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Comparison Of Bankruptcy Laws And Entrepreneurship Finance Essay

Entrepreneurship is one of the key focuses of Singapore’s overall economic growth plan and recent Government policy and funding reflects this. Over the past 10 years, a sleuth of schemes has been unveiled by various Government agencies targeting various ways to boost entrepreneurship and improve the success rates of new businesses. However, Singaporeans seems to be held back by a cultural reluctance for entrepreneurship. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Survey (GEMs) of 2005 [1] placed Singapore 16 out of 22 OECD countries, with a Total Entrepreneurial Activity Index of 4.9 against a mean of 6.3 amongst OECD countries. In efforts to explain the low entrepreneurial propensity of Singaporeans, a particular myth has arisen; That Singapore has unusually harsh bankruptcy laws which are not as “pro-entrepreneur” as it should be.

A more ‘forgiving’ bankruptcy law has been both quantitatively and qualitatively found to boost entrepreneurship. (Mankart and Rodano, 2007 ; Armour and Cumming 2008 ; Peng et al 2007 ; Lee et al, 2008 ; Lee et al 2010). Lenient bankruptcy laws both lowers the barriers of entry and exit from the market, making the cost of failure less onerous, while at the same time, allowing for entrepreneurs to have a “fresh start” and a new opportunity to pursue another entrepreneurial venture.

It is the harsh reality that majority of entrepreneurs fail. In 2009 alone, for every 100 new firms created in Singapore, 86 firms ceased operations. While failure does not equal to bankruptcy per se, it is indicative of monetary losses suffered by the entrepreneurs, and when too substantial, bankruptcy inevitably ensues. With the high probability of failure for a new start-up, potential entrepreneurs can, and will be, deterred by the severe penalties harsh bankruptcy laws poses on them. In addition, should an entrepreneur fail and goes bankrupt on a venture, harsher bankruptcy law reduces the chances of an entrepreneur gaining a “fresh start” and pursue another venture, a huge loss considering ventures run by people with prior entrepreneurial experience generally have perform better. (Sorenson and Chang, 2006)

Bankruptcy laws however, are double edged. Too lenient bankruptcy laws will lead to moral hazard on the part of the entrepreneurs and tightening of credit supply by the lenders (Armour and Cumming, 2008), resulting in low levels, if any, of lending for new ventures and a complete collapse of the entrepreneurial landscape. Hence, a balance must be sought between the two extremes to foster a healthy entrepreneurial environment. Globally, European countries and the United States are still tweaking their policies to maintain this delicate balance. Their actions, however, are moving in opposite directions; the United States is toughening up their bankruptcy stance [2] while European countries are looking to soften it. [3] 

This paper hence attempts to evaluate Singapore’s bankruptcy laws by cross-comparing them with other countries and with established literature and conclude with recommendations, if any, for change in Singapore’s bankruptcy laws.

Literature Review and Basis for Comparisions

It must be noted here that bankruptcy is often divided into personal bankruptcy or bankruptcy of a corporation. However, in this discussion, bankruptcy will always refer to personal bankruptcy as 1) entrepreneurs have less likely to incorporate their nascent business due to the costs and length of time involved and 2) entrepreneurs are likely to put up their own assets as collateral against borrowing, hence a corporate bankruptcy is equal to a personal bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy laws can affect entrepreneurship levels both directly and indirectly. The direct effect looks at the downside effect of failure; a larger downside effect would discourage potential entrepreneurs from starting a new venture. Mankart and Rodano (2008) sum up this effect when they state that a more forgiving bankruptcy law offers entrepreneurs partial insurance against the consequences of failure. Armour and Cumming (2008) also concur when they conclude that the severity of bankruptcy laws determines the consequences of failures and, as a result, entrepreneurship levels. Lastly, Peng et al (2007) concludes that by limiting the downside risk of failure, an entrepreneur-friendly bankruptcy law increases entrepreneurial levels as it encouraging risk-taking by entrepreneurs.

