Singapore Becoming NGOs’ Preferred Base

A recent article by the Straits Times highlighted the growing presence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that pursue environmental agendas setting up shop in Singapore. This was attributed to staunch government support as well as the possible availability of funding, even as the awareness of sustainability and environmental issues is slowly increasing among individuals and businesses in the region.

In 2007, the Government set up the International Organizations Programme Office at the Economic Development Board (EDB) that was designed to inform and attract non-profit organizations of the viability of setting their bases here. The government aims to attract 150 global NGOs from all sectors by 2015, creating a total of 2500 jobs in the process.

A slew of benefits such as various governmental grants, availability of specific technical skills as well as tax incentives have been instrumental for the survival of existing NGOs here. For example, the government exempts charities with an annual income or expenses of under $500,000 from financial audit. This allows a reduction of costs for NGOs through the elimination of audit costs and enables them to channel these funds in other meaningful areas.

Nevertheless, the main stumbling block has been getting Asian firms to be more sustainable and supportive of environment groups. However, the silver lining has been that companies have gradually become more receptive to the concept of sustainability. Furthermore, local NGOs have become more vocal in environmental advocacy. In particular, the conservation of heritage site, Bukit Brown Cemetery, as well the sale of shark’s fins ignited a wave of reports in the press, pointing to the growth and increased involvement of civil society in various environment-related causes.

The increase in international green NGOs coupled with more vocal local NGOs bodes well for the future of the environmental sustainability movement in Singapore. Also, this could potentially set the tide in motion for Asian companies to adopt a more global stance toward the domestic environmental movement.