New world. Big challenges, bigger opportunities

2019-2020 PwC's Asia Pacific Business Leaders Survey

Singapore Report

Singapore ranked 3rd on the list of most favoured Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies for increase in cross-border investments over the next 12 months, after Vietnam and Australia. It is a significant surge from the 9th position in 2018.

The majority of Singapore business leaders are confident about revenue growth this year. Yet they remain cautious, as they see uncertainties, challenges and risks of the new digital world – as reflected in PwC’s 2019–2020 Asia Pacific Business Leaders Survey.

Aimed at enhancing productivity and market reach, Singapore business leaders are prioritising investments in automation, new technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI), digital skills development, data-system integration and overseas expansions.

“It isn't surprising to see Singapore on the list of most favoured economies for cross-border investments. Policy makers in Singapore are very focused on making Singapore the digital hub for the region with a clear vision on AI, cyber security, data analytics, privacy protection, workforce skills development and, above all, sustainability. Businesses which rethink strategies and footprint to align with the new digital world will be tomorrow's winners.”

Yeoh Oon Jin, Executive Chairman, PwC Singapore

The survey further revealed that the local businesses are re-calibrating business strategies to align with consequences of increased automation and cross-borders policy changes. Moreover, even as they believe that technology has helped them strengthen relationship with stakeholders, they feel the need for additional regulations to enhance public trust, particularly in areas such as ethical use of AI, data privacy, sustainability and cybersecurity among some others.

The findings clearly suggest that 2020 will belong to companies that find new pathways around all barriers, be it in cross-border business, talent or capital. The changes that many have started to implement may prove to be the antidote to many problems including skills shortage, trade barriers and policy uncertainties. 

Digital world challenges are big, but far bigger are the opportunities. Those that have their sights firmly trained on these opportunities will eventually be the winners.

Singapore ranked 3rd on the list of most favoured APEC economies for increase in cross border investments over the next 12 months, after Vietnam and Australia. It is a significant surge from 9th position in 2018.
This is the first time China and the US are not in the top five since PwC began analysing net future investment targets across borders in APEC economies in 2015.
Singapore business leaders are optimistic yet keeping watchful eyes on future revenue growth.
Protectionism pressures continue to impact cross-border movement of data, goods and services. Tariffs are the biggest barriers, other types of protectionism are on the rise.
Business leaders are re-calibrating strategies to mitigate the impact of cross-border policy changes.
Singapore business leaders are prioritising investments over the next 2 years in automation, artificial intelligence (AI), data and digital skills development.
While automation continues to drive productivity gains and boost business relationships, it is transforming jobs. Many businesses are reducing headcount, others are creating jobs but struggling to fill the new roles.
Singapore businesses see need for additional regulations to enhance public trust in ethical use of AI, cybersecurity, sustainability, data privacy and workforce automation.


PwC surveyed 1,014 industry leaders across Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), of which 77 are Singapore based. About 70% of the local respondents are executive at the highest decision-making levels within the organisation while remaining 30% are business heads. The survey was conducted from 31st May to 16th July 2019. Responses were given on a confidential and unattributable basis.The survey, in its tenth year, serves as a strong indicator of international business sentiments and latest strategies in the region.

Contact us

Yeoh Oon Jin

Yeoh Oon Jin

Executive Chairman, PwC Singapore

Greg Unsworth

Greg Unsworth

Digital Business and Risk Assurance Leader, PwC Singapore

Tel: +65 9848 6025

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