The indirect effect is the growth of entrepreneurship through the increase the number of bankruptcy filings. Although it seems paradoxical, an increase in bankruptcy filing is indicative of a vibrant entrepreneurial culture. By allowing inefficient firms to fail gracefully, resources can be redistributed to other more efficient firms in the economy and allow the entrepreneur to pursue other, more promising, avenues. Hamao et al (2002) concludes that failing firms who do not exit, will continue to consume resources that could have been put to more productive use. (Peng et al,2007) explains this using a real options perspective concluding that an increase in the number of corporate bankruptcies is indicative of a vibrant entrepreneurial economy. Finally, Knott and Posen (2005) wraps up that failure of excess entrants benefit surviving entrepreneurs through to three mechanisms; selection effects, competition effects and spill over effect.

Therefore, a more lenient bankruptcy law will foster entrepreneurial development in society as a whole both directly and indirectly.

Combining the work done by ), Mankart and Rodano (2007), Peng et al (2007), Armour and Cumming (2007 , Lee et al (2008) and Lee et al (2010), 7 factors in which to wholesomely evaluate Bankruptcy laws by emerge and form the basis of comparison for this paper. They are:

‘Fresh Start’ after Liquidation Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy law can be either discharging the bankrupt individuals from debt or allowing the pursuit of bankrupt entrepreneurs for several years. (OECD, 1998) Discharging the bankrupt entrepreneurs simply means what creditors cannot pursue for any remaining claims which have not been met. Since future earnings are exempt from the obligations to repay past debt from bankruptcy, this is named a “fresh start” (White, 2001). In the absence of a legally protected “fresh start,” creditors can pursue any remaining claims indefinitely. The time before a bankrupt can be discharged from his debt in a bankruptcy law hence serves to limit the downside risk for an entrepreneur, conceivably resulting in more new ventures. Conversely, without a possibility of a discharge, there is severe downside risk for a failed entrepreneur as he can be pursued for his debt for the rest of his life. Under the United States bankruptcy law, entrepreneurs can possibly receive a fresh start immediately after declaring bankruptcy, whereas in Italy, there are no provisions to discharge bankrupt entrepreneurs from their debts. By comparing Germany and Netherlands before and after their bankruptcy reforms in the late 1990s, Armour and Cumming (2007) finds that by introducing a discharge of 6 and 3 years respectively, there was an increase in self employment by about 4.5%.

Using data from the World Bank database, Lee et al (2008) goes on further to empirically prove that the larger the amount entrepreneurs retain after bankruptcy proceedings, the higher the bankruptcy filing rate in a country which correlates to higher entrepreneurship levels in a country. Lee et al (2010) reaffirms this by concluding that allowing an entrepreneur to retain 63.18 percent of the assets means an 11 percent higher likelihood of new firm entry compared to when an entrepreneur can only retain 38.48 percent of the assets.

Using a different approach, Armour and Cumming (2008) measure the assets held by the debtor at the commencement of bankruptcy which is legally withheld from creditors. (known as exemptions) Examples of such exemption in bankruptcy laws are tools of trade or modest personal items. More lenient bankruptcy laws could also include withholding the debtor’s property or a portion of it and harsher bankruptcy laws could include spousal assets as part of the claimable assets as well. It therefore stands to reason that a higher level of exemptions will lead to a greater incidence of entrepreneurship as, similar to the fresh start argument above; it limits the downside risk for the entrepreneur, allowing him to walk away from a bankruptcy with more assets intact. In a study spanning the United States and 14 countries in Europe, Armour and Cumming (2008) conclude that a move from the mid-level of exemptions (tools of trade) to a higher level of exemptions corresponds to an increase in self-employment by 13.4%. Fan and White (2003) also finds that the higher the exemption level, the higher the incidence of entrepreneurship.

