Singapore is second-easiest place in Asia to do business: Study

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Singapore’s corporate tax rate of 17 per cent and double-tax agreements signed with over 80 countries make it attractive for doing business, said professional services firm TMF Group.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Singapore is in second place in a league table of ranking Asian economies on how easy it is to conduct business, but fares less well on a global scale.

A study of 77 jurisdictions across the world looked at indicators such as legislation, accounting procedures, tax regimes and human resource rules.

It put Singapore at 18th place, behind Hong Kong at 12th. The top jurisdiction was Curacao, an island state that is part of the Netherlands, followed by the United States.

The Philippines and Japan were also noted for the ease of doing business.

“Despite these uncertain times, Singapore is still a highly attractive regional and international business hub, given the relative simplicity of doing business here,” said Mr Edmund Lee, Singapore managing director of TMF Group, the professional services firm that carried out the annual study.

“Even so, evolving compliance requirements and strict enforcement may make it more intricate to do business than before, and Singapore firms need to better understand the rules of engagement with regulators and integrate them into their policies.”

The index showed that Singapore’s strengths lie in its accounting and tax standards, which are aligned with international measures. It also provides clarity and relative ease in filing requirements.

Singapore’s competitive corporate tax rate of 17 per cent and double-tax agreements signed with over 80 countries also make it attractive for doing business.

“Additionally, the Government’s continued focus on digitisation has resulted in simplified e-filing processes,” TMF Group said.

Singapore also benefits from transparent employment and payroll guidelines, together with ease in hiring and a focus on talent, it added.

The study also noted the raising of the retirement and re-employment ages as a boost to the available workforce here.

But Singapore also has areas of rising business complexity, for instance, in greater enforcement of basic compliance obligations like convening annual general meetings and filings.

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Still, it remains a gateway to Asia, with its strategic location and stable socio-political environment, Mr Lee added.

TMF Group also noted that businesses need to prepare for fast-evolving regulations in the Asia-Pacific, a process that has been accelerated by the pandemic.

For instance, there is a shift away from stringent auditing processes to provide relief to businesses affected by the pandemic.

Governments are also recognising the importance of creating an easier environment for foreign direct investment.

TMF Group said: “The coronavirus is bringing many challenges to businesses around the globe, but providing support to employees is a high priority.

“Following the Covid-19 pandemic, we are likely to see a continued impetus towards a global business environment, with international bodies stepping up measures to coordinate and regulate trade across borders to benefit all stakeholders. An emphasis on technology and modernisation will act as the drivers to place the post-pandemic global economy back on its feet.”

Updated from : The Straits Times, 18 June 2020