Singapore – The glass skyscrapers of the business district is how much of the world sees Singapore. Drive to the west of the city state and you see a very different view where the real economy is hard at work.
In tiny Singapore they make things, lots of things, and sometimes in partnership with companies like Keppel, very large and expansive things like oil rigs.
It is perhaps surprising to learn that around a quarter of Singapore’s GDP comes from manufacturing and is a world leader in oil rig manufacture. Keppel hope to keep that position and is currently building 30 oil rigs, with 20 set to be delivered next year. Each one costs at least $200 million.
The company has survived with investment and the backing of a government that knows what floats the economy. Building a rig is not old fashioned metal bashing, but advanced engineering and mechanics using 3-D imagining and computer technology.
In a country criticised for being conservative, where change is often the last thing on government’s mind, government and industry work together in an old fashioned way by promoting new thinking.
The newest addition to Singapore’s industry is Rolls-Royce. The Seletar plant is the British company’s first outside of the UK to build aircraft engines, and was built in close cooperation with the Singaporean government.
With its high cost of living, Singapore will never be a place to make labour intensive, mass production consumer goods.
Instead they specialise in added value, specialised products tailored to the island’s resources. It means manufacturing becomes another way to balance the country and ensure as Asia grows, it also gets a share of the business.