However, increasing the amount of assets a debtor is able to walk away with conversely decreases the amount that creditors can recover from the debtors. This reduction in recoverable amount would lead to tightening of credit supply, increasing the cost and selectiveness of their financing, hampering new firms’ ability to raise credit, reducing the number of new firms formed and overall causing a net reduction in entrepreneurship levels. Mankart and Rodano (2007) examined the exemption system in the United States and argue that Entrepreneurship would increase from 7.6% of the population to 8.6% if the exemption level were to be halved. However, they also go on to state that completely abolishing exemptions would lead to a welfare loss in the order of $60 per household.

To conclude, majority of the literature points to the extent of a “fresh start” as a major point in the bankruptcy law that could affect entrepreneurship levels greatly. The larger the amount the entrepreneur is able to walk away with, the lower the downside risk to the entrepreneur and the higher the possibility of a “fresher” start. However, “fresher” starts are to the detriment of creditors, who respond through tightening credit supply. Therefore, the “fresh-start” effect and the creditor effect are opposing forces and at low amounts of entrepreneur retained assets, it seems that the “fresh-start” effect will dominate - Increasing the entrepreneur retained assets will lead to a rise in entrepreneurial levels. At high amounts of entrepreneur retained assets however, the creditor effect dominates and increasing the entrepreneur retained assets will lead to a fall in entrepreneurial levels.

Availability of Reorganisation

Providing an opportunity for bankrupt firms to reorganize is more entrepreneur friendly than forcing them to liquidate as it allows promising firms that are in temporary insolvency to re-organise such that they may become profitable in the future. (Peng et al, 2007) Wang (2006) also finds that having the choice of reorganisation provides for a higher degree of entrepreneurship in an economy. The most well-known version of this idea is the Chapter 11 under the United States Bankruptcy Act and was passed in 1979. To date, major firms such as General Motors and US Airways have taken advantage of Chapter 11 and restructured to become profitable, pointing to the natural conclusion that Bankruptcy Laws allowing for reorganisation to happen is pro-entrepreneur in nature as it allows for a reversal of failures.

Time Spent on Bankruptcy Proceedings

Long, drawn out, bankruptcy proceedings are detrimental to the entrepreneur, creditors and the society in general. Long proceedings increases the uncertainty an entrepreneur faces, delaying or even preventing him from a “fresh-start” and pursuing new ventures. Asset value is also lost during drawn out proceedings as it makes buyers uncertain and jittery over purchasing of the assets of the liquidating firm. One recent study drawing on data from 88 countries finds that on average 48 percent of the firm value is lost during the typically lengthy bankruptcy process (Djankov et al, 2008). Facing impending losses, creditors’ uncertainty will also increase, leading to long term credit tightening and harming new business ventures. Long drawn out proceedings also leads to a slower redistribution of the inefficiently used assets of the liquidated firm, harming society in general. This is supported by a study across 29 countries spanning 19 years by Lee at al (2010) which finds that 10 days spent on closing time compared to 2.36 years is associated with a 10 percent increase in the likelihood of new firm entry. Hence, the shorter time spent on bankruptcy proceedings, the more pro-entrepreneur the Bankruptcy Law is, reflecting the Silicon Valley motto of “Fail fast, Fail cheap and move on”

Cost of Bankruptcy

Although it seems senseless for bankrupt firms to incur a in the process of declaring bankruptcy, the nature of the fact is that bankrupt firms do incur a cost, generally quite substantial, while undergoing bankruptcy proceedings. World Bank’s Doing Business Report of 2010 places the cost of bankruptcy proceedings in the United States at 7% of the assets of the firm and this percentage ranges to a staggering 76% of asset value if one is to declare bankruptcy in the Central Africa Republic. Peng et al (2007) concludes that high bankruptcy cost may discourage firms to file bankruptcies, resulting in inefficient use of resources. High bankruptcy cost can deter potential entrepreneurs from the get-go. Lee et al (2010) hence find that the difference between 1.04 percent and 12.93 percent of assets spent on closing cost translates into an 11 percent higher likelihood of new firm entry in a country. Therefore, the lower the cost of bankruptcy, the more pro-entrepreneur the Bankruptcy Law is.

