Government Affairs in Singapore

Formal Name:
Republic of Singapore

Local Name:

Location: Southeastern Asia, Islands between Malaysia and Indonesia
Capital City: Singapore
Population: 5.3 million (2011)
Area: 697 sq km
Currency: Singapore Dollar
Languages: Malay, Chinese (Mandarin), Tamil and English
Religions: Buddhism/Taoism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity


Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore is an island nation located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It is a city state of country, capital, islands and islets. It is made up of 53 islands and 7 bank reefs. Singapore measures 697 square kilometres in area and the total population is 5.3 million. The national language of Singapore is Malay. The official languages are English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. English has been promoted as the country’s language of administration.

Although Singapore is small in size, it is a nation comprising 200 ethnic groups. Due to the complexity of its people, different phenomena are observed. These phenomena have a profound influence on Singapore and form a unique culture. 75% of the population is Chinese, followed by Malay 14%, India 9% and Eurasians and other groups 2.5%.

Singapore practices ‘paternalistic politics’ or ‘paternal rule’. In Singapore, one cannot separate the private sector from the public sector. The government is involved in all aspects of Singaporean life. The government works in close contact with the economic sector, community organizations and academia. The relationship between the country and its people is like the parents’ tending to the daily needs, and personal matters of their children so that misconducts will not take place under authority. Similarly, the Singapore government also deems such control over social matters necessary, and legitimate. By administrative means it penetrates the sociality among the people to implement powerful control. In one way, state repressive apparatuses penetrate the society among the people, in the other state ideological apparatuses serve as supplements in circles such as journalism, culture and education. The entire nation is under strict monitoring and control to promote social order and consolidate the political powers of the People’s Action Party.

Civil Society

In Singapore, the People’s Action Party (PAP) is the dominant political party, powerful because of its longstanding position of centrality in the state, won through regular but not very competitive elections. In this leading position, the PAP government has attempted most successfully to activate the people in a civil society that it has endeavoured to depoliticize at the same time. The advent of the new media has facilitated a re-politicization of Singapore’s civil society and forced political parties, including the PAP, to engage citizens in a lightly regulated but relatively uncensored cyberspace.

Political parties in contemporary Singapore serve to aggregate and articulate the various needs and interests of society, seeking power that is legitimised- formally through regular popular elections- at the highest level in legislative and governmental office. In this regard, Singapore is unremarkable. However, Singapore’s democratic elections are, in practice not very competitive. Although there are approximately 20 registered political parties, most of them are minor and dormant even during election time. The PAP has been able to win elections for a number of reasons. As an incumbent party in power, it has tremendous resources at its disposal, including the mainstream media that is indirectly under its control. Nearly all the major newspapers in all of Singapore’s official languages are published by Singapore Press Holdings, which issues management shares of its newspaper companies to individuals approved by the government. MediaCorp which is fully owned by Temasek Holdings (a powerful investment organ of the government), owns nearly all the broadcast stations. More importantly, though the government does not generally practice direct control of media output, several editors and journalists are said to exercise self-censorship.

The electoral system, featuring a first-past-the-post system and multi-member constituencies, favours the dominant party. The PAP government, through its majority in Parliament, has been able to institutionalize constitutional innovations that provide for several non-elected positions, such as nominated parliamentarians and an elected president, that in effect, provide for meritocratic rather than democratic alternatives to traditional party-based opposition in Parliament. It has also been a difficult challenge for the opposition parties to put up a good fight, in part because of inter-and intra-party disagreements and rivalries. Furthermore, the electorate are thought to be satisfied on the whole with the government’s performance over the decades- particularly in the areas of security, social harmony, economic development, and the living environment- and having not known any other government are not keen to risk Singapore’s success by bringing to power an inexperienced party. The PAP attributes its successful record to its technocratic ability, meritocratic approach to leadership selection, and pragmatic approach to politics and policy. For instance, the party’s parliamentary group is mostly made up of members who were talent-spotted, screened, interviewed, and invited into the party and positions of leadership due to their achievements in their own fields and professions, rather than their loyalty and hard work through the party rank and file.

