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Information about Singapore: The Singapore Economy and currency PDF Print E-mail
The Singapore Economy and currency

Small countries with no natural resources usually have to fight harder than most to survive. Singapore has takenee a pragmatic and carefully-planned approach to economic development--building on its traditional strengths in entrepot trade and shipping, while gradually diversifying into banking and financial services and other high-value-added sectors.

It has worked hard to become one of the busiest ports in the world in terms of shipping tonnage--with 700 ships in port at any time and with more than 600 shipping lines with links to more than 800 international ports. It has no natural energy resources, yet it runs more than 10 refineries and is one of the largest oil-refining centres in Asia. The pace has been fast and furious, with virtually a different focus in each decade of the island's modern history.

In the 1960s, especially in the wake of separation from Malaysia, there was a need to create jobs. Thus began the heyday of the labour-intensive industries. By the 1970s, there was full employment and there was a shift towards higher-skilled jobs. In the 1980s, manufacturing capabilities were emphasized. The focus on manufacturing continued to the 1990s, with the addition of the service and electronics sectors. By 1993, Singapore had begun to grow its "external economy", with several investments and cooperative projects in Asia, including China, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Singapore's economy is small by global standards, but also relatively rich. Its GDP was US$141 billion in 1998, and its per capita GNP was US$34,868 in 1998. In the face of increasing global competition, Singapore continues to build on its core advantages--a good geographical location, developed infrastructure, a good communications system, political stability and a disciplined workforce--while always looking to develop new economic strengths.

Trade Policy

Singapore's trade policy is based on two principles: a free-market system and an outward orientation. About 96 per cent of imports enter Singapore duty-free. Exports also have the same privileges, except when bilateral restraint arrangements are in force. There are no controls on foreign exchange and no protectionist measures.

The island remains open to international trade and investment, with an average trade to GDP ratio of 273 per cent. In the manufacturing sector for example, foreign investment commitments amounted to US$5.2 billion in 1998.

Singapore participates in multilateral trade forums such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Association for Southeast Asian Nations Free Trade Area (ASEAN AFTA). Reflecting the republic's commitment to global, multilateral free trade, the first World Trade Organization (WTO) Conference was held here in December 1996.

Economic Performance

After almost a decade of continuous growth, the Singapore economy slid into technical recession in 1998, affected by events in Asia. The economy recovered quite strongly, by 9%, in 1999. Traditional strong performance sectors include entrepot trade and shipping, and financial and business services. Other key sectors are manufacturing and construction.

After experiencing another strong performance in 2000, Singapore's economy is expected to grow by a modest 2% to 4% in 2001. This again depends on positive economic growth in the US, Europe and Japan.

Permanent Resident in Singapore: Read

Relevant Links

Ministry of Trade and Industry
Economic Development Board
Trade Development Board


The local currency is the Singapore dollar, SGD or S$ for short. One dollar is divided into 100 cents. All notes and coins are issued by the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Singapore (BCCS).

The Singapore dollar and the Brunei dollar are accepted at par in each country under an Interchangeability Agreement, so don't be surprised if you do get a note with a picture of the Sultan of Brunei.

Legal tender

Notes are legal tender up to their face value for paying any amount. Coins are messier. Maximum limits for legal tender are: $2 respectively for 20-cent, 10-cent, 5-cent and 1-cent coins; and $10 for 50-cent coins. There is no limit for $1 coins.

What to do with 1-cent coins

Most people hate the 1-cent coins, which only became really useful with the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which means that consumers have to deal with odd amounts like 1, 3 or 9 cents.

Tip: Bigger retailers will grin and bear if you unload your 1-cent coins on them, but some smaller shops may refuse them, even when they are legal tender for that amount. You can rid yourself of those coins at charity boxes found at most Cold Storage supermarket checkout counters, or around shopping centres.

Exchange rates

The approximate current rates for Singapore dollars to one unit of foreign currency stand at:

US dollar: 1.7
British pound: 2.7
Australian dollar: 1.1
Canadian dollar: 1.2
NZ dollar: 1.0
ECU: 1.9

The approximate rates for Singapore dollars to 100 units of foreign currency are:

Deutschemark: 94.1
Hongkong dollar: 21.5
Indian rupee: 4.4
Japanese yen: 1.3
Malaysian ringgit: 44.5
Philippine peso: 4.8
Thai baht: 3.9
Chinese renminbi: 20.1
Indonesian rupiah: 0.04
Korean won: 0.1
New Taiwan dollar: 5.3

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