Singapore is richer than US, UK or France per capita. Lawrence Wong’s challenge as PM will be maintaining that

Singapore is richer than US, UK or France per capita. Lawrence Wong’s challenge as PM will be maintaining that

It has been independent for just under 60 years and is smaller than New York City. But make no mistake, Singapore is very much in the big leagues when it comes to money.

The ascendant financial hub at the crossroads of global trade has in a relatively short period of time, in historical terms, transformed itself from a colonial trading port to the wealthiest nation in Asia – and one of the richest in the world.

The tiny island outpost has moved deliberately from being a manufacturing powerhouse to financial services giant and now tourism and tech.

In the process, it has managed to boost its per capita gross domestic product far above Britain, France and even the United States.

But as a new prime minister takes power for the first time in 20 years, clouds are forming on the horizon. The question now is how does Singapore maintain its winning streak.

Singapore’s Lawrence Wong, who is poised to become the city state’s prime minister on Wednesday, shares a light moment with Indonesian president-elect Prabowo Subianto last month. Photo: AP

Singapore has long been the prime example of how small countries can seek a pathway to rapid growth and development, particularly if they have limited natural resources.

Part of its success as a financial centre has been its light regulatory touch and comparatively low corporate tax rates. More recently, the Singapore government has sought to further fuel its growth by attracting wealthy residents – and their assets – with casinos, luxury hotels and the attendant nightlife that make the city state a destination.

But harder than getting to the top is staying there. Singapore’s restrictions on civil liberties now apply to a nation that has become more diverse and less willing to accept the status quo.

The cost of living is rising, Singaporeans are ageing and income inequality is more of an issue. To maintain the country’s standing as a pinnacle of wealth, incoming Prime Minster Lawrence Wong has his work cut out for him.



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