July 18th, 2012
05:11 PM GMT
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Editor’s note: Outlook is CNN's in-depth look at business climates around the world. To August 12, 2012, we’re focusing on Singapore.

Singapore (CNN) – The glass skyscrapers of the business district is how much of the world sees Singapore. Drive to the west of the city state and you see a very different view where the real economy is hard at work.

In tiny Singapore they make things, lots of things, and sometimes in partnership with companies like Keppel, very large and expansive things like oil rigs.

It is perhaps surprising to learn that around a quarter of Singapore’s GDP comes from manufacturing and is a world leader in oil rig manufacture. Keppel hope to keep that position and is currently building 30 oil rigs, with 20 set to be delivered next year. Each one costs at least $200 million.

The company has survived with investment and the backing of a government that knows what floats the economy. Building a rig is not old fashioned metal bashing, but advanced engineering and mechanics using 3-D imagining and computer technology.

In a country criticised for being conservative, where change is often the last thing on government's mind, government and industry work together in an old fashioned way by promoting new thinking.

The newest addition to Singapore’s industry is Rolls-Royce. The Seletar plant is the British company’s first outside of the UK to build aircraft engines, and was built in close cooperation with the Singaporean government.

With its high cost of living, Singapore will never be a place to make labour intensive, mass production consumer goods.

Instead they specialise in added value, specialised products tailored to the island’s resources. It means manufacturing becomes another way to balance the country and ensure as Asia grows, it also gets a share of the business.

CNN’s Outlook series often carries sponsorship originating from the countries we feature. However CNN retains full editorial control over all of its reporting.

Filed under: Outlook Singapore

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. medhat

    Fun to learn English for free

    July 19, 2012 at 1:14 am |
  2. Gracia Olufemi

    Singaporean government is very forward looking as only a liberal government will create such employment and developmental opportunities driven by foreign investment within its borders.
    Certainly, the government's conservativeness is being well balanced.

    July 22, 2012 at 4:37 am |
  3. What is behind the superficial prosperity

    Yes, today Kepple FELS are building 30 oil rigs, with 20 set to be delivered next year. Each one costs at least $200 million, but behind the superfacial is not that glorious.
    I am a employee from Keppel FELS' china branch 'Keppel FELS Engineering Shenzhen Co Ltd' (below use Kepple shenzhen for short), which belongs to 'Keppel OFFSHORE & MARINE', from early of 2011, Kepple shenzhen has got the task to design 6 rig projects one after the other. And from then on, we undergone a two years of inhuman life.
    Article 36 of the Chinese Labour Law regulates the labour's working hour mustn't be more than 8 hous, and average working hous per week mustn't be more than 44 hours.
    But employee of Kepple shenzhen often has to work over time more than 60 hours per month excluding the normal working hours each day 8 hours (about 35% of its employee), some month someone even work over time more than 100 hours(about 5% of its employee, most of which is the person in charge of each project), among which, there is extreme case that a person worked from today morning 8:00 AM untill next day 2:00AM only with 1.5 hours rest time. Maybe you will ask, for what emloyee work so long time, the answer is, Keppel FELS usually establish a very tight schedule. Employee work so long time just hope to meet the schedule, otherwise, employee may lose job.
    And what was worse, the company regular each employee to sign a so called agreement which state the company do not require employee to work over time, if employee do so, it is of one's willing.
    Article 40 of the Chinese Labour Law regulates employee works over time should get compensation from company, at working day, the payment per hour shoule be 150% of his/her salary; At weekend rises to 200%; At legal holiday such as national day rises to 300%. But the company only pay us about RMB 25, that is SGD 5, and USD 3.9225, which is only
    45%~55% compare to one's salary, the worst thing is the highest payment has been limited to RMB 1500, that is SGD 300, and USD 235.35.
    So the Keppel's China branch shenzhen company is a genuine Chinese called sweaty and bloody company. We are eager of someone's help no matter who is that.

    July 22, 2012 at 8:40 am |

    way to go

    July 27, 2012 at 5:46 pm |

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