Ex-ante Co-ordination of Creditors during Bankruptcy Proceedings

Without specific laws in place to ex-ante co-ordinate and distribute assets fairly amongst the creditors, debt collection efforts would inevitably end up in a chaotic disposition of debts on a first-come first-served basis with creditors swooping in with no “care little how its actions might affect the firm’s other creditors”. (Longhofer & Peters, 2004; 257) Hence, in the absence of such coordination, Lee et al (2008) argues that the rush by the creditors to seize assets during any signs of insolvency may force a viable firm to cease operation. Post-bankruptcy coordination (should it occur) is expensive and time consuming, reducing the recoverable assets and increasing the timeframe before payment, to the detriment of creditors. Therefore there is a huge disincentive for failing firms to declare bankruptcy, to the detriment of entrepreneurial levels and society. In a global examination of 30 countries, Lee et al (2008) finds that coordination of creditors at the time of bankruptcy will lead to a higher rate of bankruptcy filing. Hence, a bankruptcy law that ex-ante co-ordinates creditors during bankruptcy promotes bankruptcy filing and is pro-entrepreneur in nature.

Automatic Stay of Assets during Bankruptcy Proceedings

An automatic stay upon the start of bankruptcy proceedings means that creditors must cease debt collection efforts and move claims to the court. (Alexopoulos and Domowitz, 1998). Wruck (1990) finds that creditors may be more interested in liquidating a viable firm even if the firm is more valuable staying in business. An automatic stay hence prevents creditors from prematurely swooping claim the assets of a distressed firm, and allows time for mangers to communicate with creditors (Franks, Nyborg, and Torous, 1996) in an effort to prevent liquidation of a viable firm and explore possible reorganisation, hence providing another opportunity to an unfortunate entrepreneur who is capable, but is under financial trouble. (Lee et al, 2010) Peng at al (2007) therefore argues that an automatic stay of assets specified by a bankruptcy law will encourage entrepreneurship development by curtailing the downside risk of entrepreneurs.

However, a counter-argument runs that reducing the ability of creditors secure repayment of their loans to bankrupt firms leads to the tightening of their credit supply, increase the cost and selectiveness of their financing. In effect, having an automatic stay of assets would actually reduce the entry of new firms as financing is harder to secure. Lee et al (2010) finds that having an automatic stay of assets actually reduces the likelihood of new firm formation by 8.4%. Therefore, the arguments for having an automatic stay of assets vis a vis entrepreneurship development are still inconclusive at best.

Retention of Entrepreneur-Managers During and After Bankruptcy Proceedings

During bankruptcy proceedings and subsequent reorganisation efforts, bankruptcy laws differ by either allowing the entrepreneur to remain in charge, or handing the reins of a company over to a board of trustees (usually involving the creditors). Peng et al (2007) argues that entrepreneurs would have invested immense amounts of time and effort in the business, making them a potentially valuable source of information to tap on during bankruptcy proceedings and subsequent reorganisation and to this effect, many countries globally allow for the entrepreneur to retain control of the company, albeit closely scrutinized, during the reorganisation. Allowing entrepreneurs to retain control of their company also encourages entrepreneurs to take risks and start businesses in the first place (Lee et al, 2010).

However, just like a stay of assets hinders creditors’ ability to reap back their loans, the retention of entrepreneurs could also be to the detriment of the creditors if the natural assumption holds (the firm failed after all!) that the entrepreneur is not capable enough to run the firm. Allowing failed managers to stay potentially gives them another opportunity to destroy value (Lee et al 2010) and it lengthens the time before creditors can claim back their dues. In light of these 2 arguments, both Lee et al (2007 and 2010) find that the retention of entrepreneurs during and after bankruptcy proceedings has no discernible effect on overall entrepreneurship levels.

