10. Singapore

Singapore has not only taken efforts to align itself with the ASEAN Single Window (ASW) initiative, but the country has also stayed active in its participation within various regional agreements which have promoted better and more open regulation. Presently, Singapore is a signatory to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), aimed at opening trade regulations between Asia Pacific countries as well as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which promotes the liberalisation of trade between countries within the region. The Agreement between New Zealand–Singapore on a Closer Economic Partnership (CEP) has also enforced the country’s position on regulatory co-operation as the agreement underlines that regulation co-operation should “further domestic policy objectives, improve the effectiveness of domestic regulation in the face of increased cross-border activity and promote international trade and investment, economic growth and employment” between the two countries (OECD, 2021[1]).

Aside from the country’s engagement within various multilateral and bilateral trade agreements, Singapore has also made efforts to update its intellectual property (IP) rights regime by enhancing their strategy for compliance. As of early 2020, Singapore required that all IP applications would need to undergo a full examination by the country’s Intellectual Property Office to ensure that all foreign-granted patents met the satisfaction of Singapore’s patentability criteria (ITA, 2021[2]).

Singapore has maintained a good position in terms of being considered as being one of the most appealing business environments within the world (OECD, 2018[3]). Since 2018, the Government of Singapore has continued efforts towards improving its regulatory environment for businesses, with many reforms already being undertaken to provide businesses with better access to financial and assistance schemes. One particular example that can be noted is Singapore’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 Plan (MTI, 2016[4]), which has been part of the country’s national strategy to strengthen their knowledge and innovation driven economy (for more information on the plan (see Box 10.1).

The Government of Singapore has also continued its efforts to implement its Industry Transformation Programme, through the design of Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs), which have focussed on creating integrated roadmaps to drive industry transformation (OECD, 2018[3]).

OECD (2018[3]) noted that further formalising regulatory approaches, such as regulatory impact assessments (RIAs), in Singapore would help to standardise practices for better policymaking within the country.

At present, ministries are required to conduct comprehensive assessments of upcoming regulation by reviewing the potential impacts of the proposal and outlining any possible distributional effects (OECD, 2018[3]). Policymakers are also encouraged to review other possible policy options (i.e. taxes, self-regulation, etc.); however, no specific obligations currently exist, which require regulators to consider alternatives to a proposed regulation (OECD, 2018[3]). Finally, Singapore currently does not have a central regulatory oversight body that reviews and monitors the development of new regulatory policies; rather this responsibility should be assumed by the undertaking ministry who is overseeing the regulatory proposal (OECD, 2018[3]; World Bank, n.d.[8]). That being said, regulatory impact assessment guidelines have been made available for policymakers to consult and can be accessed through the country’s national library.

Information related to upcoming regulatory proposals are also made available to stakeholders in advance to their presentation within parliament, where they are welcomed to submit consultation questions in order to seek clarifications on new or amended regulations (OECD, 2018[3]). Government agencies or regulators then report the results of their assessments to parent ministries on a regular basis, such as during a mid-term or end-term review.

Stakeholders are welcome to submit consultation questions in order to seek clarifications on either upcoming, new or amended regulations. Government agencies and/or regulators then report the results of their assessments to their ministry and address them during scheduled periods such as during a mid-term or end-term review (OECD, 2018[3]). The Ministry of Communications and Information (REACH) is the specialised government body tasked with soliciting and receiving all comments related to stakeholder engagements, however, Ministries or regulators can also organise online stakeholder consultations through targeted outreach to stakeholders or via their websites (World Bank, n.d.[8])

Since 2018, there has also been a shift in how the Government of Singapore interacts with Singaporean stakeholders. Moving beyond just formal consultations, the Government has emphasised the need to collaborate better with its citizens to create a more inclusive and participatory policy environments. In particular, not only has Singapore’s Public Service invested towards strengthening agencies’ and officers’ engagement capabilities (via larger training programs, resources for better public engagement, and digital tools), but Singapore’s deputy Prime Minister also emphasised his alignment to this approach by launching the Singapore Together movement in June 2019 (see Box 10.2) (MCCY, 2020[9]).

Once stakeholder consultations are completed, it is the onus of the relevant government agency to communicate the benefits and costs of the regulatory policy to the public. In general, this step has been co-ordinated either with the organisation of national outreach events (i.e. seminars, conferences, workshops) or through public announcements, such as with a brief publication in a national paper or online media. Outcomes of consultations on major regulatory policies such as those that could affect large sectors or industries can also be announced during annual budget announcements or the National Day rally speeches (OECD, 2018[3]).

Post implementation reviews are administered on an ad-hoc basis, without requirements set in law, and at the discretion of the overseeing government agency or ministry of the particular regulatory area (World Bank, n.d.[8]). Monitoring and evaluation activities are regularly conducted by respective government agencies to ensure that the key objectives of regulations are met. To do so, it has been reported that government agencies often incorporate key performance indicators as part of the regulatory proposal so that information can be easily consolidated and verified on whether the regulation has achieved its objectives (OECD, 2018[3]). Sunset clauses within executive regulations, promulgation and re-promulgation review are subject to Parliamentary scrutiny upon expiry (Molloy, 2021[11]).