Singapore’s civil society consists of a range of organizations that are private, civic, and/or political in character. The PAP prefers to think of civil society as “civic” society, a depoliticized form that is closer to the civic republican model that values citizens’ public duties rather than the liberal democratic rights-based model that regards the state with suspicion.

To depoliticize civil society, the PAP government has at its disposal a few repressive laws. The Internal Security Act (1960) enables the government to detain without trial anyone deemed to be a threat to national security. The Societies’ Act (1966) requires that civil society groups obtain the approval of the Registrar of Societies to become legal entities. The Registrar may refuse to register societies deemed to be political associations, in case where there is affiliation or connection with foreign organizations. To avoid problems of refusal or delay, civil society organizations tend to avoid any association with opposition parties.

Civil society is seen to be depoliticized not only because these laws make Singaporeans apprehensive, but also because of the widespread belief-expressed in every day conversations, letters to the press, public forum discussions, etc. that the majority of Singaporeans are apathetic, individualistic, materialistic, and pragmatic rather than idealistic. Since the PAP government has been so successful at developing Singapore from a Third World to a First World country in just a few decades, the majority of Singaporeans do not see the need for a civil society of organizations that are not as technocratic, professionalized, and capable as the strong state.

The “grassroots sector” is a constituency-based, closely interconnected network of leaders, committees and voluntary members who belong to organizations that may be described as either party-political structures or para-state (non-political structures). The latter consists of Community Development Councils at district level, Community Centre Management Committees and Citizens Consultative Committees at electoral constituency level, and Resident Committees at neighborhood level. These committees are supervised and supported by the People’s Association, a statutory board chaired by the Prime Minister and, in turn, supervised by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sport (MCYS). Town Councils are local administrative units whose primary responsibility is to look after the municipal concerns of large groupings of electoral constituencies.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), a peak organization to which most of Singapore’s labour unions are affiliated, is closely associated with the PAP. Many of its top office-holders are PAP members, parliamentarians, and even cabinet ministers. Its leaders are part of a tripartite arrangement with the government and employers federations to maintain industrial peace. The National Wages Council meets every year, as part of Singapore’s tripartism, to formulate national wage guidelines. While labour unions used to be adversarial in the 1950s and 1960s, the NTUC has since been a leading force in making Singapore a stable pro-business environment that is attractive to foreign investors.

There are hundreds of voluntary welfare organizations (VWOs) in Singapore whose role is primarily to do with social service delivery. A large proportion of these VWOs come under the umbrella of the National Council of Social Services (NCSS), an agency of the Ministry of Community Development, Youth, and Sports (MCYS). Of particular interest among these VWOs are the ethnic self-groups: Chinese Development Assistance Council for the Chinese who make up 75 percent of the population, Yayasan Mendaki and the Association of Muslim Professionals for the Malay-Muslims who make up about 15 percent; the Singapore Indian Development Association for the Indian who make up 8 percent ; and the Eurasian Association for the Eurasians who make up less than 2 percent.

Although the PAP government tries to depoliticize civil society, it nevertheless wishes Singaporeans would come forward as active citizens to participate in the life of the nation. In this regard, the PAP government has organized at regular intervals national consultative exercises. Through these official national discussions, the people were called to feel responsible for matters that are not only important for themselves but for a larger national community. The agendas, however, are always set and controlled by the PAP government. There are also a number of advocacy groups that champion particular causes and try to influence policies by engaging with the PAP government.

While Singapore’s civil society appears to be rather depoliticized on the surface, its online manifestation is much more politically active, even aggressive. Through websites, blogs, news portals, YouTube, Facebook and twitter, civil society activists engage in critical online discussions and challenge the traditional mainstream media through alternative reporting. While it is tempting for a strong government to impose censorship on new media, the PAP government has decided to regulate this space with a light touch. Since it is technically difficult to sensor anything in cyberspace, such attempts would actually give more publicity and credibility to the censored.