Discussion

This paper shall serve to compare Singapore’s bankruptcy laws against the laws present in the United States as well as 13 of the most developed European countries. Information on Singapore’s and the United States respective bankruptcy acts are easily available online and this was the main source used for comparison [4] . However, the sources used for European countries are mainly secondary sources as 1) Laws for certain countries are not easily accessible nor are all the laws written in English. The secondary source used was Lee et al (2007) and Armour and Cumming (2008) which both also drew upon La Porta et al (1998). While the aforementioned provided qualitative data in the form of the written laws, quantitative data was mostly sourced from the World Bank Doing Business database.

The three relevant sections in the United States bankruptcy act (Title 11) are Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7 deals primarily with liquidation of assets for a debtor with no feasible way of entering into a debt repayment scheme due to low income. Chapter 11 spells out the law for restructuring of insolvent companies and Chapter 13 deals with insolvents with an adequate income to pay off the debts with a repayment plan. Since the Chapter 7 laws were tightened in 2005 to prevent abuse, the Chapter 7 filings accounted for two-thirds of the bankruptcy filings due to business debts while Chapter 13 accounted for the remaining one-third. [5] (US Court Bankruptcy Filings database) For this reason, both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 laws will be considered in the following discussions.

To recap, the 7 points of comparison explained in the earlier section are (1) The extent of a ‘Fresh Start’ after liquidation bankruptcy, (2) The availability of reorganisation of an temporarily insolvent firm, (3) the time and (4) cost spent on bankruptcy proceedings, (5) the ex-ante co-ordination of creditors during bankruptcy proceedings, (6) the availability of an automatic stay of assets during bankruptcy proceedings and (7) the possibility of retaining entrepreneur-managers during and after bankruptcy proceedings.

‘Fresh Start’ after Liquidation Bankruptcy

Here we examine 2 separate issues: The time before discharging of debts for a bankrupt and the assets that are retained by the bankrupt. Under the Singapore Bankruptcy Act a bankrupt can be discharged from bankruptcy after 3 years, absolving him of his remaining debt and providing him with a ‘fresh start’. [6] This compares very favourably with the 5 years before discharge under Chapter 13 of the United States Bankruptcy Act [7] , however Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Act does allow for immediate discharge, albeit under stringent conditions on income of the debtor. Singapore’s time to discharge is also one of the lowest when compared to the other European countries, only higher than that in the United Kingdom (minimum of 1 year to discharge) and Belgium and France (immediate discharge possible). With respect to bankruptcy discharge, the Singapore law is relatively lenient compared to the rest of the world, especially if compared to Italy and Greece (no possibility of discharge) and Spain (15 years).

Armour and Cumming (2008) moots one qualitative way of calculating the amount of assets a bankrupt is able to walk away with by looking at the exemptions from the bankrupt’s claimable property ; the higher the exemption level, the more the bankrupt is able to walk away with. Exemptions from creditors under Singapore Law include a debtor’s tools or trade and provisions for basic domestic needs of the bankrupt and his family. [8] Singapore’s level of exemption is much lower than that under the United States Law which allows a debtor to keep a portion of his residential property and motor vehicle in addition to his tools of trade and domestic needs [9] . Using data from Armour and Cumming (2008) however, Singapore’s level of exemption compares favourably with majority of the 12 European countries, with only Germany having a lower level of exemption and Netherlands having a higher level of exemption; the rest having an approximately equal level of exemption.

Lee et al (2007) proposes an alternative quantitative method by examining the World Bank database and extracting the amount that creditors are able to recover from bankrupts. The assumption is made that whatever the creditors fail to recover is retained by the entrepreneur; hence the less the creditors recover, the larger the assets retained and the ‘fresher’ the start. Using a simple formula of (1 – % of recovery by creditors), Singapore has the lowest amount of assets retained by entrepreneurs amongst the 13 countries in this discussion. Taking the average from 2004 – 2009, Singapore’s bankrupts can expect to only discharge 8.7% of their debt, compared to 1/3rd of a typical US bankrupt’s debt discharged and over half of a Greek or French bankrupt’s debt discharged.