For reducing administrative burdens, Singapore uses both stakeholder consultation as one means to receive feedback, as well as one-stop shops to streamline services and improve co-ordination between different ministries and agencies (OECD, 2018[3]). An example can be viewed through the platform “Enterprise Singapore”, which offers a space for small businesses to access all services related to business advice, government assistance, and financial support. Other examples can also be noted in The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority’s (ACRA) website BizFile+ and the Government of Singapore’s Business licensing portal (GoBusiness Singapore) (see Box 10.3) (OECD, 2018[3]). The location of these one-stop shops can vary, with some located in business chambers, associations and community centres.

Digital technologies have also been used to simplify processes related to laws and regulations. The Digital Government Blueprint of Singapore mentions that The Authentic Court Order (ACO) system was introduced in January 2020, to simplify the process of verifying Court Orders. Previously, parties needed to make a Certified True Copy (“CTC”) of their court orders as proof of having obtained the official document. Applying for CTC took several days and required more than one trip to the Court, and a fee needed to be paid for every hardcopy CTC (Government Technology Agency, 2020[10]). From January 2020, eligible court orders could be validated online, and parties could show a photocopy, email, or even a screenshot of an ACO to any relying party (a bank, government agency etc.), which could verify the authenticity of the order by retrieving a validated copy of the same court order directly from the ACO website (Government Technology Agency, 2020[10]). There is no waiting time and no need to collect CTCs in person, and this service is free of charge (Government Technology Agency, 2020[10]).

Digitalisation is a key pillar of the Government’s public service transformation efforts. The Digital Government Blueprint (DGB) is a statement of the Government’s ambition to better leverage data and harness new technologies, and to drive broader efforts to build a digital economy and digital society, in support of Smart Nation (Government Technology Agency, 2020[10]). Singapore’s six-fold strategy to build a Digital Government consists of the following:

  • Integrating services around citizen and business needs;

  • Strengthening integration between policy, operations and technology;

  • Re-engineering the Government’s ICT infrastructure;

  • Operating reliable, resilient and secure systems;

  • Raising our digital capabilities to pursue innovation; and,

  • Co-creating with citizens and businesses, and facilitating adoption of technology

Of these six strategies, the third strategy of re-engineering the Government’s ICT infrastructure particularly focuses on using digital tools to create a better regulatory environment. A key enabler of this strategy is CODEX (Core Operations, Development Environment and eXchange), which is a suite of digital solutions that will enable the Government to deliver better digital services to citizens faster and more cost efficiently. It comprises (Government Technology Agency, 2020[10]):

  • A Government Data Architecture for common data standards and formats that better enables seamless data sharing between agencies;

  • A systematic shift of less sensitive Government systems and data onto the commercial cloud, enabling the use of leading-edge cloud tools to develop digital services; and

  • A Singapore Government Technology Stack (SGTS) comprising a suite of shared software components and infrastructure to enable more efficient and focused building of digital applications. This reduces the time and effort needed to introduce new digital services and improves existing ones, and allows greater interoperability.

MyInfo is a Government-developed data platform, which enables locally registered businesses to digitalise their business operations by requesting for citizen’s personal data via secure Application Programming Interfaces (API) with their consent. The MyInfo platform was one of the first projects to use the SGTS, and was developed and delivered in four months, instead of what would typically take a year. With real-time consent-based access to data items from more than 10 government agencies, businesses are able to retrieve verified personal data for B2C digital transactions (Government Technology Agency, 2020[10]). MyInfo has also been extended to enable B2B transactions with the addition of corporate data. This has enabled the streamlining loans, bank account opening, and grants applications by SMEs. Since the on-boarding of MyInfo, businesses have reported (Government Technology Agency, 2020[10]):

  • Usage by 80% of eligible customers;

  • 80% reduction in transaction time for digital transactions;

  • 20% improvement in digital transaction completion from better user experience;

  • 15% increase in approvals due to better data quality;

  • Instant application processing using verified customers’ identities.

Singapore has also used digital tools to take further steps in integrating services around citizen and business needs. The Moments of Life app was developed using the Service Journey approach to proactively support families with young children by bundling streamlined services and information, such as birth registration and early childhood services (Government Technology Agency, 2020[10]). The app was then expanded to support seniors aged 60 and above in their journey to live active and engaged lives. Further efforts to expand the scope of services provided by the app resulted to the app being rebranded in August 2020. The app was rebranded to LifeSG, and transitioned the app from serving specific moments of life, to providing one-stop and personalised access to government services for all citizens (Government Technology Agency, 2020[10]). LifeSG offers users more ready access to digital government services through the consolidation of personalised content, and citizens can explore and easily access more than 40 Government services and discover recommended content through a personalised dashboard (Government Technology Agency, 2020[10]).

