By Nathan Kowalski
“Wow that cost over $20 a drink?” said a girl sitting at the table with our group.
“That’s crazy”, said another guy, peanut shells on the floor crunching beneath his feet.
“You all obviously haven’t had cocktails in Bermuda for Happy Hour,” I stated with a grin.
This is how the conversation went at the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel of Singapore where I travelled last week to attend a conference. Singapore, in fact, has a lot in common with Bermuda. It also has some aspects that Bermuda could consider as well.
Let’s briefly discuss some interesting economic aspects of Singapore and contrast them with Bermuda.
l Singapore is actually one main island with 63 other tiny islands. Bermuda actually consists of 181 islands.
l Outside of Monaco, Singapore is the most densely populated country in the world with 7,456 people per square kilometre. Bermuda’s is not so crowded. Its population density is ninth in the world at 1,212 people per square kilometre.
l Singapore’s GDP is expected to expand at a 2.7% pace for 2013. Based on our most recent estimates, we expect Bermuda’s GDP to contract slightly for 2013, falling 0.3%.
l Tourism accounted for about 4% of Singapore’s GDP in 2011. It accounted for about 5.7% to Bermuda’s GDP in 2011.
l Manufacturing represents about 20% to 30% of the economy in Singapore. In Bermuda its 1.1%
l Unemployment is only 2% in Singapore. Its roughly 7.8% in Bermuda with about 11% of the Bermudian workforce unemployed.
l 25% of Singapore’s work force consists of expatriates. 19.2% of Bermuda’s workforce is expatriates. (It was as high as 25% in 2008.)
l You can become a citizen of Singapore after being a permanent residence for two years. You can also buy citizenship via an investment of $1.5 million dollars in a government approved investment plan. There are no such plans or path to full citizenship in Bermuda at this time.
l There is military conscription in Singapore much like in Bermuda.
l Wealth is accumulating rapidly in Singapore. According to Wealth Insight, a research firm, the city state has seen assets under management surge 1120% since 2000. If wealth continues to grow at this rate Singapore will control more assets than Switzerland by the end of the decade. Bermuda’s AUM has stagnated over the last few years. Total net assets in investment funds has remained essentially static. In 2002 Q1 investment funds were $207.52 billion and by 2Q 2012 (latest stat available) investment funds totaled $184.26 billion.
l Singapore’s financial centre and banking is booming. Thanks to strong business loans, Singapore is seeing loan growth in its banking industry of 6.4%. In the latest Quarterly Banking Digest from the BMA which shows figure to the end of 2012, Bermuda loan and advance balances had fallen 4.1% year over year.
l Singapore’s debt is rated a solid AAA. The government’s foreign exchange and sovereign wealth funds represent a multiple of the country’s annual GDP. Bermuda has AA- rating on watch negative.
l Singapore runs a budget surplus. Bermuda runs a budget deficit.
l The median annual wage in Bermuda is $59,985. In Singapore it is almost identical with an average of $59,376.
l Singapore’s largest casinos, Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, currently contribute 1.5%-2% to Singapore's gross domestic product, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry. These resorts also account for 1.8% of employment in the country, according to brokerage CLSA. There are no casinos in Bermuda….yet.
Singapore has long been a magnet for the rich and multinational corporate executives. They are likely attracted to the city-state's low taxes, virtually crime-free and clean streets, pro-business policies and predictable government. Singapore has been fortunate in its ascent into the stratosphere of the world's ultra-wealthy cities in recent years due to momentous shifts in the global economies’ geographical focus, as wealth settles in Asia after more than a decade of booming emerging-market growth. It is well situated geographically and is becoming a dominant and preeminent financial hub for the fast growing Asia region. It is sling shooting itself forward as a very prosperous and connected city state.