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International Investing: Singapore

Economic Overview: Singapore, only about three and a half times the size of Washington, DC,has been positioned as Southeast Asia's financial hub. Singapore enjoys a per-capita GDP equal to that of the four largest countries in Western Europe. Its economy is heavily dependent on exports, particularly consumer electronics and information technology products.

The government has been trying to create a new growth path that will make it less vulnerable to the whims of the electronics and IT markets. The global recession and the tech slump hit Singapore hard, as did an outbreak of respiratory disease, which crippled tourism and consumer spending. But vigorous growth has returned in recent years, with real annual GDP growth averaging 7%. Major investments have been made in pharmaceuticals and medical technology.

What to Watch: For a country as small as Singapore, staying competitive has always been a challenge.

After much contemplation and controversy, the government decided it needed to introduce gambling as a way to attract more tourists. But the city-state says it's not all about Black Jack. Casinos will form just a tiny fraction of two massive resorts that the country is planning to build.

Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson changed the way business was done in Sin City, when he introduced the concept of conventions and family entertainment. And now he's bringing the concept to Asia. Last year, Sands won the bid to build Singapore's first casino resort.

But once Singapore made the decision to introduce casinos, it didn't stop at one. Resorts World at Sentosa is the second such project. It launches in 2010 and will feature Southeast Asia's first Universal Studios Theme Park as well as the first DreamWorks Digital Animation Studio outside the United States.

The projects are Singapore's answer to growing competition within Asia, for tourism. And also a way to increase the country's international recognition.

Singapore

2000
2006
Population 4.0 million 4.4 million
Economy
GNI, Atlas method (current US$) 92.5 billion 128.8 billion
GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$) 23,030.0 29,320.0
GDP (current US$) 92.7 billion 132.2 billion
GDP growth (annual %) 10.1 7.9
Inflation, GDP deflator (annual%) 3.7 0.2
Agriculture, value added (% of GDP) 0.1 0.1
Industry, value added (% of GDP) 35.6 34.7
Services, etc., value added (% of GDP) 64.3 65.2
Exports of goods and services (% of GDP) N/A 252.6
Imports of goods and services (% of GDP) N/A 220.9
Gross capital formation (% of GDP) 33.3 18.8
Revenue, excluding grants (% of GDP) 26.6 N/A
Cash surplus/deficit (% of GDP) 11.4 N/A
States and Markets
Time required to start a business (days) N/A 6.0
Market capitalization of listed companies (% of GDP) 164.8 N/A
Military expenditure (% of GDP) 4.7 N/A
Fixed line and mobile phone subscribers (per 1,000 people) 1,168.2 N/A
Internet users (per 1,000 people) 323.6 N/A
Roads, paved (% of total roads) 100.0 100.0
High-technology exports (% of manufactured exports) 62.6 N/A
Global Links
Merchandise trade (% of GDP) 293.7 386.2
Net barter terms of trade (2000 = 100) 100.0 86.1
Foreign direct investment, net inflows (BoP, current US$) 16.5 N/A
Official development assistance and official (current US$) 1.1 million N/A
Source: World Development Indicators database, April 2007