Singapore’s civil society is best conceived in terms of a dynamic and hegemonic relationship with the state, rather than a static relationship. It is possible to classify a large proportion of civil society organizations as institutionally created, directed, supported, or co-opted by the PAP government, leaving very few that could be regarded as independent, resistant, or oppositional. Nevertheless, the relationships are not static, but the result of negotiations, compromises, and struggles that are rarely explicit.

Even though it is a high-capacity government that is relatively autonomous with regard to social forces, the strong PAP government has never been able to control every facet and detail of life in Singapore. It is not difficult, though, to identify several examples of how the government has attempted successfully to shape institutions and ideologies- and to use force and repression in the last instance- in order to encourage behaviour that will credibly maintain its position in power and capacity to use this power for what it deems to be in the national interest. As civil society grows in size and capacity and its activist repertoire expands into new media expressions, the government will face many more difficult challenges in securing its hegemonic position. It will certainly need to continue co-opting oppositional forces, learn new strategies of engagement and impress the electorate with continued socio-political stability and economic growth, while taking seriously rising concerns about social justice, cultural diversity and political space. The PAP will very likely continue to be in government for the next decade at least, but it will more than likely soften in style and evolve into a more conciliatory, sensitive, and inclusive government.



The politics of Singapore takes the form of a parliamentary representative democratic republic whereby the President of Singapore is the head of state, the Prime Minister of Singapore is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the cabinet.

The Cabinet has the general direction and control of the Government and is collectively responsible to Parliament. Like many countries in the world today, there are three separate branches of government: the legislature, executive and judiciary, though not necessarily meaning that there is a separation of power.

Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament of Singapore. The legislature is the parliament, which consists of the president as its head and a single chamber whose members are elected by popular vote. The role of the president as the head of state has been, historically, largely ceremonial although the constitution was amended in 1991 to give the president some veto powers in a few key decisions such as the use of the national reserves and the appointment of key judiciary, Civil Service and Singapore Armed Forces posts. He also exercises powers over civil service appointments and internal security matters.

Singaporean politics have been dominated by the People’s Action Party (PAP) since the 1959 general election when Lee Kuan Yew became Singapore’s first prime minister (Singapore was then a self-governing state within the British Empire). The Economist Intelligence Unit classifies Singapore as a “hybrid” country, with authoritarian and democratic elements. Freedom House does not consider Singapore an “electoral democracy” and ranks the country as “partly free”.

Although dominant in its activities, the government has a clean, corruption-free image. Singapore has consistently been rated as the least-corrupt country in Asia and amongst the top ten cleanest in the world by Transparency International. The World Bank’s governance indicators have also rated Singapore highly on rule of law, control of corruption and government effectiveness. However, it is widely perceived that some aspects of the political process, civil liberties, and political and human rights are lacking.

Although Singapore’s laws are inherited from British and British Indian laws, including many elements of English common law, the PAP has also consistently rejected liberal democratic values, which it typifies as Western and states that there should not be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to a democracy. Laws restricting the freedom of speech are justified by claims that they are intended to prohibit speech that may breed ill will or cause disharmony within Singapore’s multiracial, multi-religious society.


Executive Cabinet

Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore The cabinet forms the executive of the government and it is answerable to parliament. It consist of sitting members of parliament and is headed by a prime minister, the head of government. The current prime minister is Lee Hsien Loong.

Neither the prime minister nor members of the cabinet are elected by parliament. Instead, the prime minister is appointed by the president, who in his/her view is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the parliament. Cabinet members, also known as ministers, are appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister.

The cabinet in Singapore collectively decides the government’s policies and has influence over lawmaking by introducing bills.


Legislative Parliament
Parliament House

The unicameral Singaporean parliament is the legislature in Singapore with the president as its head. It currently consists of 87 members of parliament. The maximum term of any one parliament is five years, after which a general election must be held within three months of the dissolution of parliament.

