Singapore Factsheet


Introduction to Singapore

Singapore is around 70 square kilometres in size, with a population of just over 4.5 million. The City area lies in the South of the island and the business district (CBD) is mainly based around Raffles Place (where the majority of the banks and law firms are) and the Suntec Area which is mainly where multinational corporations and a number of IT/technology companies.

The island lies very close to the equator, and has a climate best described as hot and humid with two seasons: the hot and moist South West monsoon season (summer) and the warm and wet North East monsoon season (winter).

There is a large expat community in Singapore with many Brits and Australians, but also people from a number of other countries.

The official language is actually Malay, but English is the main language of business and is widely spoken. Chinese (and dialects) and Tamil are also widely used.


The Legal Market

The Singapore legal market is a mix of joint law ventures, foreign firms and independent local firms. Until recently, foreign firms wishing to advise on local law were required to enter into joint ventures with local outfits. Widespread reservations about the success of the joint venture model led the government to introduce the Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) scheme at the end of 2007. This allows six foreign firms to practise Singapore law by employing local lawyers directly, provided they meet certain criteria. Certain practice areas, such as commercial litigation and conveyancing remain offlimits. An enhanced joint law venture scheme will also be rolled out in 2009. This will allow foreign firms to hire local lawyers under a profit-sharing scheme with their joint venture partners.

The six QLFP firms are Clifford Chance, A&O, Herbert Smith, Latham & Watkins, White &Case and Norton Rose.


Money Matters

The Magic Circle and Chasing Pack firms tend to pay rates in Singapore dollars that are very close to UK rates. The smaller firms and City practices usually run more localized remuneration models. In this market there is clearly a downward pressure on salaries, especially for those firms that are London linked and particularly because of exchange rates. This is usually for new hires, while salaries for existing associates have largely been frozen.

Salaries paid by international firms should enable rental of a more comfortable (and spacious!) apartment than would be the case in Hong Kong. The following table gives some idea of what your money can get you:

Location

Size

Rental Rates Per Month $S

Prime areas (Upscale)

800 - 1,300 sq ft
1,300 - 2000 sq ft
2000+ sq ft

S$2,000 - S$3,500
S$3,000 - S$6,000+
S$6,000+

Other areas

800 - 1,300 sq ft
1,300 - 2000 sq ft
2000+ sq ft

S$1,000 - S$2,500
S$2,200 - S$3,000+
S$3,000+


As far as tax is concerned, a foreigner will be regarded as resident in Singapore for tax purposes if he was physically present or exercised an employment in Singapore for 183 days or more during the year preceding the Year of Assessment. This is other than a director of a company. The table below gives an idea of tax rates for the Year of Assessment 2008:

Chargeable Income

Rate(%)

GrossTaxPayable($)

First$20,000

Next $10,000

0

3.50

0
350 (fixed)

First $30,000

Next $10,000

5.50

350 (fixed)

First $40,000

Next $40,000 -

8.50

900 (fixed)


First $80,000

Next $80,000 -

14

4 300 (fixed)

First $160,000

Next $160,000 -

17

15 500 (fixed)

First $320,000

Above $320,000 -

20

42 700 (fixed)



Red Tape

Foreigners moving to Singapore will need to obtain a work permit to work there. For lawyers relocating, this will be taken care of by the law firm that will arrange for sponsorship and all other necessary administration. Generally, there is little problem in obtaining the required visa, but it can be a time consuming and bureaucratic process that from start to finish can take between 2-4 months.


After Work

Singapore as a country may be small but it is certainly big on food, shopping and entertainment. Eating out in Singapore is a delight and the country has a reputation for being the food capital of Asia. Because of its regional location, the variety of food on offer is overwhelming, unlike the prices which are surprisingly reasonable.

Socialising is a large part of life in Singapore and after work professionals flock to the dozens of bars in the City. Boat Quay is a popular option due to its proximity to the Central Business District and there you can drink, eat and dance until the small hours of the morning. Clarke Quay is also close to the CBD and a very popular night spot. Other popular eating and drinking areas are Dempsey Road, and Rochester Park.

The city is also surprisingly green, with some fine parks and a number of pretty gardens. The Jurong Bird Park is a beautifully landscaped 20 hectare park with over 9000 birds from 600 species. Then there are the beaches with those at Sentosa Island being some of the most popular spots. You are also only 1-11/2 hours flight time from other Asian locations such as Bali and Koh Samui.

And if after all that you have spare time you can always sample the fantastic shopping Singapore has to offer!


Garfield Robbins International
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London EC1N 8SS
T +44(0) 845 671 0199
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