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Singapore on a record high, here come the foreigners!

Here we go again.

Singapore is booming and earlier government projections have gone bust.

Not only has the government doubled its economic growth forecast to an astonishing record high of  13 to 15 per cent this year.

Plans to reduce the foreign influx and slow down to a more sustainable growth rate have also been put on hold.

More than 100,000 foreign workers are set to enter Singapore this year, reports the Straits Times.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is quoted as saying: "If we don't allow the foreign workers in, you are going to have overheating."

Read that as "Your wages will soar and property prices skyrocket until employers decide it is better to do business elsewhere."

So foreign workers do depress wages while making the economy more competitive, right?

Now if you think there are too many foreigners, well, you know what the government says: Make more babies.

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Singapore compared with other Asian economies

Singapore suffered a bigger drop in exports than China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam during the recession. See the chart below based on the World Bank report released yesterday.

WorldBank-Merchandise-Expor

But the Singapore stock market rebounded more strongly than any other market in the region except Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan, according to the same report. This chart shows all four were back to nearly pre-crisis levels last month.

WorldBank-financial-market-

Hong Kong has bigger foreign reserves than Singapore, but look at China's growing giant pile.

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China visitors fell below 1m in Singapore in 2009

Singapore saw a sharp drop in visitors from China in 2009 when its exports to China exceeded imports from there for the first time in several years. The number of mainland visitors fell from more than a million in 2008 to about 936,700 in 2009.

Singapore_visitor_arrivals

Mainland Chinese are still the second biggest group of visitors after those from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including Malaysians, Indonesians, Thais and Filipinos. Their numbers rose marginally from more than 3.57 million in 2008 to over 3.68 million in 2009.

Visitors from Australia, the third biggest group, dipped from more than 833,000 to 830,000.

Indians continued to make up the fourth biggest group, although their numbers fell from 778,000 to 725,500, according to the Economic Survey of Singapore 2009 released by the Ministry of  Trade and Industry yesterday.

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Singapore economy 2009: GDP and jobs

Construction was the only industry to post double-digit growth –16 per cent — when the Singapore economy shrank 2 per cent in the 2009 recession.

Business services also grew by 3.3 per cent. The only other (faintly) bright spot was information and communications, which grew an infinitesimal 0.8 per cent. Financial services didn't do too badly in the downturn, shrinking only 1.4 per cent.

The big dips came in two key sectors: manufacturing, which accounts for the biggest share of the gross domestic product, and the wholesale and retail trade, which contributes the second biggest share. Wholesale and retail shrank by 9.1 per cent and manufacturing by 4.1 per cent.

All the figures here are from the Economic Survey of 2009 released by the Ministry of Trade and Industry today.

SingaporeGDP_and_jobs2009

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More people working in Singapore than before

More than 2.99 million of Singapore's 4.99 million population were working by the end of last year. That's more than ever in the last decade, as this chart shows.

Employed_singapore

The number of jobs actually went up despite the recession. So did unemployment — marginally.

But the good news is overall unemployment fell from 3.4% to 2.1% in the fourth quarter, according to preliminary estimates by the Ministry of Manpower. Unemployment among Singapore residents — citizens and permanent residents — fell from 5% to 3% during the same period.

That can be no consolation for the 87,000 residents who found themselves jobless last year, up from 62,900 in 2008. Overall unemployment rose to 3% last year from 2.2% the year before and, for Singapore residents, from 3.2% to 4.3%.

Unemployed_singapore

But as the Manpower Ministry press release says:

Local employment grew by 43,000 in 2009. In contrast, foreign employment fell by 4,200 compared to a record increase of 156,900 in 2008. As at December 2009, there were 1.05 million foreigners forming 35.2% of the 2.99 million persons employed in Singapore. The majority comprising 64.8% or 1.94 million persons employed were locals.

So the number of locals employed has gone up from 1.9 million in 2008. The number of foreigners working has dipped from 1.057 million to 1.053 million. There were just under a million foreigners working in Singapore in 2007 and the figure in 2006 was 756,000.

Working_residents_foreigner

All the figures in these charts are based on data from the Statistics Department of Singapore and the Ministry of Manpower. The employment figures for 2005 to 2009 are taken from the preliminary estimates given by the ministry at the beginning of the year and for 2004 to 2001 from the ministry's mid-year estimates presented on this page.