April 21, 2014 | Valerie Wong
As a foreigner, when it comes to setting up businesses and investments in Singapore, it's important to remember to respect the Singaporean culture. Just as you'd never do anything that would also raise the ire of the "Liberal Left" (like insinuate any racism or sexism), neither should you do anything disrespectful to the Chinese, Indian, British, and Malay melting pot of cultures that is Singapore. It's a country full of immigrant history, which should be good news to foreigners interested in investing there. Some other ASEAN countries are hard to adapt to because of how foreign the culture is to, say, Westerners. Thanks to Singapore's immigrant legacy, non-Singaporeans have an easier time acclimatizing themselves to the country.
Meritocracy, Religious Harmony, and Singaporean Investment
Singapore is first and foremost a meritocracy, which means regardless of one's background, social standing, economic standing, religion, and race they all have the equal opportunity to develop their skills to the fullest potential. Everyone has the right to education, which gives them the skills needed to support themselves and others. This is perfect for a multicultural, multilingual society where east meets west. On that note, Singapore is also all about social and religious harmony in that Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism could coexist in the nation. Everyone respects each other's beliefs, as emphasized by the Singaporean government. Now, what does this have to do with Singapore investments?
Everything, actually. In light of a diverse melting pot of a culture, investors have many different demographics to choose from, whether they're conservative or liberal in their leanings. Western and eastern ideologies all coexist in Singapore, so a mixture of both when creating businesses or investing in certain companies is a must. With that said, there are also downsides to such an equal government. SOPs are needed to be observed when building a business in Singapore, such as getting a Singaporean VISA, clearance from the local government you'll be settling down in as a foreign company owner or even an expatriate representing a company, and so forth.
The Best and Easiest Method of Investing in a Meritocracy
The best type of investment with the least amount of trouble (in other words, the path of least resistance) as far as Singapore is concerned is investing in exchange-traded funds or ETFs. "What are ETFs?" you may ask. It's simple. These funds are profitable investments best used in Singapore that provide exposure that's diversified into a U.S.-traded currency. The net asset value of some of the more popular Singaporean ETFs like EWS or iShares MSCI Singapore Index Fund can go up to more than $1.5 billion. Because Singapore is mostly a trade destination, ETF is heavily weighed by local financial and industrial companies.
Thanks to the overweight position of Singaporean ETFs, investing in it includes several risks that include strains in the financial system. The largest holdings in Singapore that you can invest in as a foreign investor include Singapore Telecom Ltd., which has a 10.57% share, DBS Group Holdings Ltd., which has a 10.3% share, and United Overseas Bank Ltd., which has a 9.93% share. If you want to go the old-fashioned route of investment, you can start by getting a Singaporean middleman, liaison, or partner to establish a company that's either Internet-based or within the fields of textile, hotels, and restaurants.
If you want to establish a Singaporean business startup, you can always rely on Servcorp to help. The firm has quality corporate registration and virtual office solutions that will give you everything you need to establish yourself in Singapore.