The 87 elected members of parliament (MPs) are elected on a plurality voting basis and represent either single-member constituencies (SMCs) or group Representation Constituencies (GRCs). In GRCs, political parties field a team of between three to six candidates. At least one candidate in the team must belong to a minority race.

The constitution also provides for the appointment of other members of parliament not voted in at an election. Up to six Non-Constituency Members of Parliament from the opposition political parties can be appointed. Currently, there is one Non-Constituency Member of Parliament.


Legislative process

Before any law is passed, it is first introduced in parliament as a draft known as a bill. Bills are usually introduced by a minister on behalf of the cabinet, known as Government Bill. However, any member of parliament can introduce a bill, known as a Private Member’s Bill. All bills must go through three readings in parliament and receive the president’s assent to become an Act of Parliament.

Each bill goes through several stages before it becomes a law. The first stage is a mere formality known as the first reading, where it is introduced without a debate. This is followed by the second reading, where members of parliament debate on the general principles of the bill. If parliament opposes the bill, it may vote to reject the bill.

If the bill goes through the second reading, the bill is sent to a Select Committee where every clause in the bill is examined. Members of parliament who support the bill in principle but do not agree with certain clauses can propose amendments to those clauses at this stage. Following its report back to parliament, the bill will go through its third reading where only minor amendments will be allowed before it is passed.

Most bills passed by parliament are scrutinised by the Presidential Council for Minority Rights which makes a report to the Speaker of Parliament stating whether there are clauses in a bill which affects any racial or religious community. If approved by the council, the bill will be presented for the president’s assent.

The last stage involves the granting of assent by the president, before the bill officially becomes a law.



The Constitution of Singapore is the supreme law of Singapore and it is a codified constitution.

The constitution cannot be amended without the support of more than two-thirds of the members of parliament on the second and third readings. The president may seek opinion on constitutional issues from a tribunal consisting of not less than three judges of the Supreme Court. Singaporean courts cannot offer advisory opinion on the constitutionality of laws.



Tony Tan Keng Yam, the President of Singapore The president is directly elected to office for a six-year term by popular vote. The president exercises powers over the following:

  • appointment of public officers
  • government budgets
  • examine government’s exercise of its powers under the Internal Security Act
  • examine government’s exercise of its powers under religious harmony laws
  • investigations into cases of corruption


However, the president must consult the Council of Presidential Advisers before he takes a decision on some of these matters. The council comprises:

  • two members appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister
  • one member appointed by the president on the advice of the chief justice
  • one member appointed by the president on the advice of the chairman of the Public

Service Commission

A member of the council serves a six-year term and are eligible for re-appointment for further terms of four years each.

Similar to the Speech from the Throne given by the heads of state in other parliamentary systems, the president delivers an address written by the government at the opening of parliament about what kind of policies to expect in the coming year. The current president is Tony Tan Keng Yam.

  • Constitutional government
  • Laws of Singapore


The legal system of Singapore is based on the English common law system. Major areas of law – particularly administrative law, contract law, equity and trust law, property law and tort law – are largely judge-made, though certain aspects have now been modified to some extent by statutes. However, other areas of law, such as criminal law, company law and family law, are almost completely statutory in nature.

Apart from referring to relevant Singaporean cases, judges continue to refer to English case law where the issues pertain to a traditional common-law area of law, or involve the interpretation of Singaporean statutes based on English enactments or English statutes applicable in Singapore.

These days, there is also a greater tendency to consider decisions of important Commonwealth jurisdictions such as Australia and Canada, particularly if they take a different approach from English law.

Certain Singapore statutes are not based on English enactments but on legislation from other jurisdictions. In such situations, court decisions from those jurisdictions on the original legislation are often examined. Thus, Indian law is sometimes consulted in the interpretation of the Evidence Act and the Penal Code, which were based on Indian statutes.

On the other hand, where the interpretation of the Constitution of Singapore is concerned, courts remain reluctant to take into account foreign legal materials on the basis that a constitution should primarily be interpreted within its own four walls rather than in the light of analogies from other jurisdictions; and because economic, political, social and other conditions in foreign countries are perceived to be different.

