Singapore Table of Contents
Figure 8. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), by sector, Fiscal Year (FY) 1988
The manufacturing sector was a mainstay of Singapore's economic growth despite the absence of natural resources or an agricultural base (see table 7, Appendix). By the mid-1970s, the country had undergone a quarter-century of rapid industrial advance based on low-cost labor, low- to middle-level technology, and a rapid increase in exports. At that time, Singapore's planners settled on a policy emphasizing high technology, particularly information technology. In 1988 Singapore's 3,694 manufacturing establishments, employing 352,600 workers, were responsible for 29 percent of the GDP (see fig. 8). Industrial production, valued at S$14,509.7 million, was fractionally higher than earnings from financial and business services, double those from commerce, and nearly equal to the total of commerce and transport and communications. This represented a 20-percent increase over 1987. The manufacturing sector's continuing success was largely a function of Singapore's ability to attract foreign investment through a favorable business climate and then provide investors with an educated, trained, and disciplined labor force.
Singapore entered nationhood with a mixed legacy. The industrial sector was small, its productivity low. Manufacturing in 1960 was a mere 11.4 percent of the GDP; commerce, far and away the largest sector, accounted for 32 percent. The industrial policy in 1959 sought to promote industrialization as a way of diversifying from Singapore's traditional role as an entrepôt. Reliance was placed on private enterprises whose basic decisions were determined on the expectation of a common market with the neighboring Federation of Malaya. A system of import quotas was introduced for a limited number of goods, along with controls on how many enterprises could enter a particular field. Circumstances altered strategies. After separation from Malaysia in 1965, quotas were mainly replaced by a low level (for developing countries) of protective import tariffs. A traditional import substitution strategy was implemented.
In 1968, when the British announced their intention to withdraw from their Singapore bases, import substitution was succeeded by a strategy promoting export-oriented, labor-intensive industrialization. At that time, the government began its central role in formulating and implementing the industrialization program through the Economic Development Board.
The new approach became official policy in 1967 with the government's proclamation of the Export Expansion Incentives (Relief from Income Tax) Act and was further enhanced by the 1968 Employment Act. Direct foreign investment was welcomed both to help Singapore penetrate export markets and to bring in advanced technology. As early as 1970, when full employment was attained, there was some thought given to upgrading the industrial structure in order to provide more higher paying jobs. By 1979 efforts to upgrade the overall industrial structure and to accelerate the trend toward skill- and technology-intensive, higher value-added economic activity were intensified. The government implemented the large, three-year wage increases recommended by the National Wages Council, which began the easing out of labor-intensive, low valueadded activities in Singapore.
The machinery industry was increasingly in the forefront of technological innovation as a result of the Economic Development Board's promotion of computer-controlled production, industrial robots, and flexible manufacturing systems. The industry's output increased by 17 percent in 1987 and 20 percent in 1988.
Domestic enterprises played a lesser role in industrialization. The government argued that the emphasis on large industry was a more effective stimulus to increased productivity and long-range economic development. Major promotional efforts sponsored by the government were focused on high-productivity projects, creating industries that officials claimed would not otherwise have been established in Singapore. Although institutional assistance for small-scale local industry, the majority of enterprises, was provided through a subsidiary of the Economic Development Board, the effectiveness of this aid was limited until after the mid-1980s recession, when greater emphasis was placed on encouraging and upgrading small-scale local industry.
Following a decline in the textile industry in the mid-1980s resulting from increased international competition, automation and the upgrading of product lines were encouraged. What had originally been a textile industry and then a mass-market clothing industry was encouraged to target high-fashion markets. A 10 percent growth in the fashion industry in 1987 reflected both the new trend and a strong market among Western trading partners.
Data as of December 1989
Singapore Table of Contents