As discussed previously, while the low level of discharged debt is good news for creditors, it reduces the amount of assets a failed entrepreneur walks away with, increasing downside risk for the entrepreneur, which has the effect of lowering entrepreneurship levels overall. Even though the exemption level as spelt out in the law is similar to most European countries, in practice, our bankrupts are walking away with a very low percentage of their assets. Perhaps one of the reasons behind the increased ability of local creditors, despite the similarity in laws, to recover their interests is the high home ownership rate in Singapore which ensures that most debtors have dwellings that can be seized upon by creditors during insolvency.

Hence, while Singapore’s time to discharge is comfortably comparable to that in the United States and Europe, our exemption level seems to be too low in comparison. A higher exemption level that could potentially increase entrepreneurship levels and further study into this area is worth doing, especially with regard to possible tightening of credit supply as a result. Providing a “fresh-start” for entrepreneurs lowers their downside risk and persuades more entrepreneurs on-the-margin to take the plunge. Increasing of exemption levels would inevitably lead to the tightening of credit supply, but more study into the net overall effect on entrepreneurship through an increase in exemption levels is definitely worth doing.

Availability of Reorganisation

Singapore Law allows for companies to apply to be under Judicial Management under Section 277B of the Companies Act, allowing for companies which are temporary insolvent, but have a reasonable chance at rehabilitation, to be placed under a court-appointed Judicial Manager who will attempt to reverse the companies’ fortunes. This is highly similar to the Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Law, which allows for re-organisation and restricting of insolvent firms and it compares favourably with all the other European countries, bar Finland whose law do not allow for insolvent firms to reorganise. Hence, the availability of the option to reorganise insolvent firms under Singapore Law is pro-entrepreneur and similar to other provisions across US and Europe.

Time Spent on Bankruptcy Proceedings

In Singapore, the time [10] taken for the bankruptcy court proceedings is a mere 0.8 years, faster than the United States (1.5 years) and majority of the European countries in examination. Only Ireland (0.4 years) has faster bankruptcy proceedings than Singapore in the countries examined. The speed and efficiency of Singapore’s bankruptcy court reduces downside risk for both entrepreneur and creditor and is highly pro-entrepreneur in nature.

Cost of Bankruptcy Proceedings

Similarly, the cost of bankruptcy proceedings in Singaproe is exceedingly pro-entrepreneur in nature. Singapore has the lowest cost of filing for bankruptcy (1% of assets) amongst the countries in this study. Costs in other countries can range to as high as 18% (Austria) or even 20% (Italy). Similar to the time spent on bankruptcy proceedings, the exceedingly low cost of bankruptcy proceedings in Singapore reduces downside risk for both entrepreneur and creditor and is highly pro-entrepreneur in nature.

Ex-ante Co-ordination of Creditors during Bankruptcy Proceedings

Under section 76(c(i)) of the Singapore Bankruptcy Law, once a bankruptcy order is issued, creditors are no longer able to individually pursue their debts with the debtor. Instead, the power of distribution of the assets lies with the court-appointed Official Assignee who will oversee the co-ordination of creditors during the proceedings. [11] This clause co-ordinating creditors is also present in both Chapter 7 [12] and Chapter 13 [13] of the United States Bankruptcy Act and in all the studied European countries, except for France. The presence of an ex-ante co-ordination of creditors during bankruptcy proceedings promotes bankruptcy filings as well as eases the fears of creditors, thus boosting entrepreneurship levels.