Certain laws such as the Internal Security Act (which authorizes detention without trial in certain circumstances) and the Societies Act (which regulates the formation of associations) that were enacted during British rule in Singapore remain in the statute book, and both corporal and capital punishment are still in use.

Legislation, or statutory law, can be divided into statutes and subsidiary legislation. Statutes are written laws enacted by the Singapore Parliament, as well as by other bodies such as the British Parliament, Governor-General of India in Council and Legislative Council of the Straits Settlements which had power to pass laws for Singapore in the past. Statutes enacted by these other bodies may still be in force if they have not been repealed. One particularly important statute is the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, which is the supreme law of Singapore – any law enacted by the Legislature after the commencement of the Constitution which is inconsistent with it is, to the extent of the inconsistency, void. Statutes of the Singapore Parliament, as well as English statutes in force in Singapore by virtue of the Application of English Law Act 1993 (see above), are published in looseleaf form in a series called the Statutes of the Republic of Singapore which is gathered in red binders, and are also accessible on-line from Singapore Statutes Online, a free service provided by the Attorney-General’s Chambers of Singapore.

Subsidiary legislation, also known as “delegated legislation” or “subordinate legislation”, is written law made by ministers or other administrative agencies such as government departments and statutory boards under the authority of a statute (often called its “parent Act”) or other lawful authority, and not directly by Parliament. Subsidiary legislation currently in force in Singapore is published in looseleaf form in a series called the Subsidiary Legislation of the Republic of Singapore which is gathered in black binders. New subsidiary legislation published in the Gazette may be viewed for free on-line for five days on the Electronic Gazette website.



Since its formation, the developmental state in Singapore has gained a reputation for its efficient administration, competitive economy, and corruption free governance. Within a short time span of five decades, Singapore has achieved the status of advanced industrial economy on the basis of consistently high growth rates, and it is now one of the countries with the highest per capita income. Despite many critics holding sceptical views on Singapore’s mode of governance, it made these economic achievements largely through a state-centric approach. The state of Singapore has been highly capable of managing its national economy, coordinating with foreign capital, and producing spectacular economic results. In the absence of a strong private sector, the state enjoyed considerable autonomy to pursue an interventionist, but effective, mode of economic management. In terms of integrity of public governance, Singapore has been one of the most corruption-free countries in the world. For several years, it has been ranked the least corrupt country in Asia in terms of the Corruption Perception Index published by Transparency International.

The solid economic fundamentals all contribute to Singapore’s stability. The legal and tax system are also well established and considered to be very investor-friendly. The operational environment is also highly attractive, given Singapore’s favorable attitude towards foreign investment. The open nature of the city state’s economy and excellent regulatory framework is illustrated by its consistent top rankings in the World Bank’s publication on the ease of doing business. Singapore further maintains an excellent infrastructure and the security environment is excellent with low crime rates.


Negotiating in Singapore

This section is an excerpt from the book “Negotiating International Business- The Negotiator’s Reference Guide to 50 countries Around the World’ by Lothar Katz.

Around three quarters of the Singaporean population are Chinese. The rest are predominantly Malays or Indians. Although they have developed many common values, their respective cultural influences remain strong and the country is culturally pluralistic.

Singaporeans may appear more ‘westernized’ than other Asians. However, that can be deceptive. On one hand, especially young business people are usually very experienced in interacting with other cultures. Many of them are flexible and open-minded, eager to develop business with foreigners. On the other hand, the country’s business culture is quite ethnocentric. People of the same ethnic group may inherently trust each other much more than any ‘outsider’. There are also used to be a general bias against foreigners. This is gradually disappearing.

