8 Singapore

PopulationMetro: 5,535,000
Asia’s financial powerhouse turns its ambitions to livability and innovation.

Few cities have achieved as much, as quickly, as the city-state of Singapore has in the past 50 years.

The meteoric rise from politically unstable, resource-poor and unskilled ex-colony to talent- and capital-hungry shipping hub (the world’s busiest) and, subsequently, Asia’s wealth management capital is place-brand engineering at its most ambitious.

The result is Singapore as a fast-emerging Asian financial superpower whose city leaders take a methodical (yes, many would say ‘heavy-handed’) approach to urban planning, considering Singapore’s needs far beyond the next election.

CITY PERFORMACE
Place
Place 73
Product
Product 39
Programming
Programming 21
People
People 79
Prosperity
Prosperity 43
Promotion
Promotion 41

Singapore’s reinvestment into research, talent and corporate headquarters recruitment ensures it will be home to a sustainably wealthy citizenry for decades to come. It’s why the city-state continues its ascent among the planet’s most prosperous cities, with minuscule unemployment (#17 overall) and a growing cluster of Global 500 companies (#30 overall).

The government has already committed $16 billion to establish Singapore as a global research and development hub. The current Research, Innovation and Enterprise Plan 2020 aims to duplicate Nordic and Israeli innovation and R&D, much of which will strengthen local universities. It’s powered by a $19-billion commitment through 2020. This focus on research, medicine and tech is designed to open another front for Singapore—one that complements its financial dominance.

The Art Science Museum Bady QB

Today, manifestations of this wealth and confident swagger are everywhere. From the heights of the cranes on the horizon to the gilded façades of Orchard Road—Singapore’s version of New York’s Fifth Avenue for high-end fashion and entertainment—Singapore knows its affluent global audience: moneyed wanderers who seek efficiency, security and exoticism.

The city continues to smash visitation records—both tourism revenues and visitor arrivals for 2017 hit record highs for the second time in two years, according to the Singapore Tourism Board. Arrivals increased year over year by 6.2% to 17.4 million, while tourism revenues rose by 3.9% to $26.8 billion.

The increase of budget airlines offering long-haul flights—Scoot to Berlin, Athens and Honolulu, and Norwegian Air to the U.K. and Scandinavia—all but ensures the upward trajectory for the foreseeable future.

But the city is hardly the sterile, finger-wagging no-fun zone its policies may indicate. In fact, the prosperity, safety and pursuit of foreign investment mean people are free to innovate, confident that a safety net exists should the globerati not spend enough (unlikely). The entrepreneurialism radiates from the kinetic visual and culinary feasts of Chinatown’s Smith Street (do not leave without sampling the spicy lobster), all the way into the Michelin starry-eyed international talents like Miguel Schiaffino from Lima, Peru. And that’s just the restaurants.

Gardens by the Bay Annie Spratt

Singapore is also among the top-ranking cities (#7) in our deep Place category and has the lowest crime rate on the planet. It’s also #23 for Parks & Outdoor Activities. The seven-year-old Gardens by the Bay, consisting of several hundred acres of cultivated parkland on reclaimed urban land in downtown Singapore, is a mini Central Park. The 18 solar-powered “supertrees”—each between 80 and 160 feet tall—are now city icons.

But a city that takes care of its citizenry the way Singapore does (there’s an affordable housing policy that protects 80% of locals) isn’t content with green space for aesthetics only. City leaders—obsessed with demographic forecasting and city resiliency—are evolving the copious parklands into ‘therapeutic gardens’ designed to help an ageing population remain active and engaged. A publication by Singapore’s Ministry of Health—Action Plan for Successful Ageing—should be mandatory reading for municipalities everywhere.

As should a trip to HortPark. Opened in 2016, the park’s fragrant lemongrass is believed to improve memory and slow the onset of dementia improve memory.

So is Singapore the perfect city? Locals and visitors seem to think so. They’ve propelled the city-state to #6 in our Promotions category, including Top 10 global finishes in Google Searches and Google Trends, and #11 for Facebook Check-ins.

Riding the positive sentiment, the Singapore Tourism Board developed a new tagline and streamlined identity in 2017, in partnership with the city’s economic development board. The identity, ‘Passion Made Possible’, is the first to be used across tourism and economic development initiatives and, according to the agencies behind it, “puts forth Singapore’s attitude and mindset: a passionate, never-settling spirit of determination and enterprise that constantly pursues possibilities and reinvention.”