Singapore

Market overview

Singapore has been largely praised for its management of the pandemic and continues to have one of the world’s lowest fatality rates. 

However, stringent “circuit breaker” movement restrictions from early April brought most commerce to a halt, helping contribute to the country’s worst ever economic contraction on record.

While the circuit breaker ended in June, reduced domestic spend and a lack of international tourists to hold up the tourism industry and high end retail chains continues to have a severe impact. 

In the long term, Singapore's strong sovereign wealth fund position and the economy’s solid foundations on strong trade and investment platforms put the country in a good position to weather the effects of COVID-19 better than most.

A NZTE survey of Singaporeans in April 2020 found many opportunities for New Zealand exporters to leverage New Zealand's brand and reputation.

The survey of 444 households found the safety of New Zealand products is perceived as very high in Singapore (81% agree), and 75% of Singaporeans agree that they trust products from New Zealand. Older demographics trust New Zealand products more than younger consumers.

New Zealand's image can help companies trade off natural, organic and sustainable claims in Singapore, with perception of its ability to produce natural products very high in Singapore at 79%. Singaporean consumers were also the most likely in the survey to claim to favour sustainable products at 73%.

Figures from a MFAT report posted July 2020 shows New Zealand’s goods exports to Singapore were up by 20% for the first five months of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. New Zealand food exports to Singapore have held up in 2020, with dairy and fruit exports increasing by 22% and 52% respectively, and meat exports holding steady.

Singapore’s food security concerns provide an opportunity for New Zealand food and beverage companies. The city-state’s digitalisation agenda also provides opportunities for New Zealand’s fast-growing tech sector to expand its presence in-market.

For more information on doing business in Singapore, visit myNZTE - our free online portal for curated, in-depth information and guidance. 

Resources for Singapore

More resources available here.

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Economy and trade

"Significant uncertainty" is the phrasing offered by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on how long and intense the negative impacts of COVID-19 on the economy will be.

Singapore's economy shrank by 13.2% year-on-year in the second quarter as the circuit breaker movement restrictions came into place, sharper than the 12.6% plunge earlier estimated and the worst on record. The economy may shrink by 6% overall this year, according to MAS.

However, the professional forecasters expected growth in gross domestic product to recover to 5.5% in 2021, up from the 4.8% predicted earlier.

Meanwhile, the 2021 GDP growth forecast has been raised to 10.8% year-on-year from 7.8% previously, due primarily to an even more favourable base effect. However, the degree of forecast uncertainty is high due to the difficulty in forecasting the economic hit due to the circuit-breaker measures in the absence of useful indicators.

High-end retailers on fashionable Orchard Road are reeling from the absence of international tourists and a lack of domestic spending to make up the shortfall. According to Bloomberg, several mainstay restaurants have closed, while there are noticeably few shoppers at top brands like Chanel and Louis Vuitton.

MTI has acknowledged a sharp fall in tourists is affecting the tourism and transport sectors. Hotel, travel, cruise and air transport businesses are expected to be hit, leading to knock-on effects on the retail and food services sectors. Some sector exports have suggested the recovery of Singapore's aviation and tourism sectors in the wake of COVID-19 will be painfully slow given the lack of a domestic market to provide at least some business while international borders are closed.

The trade relationship with Singapore is one of New Zealand’s strongest, and creates huge opportunities as a like-minded gateway to the rest of Asia and home to many of the world’s largest multinational corporations.  

Exporters are encouraged to take advantage of preferential trade regulation for New Zealand companies, and look for opportunities stemming from unprecedented levels of Government spending out of stimulus packages, particularly in the technology sectors.

The Declaration on Trade in Essential Goods, agreed on 15 April, identifies over 120 essential goods in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, for which Singapore and New Zealand will remove all tariffs.

This list includes PPE equipment, medical equipment, nutritional products, medicines and hygiene supplies. The Declaration also calls for participants not to apply export restrictions on food and beverage products, and to facilitate trade in food and beverage.

