Singapore Must Open More to Emerging-Market Travel, Mobius Says
(Bloomberg) -- Singapore’s government needs to hasten the reopening of its borders if it wants to attract more business, according to veteran emerging-markets investor Mark Mobius.
Currently in Dubai, Mobius said in Bloomberg Television interview with Haslinda Amin that he has not returned to Singapore recently because of its restrictive policies.
“It’s so much easier to do business here because you’re able to travel, particularly to emerging market countries, whereas with Singapore, they’ve warmed up to Europe but not to emerging market countries,” the founder of Mobius Capital Partners LLP said. In a follow-up email, Mobius said he’d been away from Singapore for about a year now.
Singapore faced an exodus of foreigners in 2020 as the Asian financial hub imposed strict pandemic-related mobility restrictions and border curbs while tightening restrictions on hiring foreign workers. The city-state’s population shrank a record 4.1% year-over-year as of data through June 2021.
Singapore’s Transport Minister S Iswaran on Monday said the country is reopening its borders in a “careful and calibrated manner” as it announced a travel corridor between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, its first such quarantine free travel route in Southeast Asia.
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Singapore has opened vaccinated travel lanes on certain flights between the island and more than a dozen major cities, mainly in Europe, North America and Australia, as it tries to rebuild its status as a global air hub. Singapore and Seoul VTL flights start next week, while quarantine-free travel between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore -- one of the busiest international air routes in the world before Covid -- is set to resume Nov. 29.
However even with that easing, Singapore remains far stricter than Dubai when it comes to international arrivals.
Consider India, among the biggest weightings in Mobius’ emerging markets portfolio. A vaccinated traveler from Mumbai going to Singapore would need to serve a 10-day quarantine in addition to multiple Covid tests at their own expense. In Dubai, they may need to test before flying and again on arrival, but would otherwise be free to move about as normal once that final result came back negative.
Singapore needs to adopt policies similar to those in Dubai where “everybody wears masks, everybody gets vaccinated but you allow them to travel and go in and out of the country,” said Mobius.
Though Mobius said he has had an apartment in the city-state for more than 15 years, as long as travel to emerging markets is restricted from Singapore, “I have to stay in Dubai.”
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