Insight & Analysis

TayTay gives an insight into Singapore’s edge

Published: Mar 2024

The recent furore over Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour gives an insight into how Singapore has become the most competitive state – and attractive place to do business – in Southeast Asia.

Retro microphone against blurred background

Taylor Swift’s six concerts in Singapore caused bad blood with the country’s neighbours, which looked like it could spill over into a full-blow diplomatic spat. It seems, however, that Singapore has been able to shake it off.

A row developed over the Southeast Asian leg of Swift’s Eras Tour over an exclusive deal with the Singaporean government for all six shows to be held in Singapore. The Thai prime minister said that Singapore had offered US$2m to US$3m per show. Meanwhile, a lawmaker in the Philippines viewed Singapore’s move as a hostile act and said that good neighbours don’t do that kind of thing. The actual figure has not been reported, but the Singaporean prime minister defended the decision on Tuesday and confirmed there was an agreement in place.

Singapore views such a deal as good business, rather than a hostile act. With fans flying to Singapore from all over the region, its local tourism industry got a boost. Maybank estimated the uplift to the Singaporean economy was approximately S$350m in consumer spending. Even if Swift – or TayTay as she is affectionately known – wasn’t a major direct contributor to Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP), the subtext was clear: Singapore is the place to be.

It is no accident that Singapore won the competition for hosting the music event of the decade. Singapore has long been luring companies to do business there with its incentives and tax breaks. This as well as other factors that make it easy to do business there, is one of the reasons many multinational corporations have established their regional – even global – treasury centres in the city state.

Chris Woo and Paul Lau, tax specialists at PwC Singapore note in an article that Singapore offers many incentives for businesses. These include tax exemptions for companies manufacturing high-tech products, and also development and expansion incentives for high-value projects. And Singapore also has a scheme specifically for corporate treasury. The income from a finance and treasury centre (FTC) – such as treasury management, fund management and advisory services – are taxed at a reduced rate of 8%.

This comes in the context of Singapore shifting its economy to a high-skills, high-value hub, rather than a manufacturing hub. For this reason, it has been seeking to boost the skills of its local workforce and tighten the number of foreign professionals working there. According to Reuters, since 2020, Singapore has raised the minimum salary required by foreigners three times. Most recently, this week, it was announced the minimum salary was being raised again. Now, from January 2025, foreign professionals and executives need to be earning at least S$5,600 or more a month to get an employment pass. For the financial services industry, executives and professionals must be earning S$6,200 a month.

While Singapore’s success as a financial and tourism hub has been many years in the making, so too is Swift’s success. Her current net worth has been estimated by Bloomberg to be in the region of US$1.1bn, an extraordinary amount considering most of it comes from her recent record sales and performances – usually musicians make their fortune with a business side hustle.

Swift’s success is also no accident. Aside from her talent, her success can be put down to the business acumen of the team around her and their ability to negotiate deals in her favour. Her parents, who have been managing her career, have a background in finance. Her father, for example, was previously a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch and her mother was a marketing manager for mutual funds.

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