See the full list of products covered by the Declaration here.

The commitment between Singapore and New Zealand through the Declaration on Trade in Essential Goods - and the positive effects from the agreement so far - were outlined in an article for The Straits Times by New Zealand High Commissioner to Singapore, Jo Tyndall. The article can be accessed here (via free sign-up).

The Declaration on Trade in Essential Goods, together with the Enhanced Partnership signed in 2019, will provide a framework for cooperation across four main areas: defence and security, trade, science and innovation and people-to-people ties.

In the article, the High Commissioner addresses how the COVID-19 pandemic will force the two countries to re-evaluate everything to food supply chains, healthcare and education systems and digital infrastructure - and how the Declaration is designed to create long-term growth for both countries.

Supply chain, logistics & freight

The severe reduction in flights between Singapore and other international hubs has seen scarcity drive price hikes for air freight.

Sea freight and maritime-related activities, including shipping and shipping-related services, safety and navigation services, port and terminal operations, and port marine services, have reopened fully, but are still experiencing a downturn in the number of vessels received year on year.  

Maintaining trade links

Singapore was one of thirteen countries in the Ministerial Coordination Group on COVID-19 that has issued a Declaration on Maintaining Essential Global Links.

The countries issued a declaration which "encourages countries to maintain essential global links, especially with regards to trade and travel" and "recognises the importance of maintaining the flow of goods and commerce by air, sea and land, and reaffirms the need for countries to cooperate with each other and coordinate measures to minimise disruption and enhance recovery. "

The group also included ministers from Canada, Brazil, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, South Korea, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

Reference: Ministerial-Coordination-Group-on-COVID-19

Marine sector

Singapore initiated an agreement with port authorities around the world to keep ports open for trade amid the coronavirus pandemic. A total of 20 countries, listed below, recognised that the maritime sector plays a critical role in keeping trade flows open during this challenging time.

The port authorities committed to working together to ensure merchant ships can still berth at ports to carry out cargo operations and keep the global supply chain going.

It may be useful for New Zealand companies to keep abreast of shipping and logistic developments to tap on the routes which are more secure with these agreements in place.

List of countries that signed the declaration:

  • Abu Dhabi

  • Ports Antwerp

  • Port Authority Bureau of Port and Harbor, Tokyo Metropolitan Government

  • Busan Port Authority

  • Guangzhou Port Authority

  • Hamburg Port Authority

  • Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore

  • Montreal Port Authority

  • Ningbo Municipal Port Administration Bureau

  • Port Authority of Thailand (Bangkok Port)

  • Port of Barcelona

  • Port and Harbor Bureau, City of Yokohama

  • Port and Harbor Bureau, Kobe City GovernmentPort Klang Authority

  • Port of Long Beach

  • Port of Los Angeles

  • Port of Rotterdam

  • Port of Seattle

  • Shanghai Municipal Transportation Commission

  • Port of Le Havre

Government support

The Singapore Government has unveiled four major stimulus pages in response to the pandemic, as well as other initiatives for specific industries outside of these.

The key provisions of these are as follows:

  • First stimulus package – "Unity Budget"

Assistance for the transport and tourism sectors as part of the 2020 Budget, being the worst-hit industries. S$6.4 billion in support funds were allocated, including a S$1.6 billion Care and Support Package for household expenses, a S$4 billion Stabilisation and Support Package for businesses and workers and an additional S$800 million for efforts including the healthcare sector.  

  • Second stimulus package – "Resilience Budget"

The sovereign reserve fund was drawn upon for this second package, committing a further S$48.4 billion to support businesses, workers and families, amounting to around 11% of GDP. The measures include increasing government co-funding of 25% of wages for all local workers, with those in food services getting 50% support and those in the tourism and aviation sector getting up to 75% support. Self-employed workers would receive S$1,000 per month for nine months.