Monitoring of progress on the Digital Government Blueprint (DGB) shows progress in achieving a digital government. Key Highlights of the Progress of DGB KPIs as of end-2019 include (Government Technology Agency, 2020[10]):

  • 86% of citizens and 77% of businesses reported that they are “very” or “extremely” satisfied (at least 5 on a 6-point scale) with Government digital services, against the DGB target of 75-80%. These are the best results since the survey started in 2012. Both results also improved significantly, by 8%, compared to 2018.

  • To date, 95% of transactions (by volume) are completed digitally from end-to-end, meeting the target of 90-95%.

  • We have met the target for number of officers trained in data analytics and data science and will review a new KPI.

  • All 20 Ministries have submitted plans to use Artificial Intelligence.

Apart from the Digital Government Blueprint, adopting Industry 4.0 technologies has also been highlighted in Table 10.1.

Digital tools have also assisted businesses in expanding globally. OneSME is a cross-border digital trade platform launched in 2020. It connects business-to-business (B2B) platforms between Singapore and China to help local SMEs expand their overseas reach and tap significant demand from Chinese SMEs for Singapore products (SGSME, 2020[15]).

Moreover, in November 2019, Singapore launched a National AI Strategy. AI SG is a national programme to catalyse, synergise and boost Singapore’s AI capabilities. It is driven by a partnership between the National Research Foundation (NRF), the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO), the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), SGInnovate and the Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS) (IMDA, n.d.[16]). The strategy originally identified five national AI projects including transport and logistics, smart cities and estates, healthcare, education, and safety and security, all of these projects intended to address key challenges that will help ensure Singaporeans experience successful and sustainable AI innovation and adoption. Two new National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Programmes in Government and Finance were launched at the Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) x Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH) 2021 (Smart Nation Singapore, 2021[17]). The two new programmes are (Smart Nation Singapore, 2021[17]):

  • The National AI Programme in Government aims to further advance Government’s digital transformation efforts. Through greater use of AI in government agencies, the Government hopes to strengthen policymaking and planning, provide more personalised and responsive services, and optimise Government processes for the benefit of citizens and businesses.

  • The National AI Programme in Finance aims to develop Singapore into a global hub for financial institutions to research, develop, and deploy AI solutions.


[7] Enterprise Singapore (2019), Our Strategy: 2019 and Beyond, https://www.enterprisesg.gov.sg/-/media/esg/files/media-centre/media-releases/2019/march-2019/enterprise-singapore-strategic-plan-2019-by-ceo-png-cheong-boon-14-mar.pdf?la=en.

[6] Enterprise Singapore (n.d.), About Enterprise Singapore, https://www.enterprisesg.gov.sg/about-us/overview.

[10] Government Technology Agency (2020), Digital Government Blueprint.

[14] IMDA (2020), , https://www.imda.gov.sg/news-and-events/Media-Room/Media-Releases/2020/Stay-Healthy-Go-Digital-Making-Digitalisation-More-Accessible-to-Businesses.

[16] IMDA (n.d.), Artificial Intelligence, https://www.imda.gov.sg/infocomm-media-landscape/SGDigital/tech-pillars/Artificial-Intelligence.

[13] INCIT (n.d.), Smart Industry Readiness Index, https://siri.incit.org/about.

[2] ITA (2021), Singapore-Country Commercial Guide, https://www.trade.gov/country-commercial-guides/singapore-protecting-intellectual-property.

[9] MCCY (2020), Public consultation and engagement, https://www.mccy.gov.sg/about-us/news-and-resources/parliamentary-matters/2020/jun/public-consultation-and-engagement.

[11] Molloy, S. (2021), Approach With Caution: Sunset Clauses as Safeguards of Democracy, European Journal of Law Reform.

[4] MTI (2016), Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020, Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), Singapore, https://www.mti.gov.sg/Resources/publications/Research-Innovation-and-Enterprise-RIE-2020 (accessed on 28 September 2022).

[5] MTI (n.d.), CPTPP, https://www.mti.gov.sg/Improving-Trade/Free-Trade-Agreements/CPTPP.

[1] OECD (2021), International Regulatory Co-operation, OECD Best Practice Principles for Regulatory Policy, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5b28b589-en.

[3] OECD (2018), Good Regulatory Practices to Support Small and Medium Enterprises in Southeast Asia, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264305434-en.

[15] SGSME (2020), Digital platform OneSME launched to promote trade between Singapore, China SMEs, https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/sme/digital-platform-onesme-launched-to-promote-trade-between-singapore-china-smes.

[12] Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (2018), Smart Nation: The Way Forward.

[17] Smart Nation Singapore (2021), Two New National AI Programmes Launched, https://www.smartnation.gov.sg/media-hub/press-releases/new-ai-programmes-2021.

[8] World Bank (n.d.), Global Indicators of Regulatory Governance, https://rulemaking.worldbank.org/en/data/explorecountries/singapore#.

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