Singapore’s culture is generally group-oriented. Asserting individual preferences may be seen as less important than having a sense of belonging to a group, conforming to its norms, and maintaining harmony among its members. Building lasting and trusting personal relationships is therefore very important, though to a lesser degree than in several other Asian countries. Some Singaporeans may engage in business while the relationship building process is still ongoing. However, others in the country may expect to establish stronger bonds prior to closing any deals. Generally, it is beneficial to allow some time for your Singaporean counterparts to get to know and become comfortable with you prior to proceeding with serious business discussions. In any case, your local partners will expect you to be committed to the business relationship for many years. Unlike in many western countries, business relationships in Singapore exist mostly between individuals or groups of people rather than between companies. Accordingly, if your company replaces you with another representative, relationships need to be built anew.

In Singapore’s culture, ‘saving face’ is also critical. Causing embarrassment to another person, such as correcting him or her, disagreeing with an older person or a superior, may cause a loss of face for all parties involved and can be very detrimental for business negotiations. Reputation and social standing strongly depend on a person’s ability to control one’s emotions and remain friendly, at all times. If you have to bring an unpleasant topic with a person, never do so in public and always convey your message in ways that maintain the others’ self-respect. Reserve and tact are very important. Keep your cool and never show openly that you are upset.

Attitudes and Styles: Leveraging relationships is an important element when negotiating in Singapore. Nevertheless, Singaporeans often employ distributive and contingency bargaining. While the buyer is in a superior position, both sides in a business deal own the responsibility to reach agreement. They expect long-term commitment from their business partners and will focus mostly on long-term benefits. Although the primary negotiation style is competitive, Singaporeans nevertheless value long-term relationships. They respect hard bargainers as long as they avoid creating direct conflict. Both sides remain friendly throughout the negotiations, and attempts to win competitive advantages should not be taken negatively. The culture promotes a win-win approach since this is the best way for everyone to save face throughout a negotiation. You earn your counterparts’ respect by maintaining a positive, persistent attitude. Should a dispute arise at any stage of a negotiation, you might be able to reach resolution through logical arguments and references to past experiences. Show your commitment to the relationship and refrain from using logical reasoning or becoming argumentative since this will only make matters worse. Patience and creativity will pay strong dividends. Although personal relationships matter a lot, referring to them alone may not be enough to resolve the conflict. In extreme situations, use a mediator, ideally the party who initially introduced you.


Sharing of Information: Singaporean negotiators are willing to spend considerable time, sometimes many weeks or even months, gathering information and discussing various details before the bargaining stage of a negotiation can begin. Some information is shared since this is viewed as a way to build trust. However, expecting your counterpart to reveal everything you might want to know during your negotiation would be naïve.


Pace of Negotiation: Expect negotiations to be slow and protracted. Relationship building, information gathering, bargaining, and decision making all take considerable time. Be prepared to make several trips if necessary to achieve your objectives. Throughout the negotiation be patient, control your emotions, and accept that delays occur. Singaporeans generally employ a polychromic work style. They are used to pursuing multiple actions and goals in parallel. When negotiating, they often take a holistic approach and may jump back and forth between topics rather than addressing them in sequential order. Negotiators from strongly monochromic cultures such as Germany, the United Kingdom, or the United States may find this style confusing, irritating, and even annoying. In any case, do not show irritation or anger when encountering this behaviour. Instead, keep track of the bargaining process at all times, often emphasizing areas where agreement already exists. If your counterpart appear to be stalling the negotiation, assess carefully whether their slowing down the process indicates that they are evaluating alternatives or that they are not interested in doing business with you. While such behaviour could represent attempts to create time pressure in order to obtain concessions, the slow decision process in the country is far more likely causing the lack of progress. People from fast-paced cultures tend to underestimate how much time this takes and often make the mistake of trying to ‘speed thing up’. Again patience and persistence are important.


