SICC Past

SICC is part of the very fabric of Singapore. The Singapore Chamber of Commerce was founded on 8th February 1837 some four and a half months before Victoria became Queen of England. Singapore, was then part of the Straits Settlements and closely linked with Penang. The Singapore Chamber is the oldest private-sector representative organisation in the Republic of Singapore. It is also the oldest chamber of commerce in ASEAN and in South East Asia. Why did seventeen leading merchants of the thriving, but still small Settlement of Singapore suddenly decide that they needed to form a chamber? Quite simply they came together to stand up for Singapore and for business interests in Singapore.

In 1837 the newly founded Settlement was barely nineteen years old and although the East India Company had lost its monopoly of trade with China some four years previously, 'John Company' still exercised complete administrative control over the affairs of the island. This meant that the responsibility for decisions affecting trade were placed entirely in the hands of Company officials - the Governor of the Straits Settlements, the Governor-General in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and ultimately the Court of Directors in Leadenhall Street, London.

The leading merchants of Singapore naturally wanted to have a say in the running and future development of Singapore. However as Singapore's first Government Surveyor, John Turnbull Thomson observes in his “Glimpses into Life in Malayan Lands” (1864), covenanted officials of the East India Company were quite unused to sharing power with anyone. Unhappy at being entirely excluded from the decision-making process in matters directly affecting their interests, the Singapore merchants reasoned that the creation of a chamber of commerce would give them a collective voice which the authorities could hardly ignore. And history was to prove them right. For the next hundred years the Chamber became a power in the land, ignored by the Company and colonial governors at their peril. The first one hundred years of the Chamber might thus be labelled 'the Imperial Era' when the Chamber made extensive use of its influence to promote the interests of Singapore and of its members.

Following the end of the Second World War the revived Chamber embarked upon its second century. This was an era which witnessed the gradual dismantling of the colonial apparatus, first with the introduction of self-government in 1955 followed by full independence. These political and constitutional developments brought many changes to the Chamber itself, not least the fading into history of the British agency houses which had dominated the organisation during its first one hundred years. During the post-war period, the Chamber has become much less of a "British" institution, with an much more international membership including many local companies joining as members. These developments were reflected in the Chamber's change of name in 1964 to the present style: The Singapore International Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber operates in an ever-changing world but its mission remains the same: to stand up for Singapore and for business in Singapore.