Singapore’s leader Wednesday touted the city-state as a “safe harbor” from political instability elsewhere and said it remained an attractive destination for companies even during the coronavirus-induced global economic downturn.
The affluent financial hub has long been a popular destination for international businesses to base their Asian headquarters, and is home to a large foreign population.
Political instability in rival financial hub Hong Kong, including massive protests and China’s imposition of controversial security law, has prompted speculation firms may shift to Singapore.
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has, however, said previously he is not trying to woo businesses from Hong Kong.
Addressing parliament on Wednesday, Lee said that “all over Asia and in the world, societies are under stress, and politics is in flux”.
“In places where investors already have regional headquarters and projects, they are rethinking the merits of their locations, and looking for alternatives.”
“Companies are seeking a safe harbor, where the politics is stable, there is rule of law, the people are hardworking and united”, he added.
Singapore is, however, battling the economic devastation unleashed worldwide by the coronavirus, with its economy shrinking 42.9 percent in the second quarter.
But despite the poor economic climate, Lee claimed many investment projects were interested in coming to Singapore.
While Singapore takes “no joy” in other countries’ problems, he added, “it is a fact that in a troubled world, Singapore is one of the few trusted countries that stand out.”
He also insisted Singapore was still welcoming of expatriates, even as officials tightened policies on hiring foreigners.
Some 40 percent of Singapore’s 5.7 million inhabitants are from overseas but concerns about the number of foreigners, particularly in white-collar jobs, have increased during the pandemic.
But Lee said: “Even as we adjust our work pass policies, we must be careful not to give the wrong impression that we are now closing up, and no longer welcoming foreigners.”