S'pore attracts $17.2b in fixed-asset investments - a 12-year high

Singapore garnered $6.8 billion in total business expenditure per annum in 2020.
Singapore garnered $6.8 billion in total business expenditure per annum in 2020.PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore attracted about $17.2 billion in fixed-asset investments last year, hitting a 12-year high despite the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

This beat the Economic Development Board's (EDB) medium-to long-term target of $8 billion to $10 billion, and exceeded 2019's $15.2 billion in fixed-asset investments.

Last year's commitments, bolstered by large capital investments from the electronics, energy and chemicals, as well as research and development (R&D) sectors, are the most sizeable since 2008, when Singapore drew over $18 billion in fixed-asset investments.

Speaking to the media yesterday, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said: "Our efforts to keep our borders open, maintain external connectivity and ensure business continuity have given global companies the confidence to continue to site their projects in Singapore."

The Republic garnered $6.8 billion in total business expenditure last year, which was lower than the $9 billion seen the year before.

When the projects from the investments secured last year are fully implemented, they will create 19,352 new jobs over the next five years, with a projected contribution of $31.2 billion in value-added per annum.

Notably, the R&D industry is expected to add more than 4,200 employment opportunities, while the headquarters and professional services segment will contribute more than 3,000 openings over the next few years.

In comparison, 2019's investments were predicted to create close to 33,000 openings and to contribute $29.4 billion in expected value-added per annum.

Value-added refers to the direct contribution made by a company to gross domestic product and includes components such as wages.

"Our focus will continue to be on placing our workers in jobs that are created," said Mr Chan.

Of the more than 19,000 jobs that will be created over the next few years, 45 per cent are in production and include roles such as process engineers and administrative assistants. Close to a quarter of the new openings will be in digital roles, such as cloud developers and software engineers.

Mr Chan noted that Singapore's focus is not solely on the investment amount secured or the number of jobs created. "We want to secure investments that make us a critical part of the global value chain in different industries, so that we cannot be easily bypassed, so that we have the knowledge, we have the IP (intellectual property)... to make sure that we can entrench ourselves in the global value chain."

For the medium to long term, the EDB's yearly targets are fixed-asset investments of between $8 billion and $10 billion, total business expenditure of $5 billion to $7 billion per annum, and 16,000 to 18,000 new jobs.

EDB chairman Beh Swan Gin noted that Singapore has managed to secure investments despite a challenging global environment - the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development had predicted a 30 to 40 per cent decline in global foreign direct investment flows for the whole of last year.

Dr Beh said: "Companies that invest in Singapore continue to take the long-term perspective and they have trust and confidence in Singapore's fundamentals, the prospects for Asia, and clearly also... a very deep affinity for Singapore and the operations they have here."

Mr Chan said that while Singapore is optimistic about its prospects for the year, it cannot assume the road ahead will be a "walk in the park".

"We also need to be mindful that things can change very quickly... we must continue to be flexible and adaptable - Government, companies and workers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2021, with the headline 'S'pore attracts $17.2b in fixed-asset investments - a 12-year high'. Subscribe