Straight-laced Singapore has become the world’s newest Monaco:
When most people think of Singapore, if they do at all, they think of an order-obsessed Asian version of Wall Street or London’s Canary Wharf, only with implausibly clean, sterile streets and no crime. The southeast Asian city-state of five million people is perhaps best known for banning the sale of chewing gum or caning vandals, including American Michael Fay in 1994 for spray-painting cars. Drug traffickers face the death penalty, and even Ault complains the authorities won’t let him import his prized gun collection, which now sits in his other homes in Palm Beach and Manhattan.
But over the past decade, Singapore has undergone a dramatic makeover, as the rich and famous from Asia and beyond debark on its shores in search of a glamorous new home — and one of the safest places to park their wealth. Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin gave up his American citizenship in favor of permanent residence there, choosing to live on and invest from the island while squiring around town in a Bentley. Australian mining tycoon Nathan Tinkler, that country’s second wealthiest man under 40, whose fortune is pegged at $825 million by Forbes, also chose to move to Singapore last year. They join Bhupendra Kumar Modi, one of India’s biggest telecom tycoons who gained Singapore citizenship in 2011, as well as New Zealand billionaire Richard Chandler, who relocated in 2008, and famed U.S. investor Jim Rogers, who set up shop there in 2007. Gina Rinehart, one of the world’s richest women, slapped down $46.3 million for a pair of Singapore condominium units last year.
And then there are, of course, your average millionaires — more of whom can be found among Singapore’s resident population than anywhere in the world. According to Boston Consulting Group, the island had 188,000 millionaire households in 2011 — slightly more than 17 percent of its resident households — which effectively means one in six homes has disposable private wealth of at least $1 million, excluding property, business and luxury goods. Add in property, with Singapore real estate among the most expensive in the world, and this number would be even higher. Singapore also now has the highest gross domestic product per capita in the world at $56,532, having overtaken Norway, the U.S., Hong Kong and Switzerland, according to a 2012 wealth report by Knight Frank and Citi Private Bank.
Is decadence unavoidable?