long-term career, and so do a better job.

"In Australia such jobs are seen as simply a platform to make money and after six months the employees leave and find something else. You will never get the same level of service in Sydney or Melbourne as you get in Singapore and business travellers appreciate this."

The writer travelled and stayed as a guest of IHG.