Thursday, August 21, 2008

Singapore Tax-Haven

The corruption and money-laundering scandal that have engulfed former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian and his family had reached Singapore.

Taiwan's investigators will descend on our fair island to investigate whether the former president moved money through the Singapore banking system to launder ill-gotten money. I know this is a sensitive case, maybe even political case, but I think maybe it’s time Singapore take a look and put in some control on money coming into Singapore.

This is not the first time our banking system has come under international scrutiny. Indonesia has long complained that corrupt officials and businessman in Indonesia move their money out of the country through Singapore; even Nepal’s former prince has made Singapore his home in part because of Singapore financial ‘position’.

Now I love the fact money is coming into Singapore, they are the reason why our property market is holding up so well, but in our search for hot money, Singapore has now gained a little reputation as a tax-haven. I think it is time for Singapore to re-think our position on this. We may gain money from foreign investors due to this reputation but, in the long-term, I think we are doing more harm than good with this reputation.

There is no real need for us to be a financial hub so badly that we turn a blind eye to ‘improper money’. In fact with our status as a port and oil-refinery success, I feel that all these money-laundering/tax-haven accusations are doing long-term harm to our future. Trading partners are usually uncomfortable doing business with people (or countries) with a reputation/ accusations for money-laundering.

Now I’m not saying Singapore did anything wrong (in fact if Singapore don’t do this other countries will) what I am saying is that there is no need for Singapore to be a tax-haven. With our financial and trading position, Singapore does not need hot money as much as other countries. Let other countries deal with the reputation as a tax-haven, Singapore don’t need to.

Chen Shui-bian’s case is not the first to hit Singapore, and it will not be the last. And that I feel is something Singapore can do without.

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