Bargaining: Singaporeans are often shrewd negotiators who should not be underestimated. They love bargaining and haggling, and people may use a wide array of negotiation techniques quite competently. The bargaining stage of a negotiation can be extensive. Prices often move more than 40 percent between initial offers and final agreement. Leave yourself sufficient room for concessions at different stage. Ask the other side to reciprocate if you made one. You can use the facts that aspects can be re-visited to your advantage, for instance by offering further concessions under the condition that the Singaporean side reciprocates in areas that had already been agreed upon. Singaporeans often prefer a straightforward negotiation style. They use deceptive techniques only infrequently, such as telling lies and sending fake non-verbal messages, pretending to be disinterested in the whole deal or in single concessions, misrepresenting  an item’s value, or making false demands and concessions. Do not take such tactics personally and refrain from lying at or grossly misleading your counterparts, as doing so might damage business relationships. Lies may be difficult to detect. It is advisable to verify the information received from the local side through other channels. Similarly, they treat ‘outside’ information with caution. Singaporeans rarely use ‘good cop, bad cop’; however, it can sometimes be beneficial to use this tactic in your own negotiation approach. Carefully, orchestrated, it may allow you to obtain valuable concessions without damaging the overall relationship. However, your team will need to exclude any ‘bad cop’ member from future negotiation round. Businesspeople are not likely to use the ‘limited authority’ technique because groups rather than individuals normally make decisions. Since you must avoid causing loss of face, be cautious when using the techniques or making false demands or false concessions. Singaporean negotiators, especially those of Chinese heritage, may use pressure tactics such as applying time pressure or making expiring offers. If they learn that the other side is working against a deadline, they may exploit this knowledge to increase the time pressure. Most of these tactics cannot be used against them effectively since the Chinese are patient and persistent enough to overcome such challenges. Other pressure techniques such as nibbling, threats, and warnings may occasionally be used. Final offers may be made more than once and are almost never final. Periods of silence in conversations are normal and may not represent an attempt to use it as a negotiation technique. Avoid tactics such as opening with your best offer or showing intransigence, since they cannot be applied effectively without running the risk of causing loss of face. Negotiators avoid most aggressive and adversarial techniques since they affect face. The risk of using any of them is rarely worth the potential gain. Extreme openings may occasionally be used as a way to start the bargaining process. However, use the tactics only with great caution since it may adversely  affect the relationship if employed too aggressively. As in most strongly relationship-oriented cultures, negotiators may sometimes use emotional techniques such as attitudinal bargaining, sending dual messages, attempting to make you feel guilty, grimacing, or appealing to personal relationships. Singaporeans can be very compelling when acting disappointed or insulted. Be cautious when doing this yourself. You might cause the other side to lose face, which could damage your negotiating position. At times defensive tactics such as blocking, distracting and changing the subject, asking probing questions, or making promises may be used. The exception is directness, which is rare in Singapore. People may be shocked if you are overly direct yourself, which can be counterproductive. Note that opening with written offers and attempting to introduce written terms and conditions as a negotiation tactic is rarely successful. In most cases, businesspeople ignore or tactfully reject them and request that each aspect be negotiated individually. Corruption and bribery are very rare in Singapore. It is believed to have the lowest corruption rate of any Asian country. Bribery is illegal and may be punished harshly. It is strongly advisable to stay away from giving gifts of significant value or making offers that could be read as bribery.


Decision Making: Most companies tend to be very hierarchical, and people expect to work within clearly established lines of authority. Disagreeing with or criticizing superiors is unacceptable. However, decision making is normally a consensus-oriented group process in Singapore. This can be confusing to Westerners looking to identify the ‘key decision maker’ in an organization, while in reality such as role may not exist at all. Decisions are often made through a process involving many stakeholders who establish consensus through a series of deliberations. This process can take a long time and requires patience. Influencing the decision making requires building strong relationships with as many stakeholders as you possibly can. Senior leaders orchestrate the process and secure the support of the group. Nevertheless, their input carries a lot of weight and they sometimes have the final say, so do everything you can to win their approval.

When making decisions, Singaporean businesspeople usually consider the specific situation rather than applying universal principles. Personal feelings and experiences weigh more strongly than empirical evidence and other objective facts do. Most Singaporeans are moderate risk takers…



Useful Contacts

Economic Development Board

Enterprise One

International Enterprise Singapore (IE)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ministry of Law

Ministry of Trade and Industry

Parliament of Singapore

Prime Ministers’ Office

Singapore Business Federation

Singapore Governmental Portal