  • Third stimulus package – "Solidarity Budget"

S$5.1 billion was allocated for this package, with support measures from the previous budget extended to May, costing another S$3.8 billion. 

  • Fourth stimulus package – "Fortitude Budget"

S$52 billion was set aside to include higher tiers of wage subsidies and lasting until August, and a one off Solidarity Utilities Credit of S$100 for all households. Food and beverage (F&B) and retail companies received up to S$10,000 as part of efforts to digitally transform their business. S$2 billion was committed to SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package was announced to create close some 100,000 opportunities for workers affected by the COVID-19 economic slowdown; involving around 40,000 jobs, 25,000 traineeships and 30,000 skills training opportunities.

Singapore and New Zealand's commitment to continued trade growth was cemented through the Declaration on Trade in Essential Goods signed on 15 May, which together with the Enhanced Partnership signed in 2019 provides a framework for cooperation across four main areas: defence and security, trade, science and innovation and people-to-people ties.

The positive effects from the agreement so far were outlined in an article for the Straits Times by New Zealand High Commissioner to Singapore, Jo Tyndall, that can be accessed here (via free sign-up).

In the article, the High Commissioner addresses how the COVID-19 pandemic will force the two countries to re-evaluate everything to food supply chains, healthcare and education systems and digital infrastructure - and how the Declaration is designed to create long-term growth for both countries.

Travel

From 1 September 2020, the Singapore Government permits travellers from New Zealand and some other countries to travel to Singapore subject to a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival. The arrangements are not yet reciprocal, and New Zealand’s borders remain closed to non-citizens and residents.

Effective 9 June, Singapore Airlines restarted passenger flights to Auckland and Christchurch. The carrier is operating twice-weekly services to Auckland and a weekly service to Christchurch.

Singapore Airlines passengers are now able to transit through Changi Airport from selected cities in Australia and New Zealand to any destination in the airline’s group network operated by Singapore Airlines, SilkAir or Scoot.

The transit flights are only for outbound journeys from Australian cities Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, as well as New Zealand cities Auckland and Christchurch.

Passengers will not be able to transit from other places in the group network through Singapore into these cities.

Customers should ensure that they meet the entry requirements for their final destination.

It is advisable for New Zealand companies to closely monitor the progress of discussions between these countries so as to be prepared for resumption of travel. However, do note that the situation is fluid, and it is advisable to think about contingency plans for the next few months to a year when a vaccine or a solution is available to stop the spread of the virus.

Tradeshow and event information

Numerous international tradeshows and events are being postponed or cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Make sure you proactively check with organisers for any tradeshow or event you're scheduled to attend – conditions and regulations are changing rapidly overseas, and events may be postponed or cancelled at short notice.

If you have questions about an event not listed here, please contact the organisers in the first instance or get in touch with NZTE for further advice.


Sector insights

As is to be expected, numerous sectors have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you'll find information on any COVID-19 effects across important sectors and industries in Singapore.

Airlines

Singapore Airlines has restarted passenger flights to New Zealand with twice-weekly services to Auckland and once-weekly services to Christchurch.

Additional resources

Below you can find information and contact details for other New Zealand government and international agencies regarding their response to COVID-19.

New Zealand Government agencies

Covid19.govt.nz
COVID-19 helpline for businesses
Business.govt.nz
New Zealand Customs
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
New Zealand Export Credit (NZEC)
MFAT Export Helpline
MFAT Safetravel
Callaghan Innovation
Immigration
Ministry of Health
WorkSafe New Zealand
myNZTE

Global agencies

World Health Organization (WHO)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Contact NZTE

We're available to talk to you about any issues your export business is facing due to COVID-19.

For existing NZTE customers, please contact your New Zealand-based Customer Manager.

If you're unsure who to contact or haven't worked with us before, you can call NZTE on 0800 555 888 or email below and one of our Customer Advisors will help you.