Automatic Stay of Assets during Bankruptcy

Similar to above, section 76(c(i)) requites that creditors are not longer able to individually pursue their debts with the debtor. However, it appears that Singapore’s bankruptcy law does not provide for an automatic stay of assets, but rather, it leaves such decisions to the Official Assignee. Indeed, Lee et al (2010) finds that Singapore’s law does not provide for an automatic stay of assets. This is in contrast to the United States Bankruptcy Law [14] as well as 8 out of the 13 European countries studied. However, as current studies on the effects of an automatic stay of assets are inconclusive at best, further study would be needed to justify modifying of the law, if any is required in the first place.

Retention of Entrepreneur-Managers During and After Bankruptcy Proceedings.

Under Singapore Law, firms that apply for reorganisation under the Judicial Management system automatically have their entrepreneur-managers removed to be replaced by the Judicial Manager, [15] hence incumbent entrepreneur-managers are removed from their post. This is in contrast to the Bankruptcy Laws in the United States which allows the entrepreneur-manager to remain in charge of the company under all 3 chapters of filings [16] . All European countries in this study, bar Greece, also allows for entrepreneur-managers to remain in the firm upon bankruptcy proceedings. However, this factor, as discussed above, appears to have negligible effects on entrepreneurship development, hence further study is required on its effects before any change in the laws can be mooted.

Reviews, Suggestions and Avenues for Future Research

From available evidence, it is clear that Singapore’s Bankruptcy Law is pro-entrepreneur in nature and comparable to the Bankruptcy Laws of top European economies and the innovation benchmark that is the United States. As touched upon in the early part of this paper, there is a delicate balance to maintain for Bankruptcy Laws ; too harsh and entrepreneurs are discourage, too lenient and credit supply is tightened, leading to lower entrepreneurship levels as well. Globally, the United States appears to perceive facets of their Bankruptcy Law as being too lenient and have taken steps to address this leniency, while European countries have done the opposite and taken steps to address the harshness of their laws. Happily, Singapore seems to have struck a decent balance in its Bankruptcy law.

Peng et al (2007) throws a spanner in the works in their conclusion that in a society with a high level of stigma associated with bankruptcy, the impact of entrepreneur-friendly bankruptcy law entrepreneurship development will be severely limited. There is shame associated with entrepreneurial failure (Tan, 2003) in Singapore and the extent of shame severely limits the impact of improving entrepreneurship levels through making bankruptcy laws more pro-entrepreneur.

One suggestion for improvement is to increase the exemption level for bankrupts, allowing them to walk away from a bankruptcy with more of their assets intact, giving them a better springboard to start another entrepreneurial venture. While our exemption laws are similar to most of the countries studied, the physical execution differs, probably due to our high home ownership rates, resulting in Singapore having the lowest retained assets amongst the countries in the study. While increasing of exemption levels would inevitably lead to the tightening of credit supply, it would persuade more entrepreneurs to take the plunge and hence the net overall effect of an increase in exemption levels on entrepreneurship is definitely worth doing.

Two areas which the Singapore Bankruptcy Law does not provide for is an automatic stay of assets as well as the retention of entrepreneur-manager in an insolvent firm. There is mixed literature about the effects of both areas on entrepreneurship development and in particular, the laws of the studied countries seem to disagree on the effects of an automatic stay of assets. Perhaps then the more promising avenue to explore would be the effects of retaining the incumbent entrepreneur-manager in an insolvent firm and a possible area of further study is the effects of this vis a vis entrepreneurship development.

Conclusion

It is well and truly a myth that Singapore has unusually harsh bankruptcy laws which are not as “pro-entrepreneur” as it should be and it is a myth that needs to be explicitly dispelled so that efforts can be focused on other, more promising, avenues of development. Singapore’s bankruptcy laws are comparable with that of the entrepreneurship powerhouse the United States as well as the major European economies in the factors that are quantitatively and qualitatively proven to matter in entrepreneurship development. Singapore’s bankruptcy laws are highly pro-entrepreneur, while not compromising on creditor rights’, and the execution of bankruptcy proceedings are highly efficient to boot. This paper hence conclusively dispels the myth of Singapore’s “anti-entrepreneur” bankruptcy laws.

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