Singapore (i// or //), officially the Republic of Singapore, and often referred to as the Lion City, the Garden City, and the Red Dot, is a leading global city-state and island country in Southeast Asia. It lies off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, one degree (137 km; 85 mi) north of the equator, and is separated from Peninsular Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to the north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the Singapore Strait to the south. Singapore's territory consists of the diamond-shaped main island (commonly referred to as Singapore Island in English and Pulau Ujong in Malay) and more than 60 significantly smaller islets. Since the 1960s, ongoing land reclamation projects have increased Singapore's land area, which is highly urbanised, by at least 20%.
The islands were settled in the second century AD and subsequently belonged to a series of local empires. Modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the East India Company; after the company collapsed, the British obtained sovereignty of the islands in 1824, and Singapore became one of the British Straits Settlements in 1826. Occupied by the Japanese during World War II, Singapore became independent from the United Kingdom in 1963 by uniting with other former British territories to form Malaysia, but was expelled two years later over ideological differences. After experiencing turbulence in its early years as a nation, and despite insufficient natural resources and no hinterland, Singapore embarked on a path of development, as an Asian tiger economy, based on external trade and its human capital.
Singapore is a global commerce, transportation and financial hub, with the world's 3rd-largest foreign exchange centre, 4th-largest financial centre and one of the top two busiest container ports in the world since the 1990s. The World Bank's Doing Business report has ranked Singapore the "easiest place to do business" for nine consecutive years. Its globalised and diversified economy depends heavily on trade, with manufacturing accounting for around 30 percent of Singapore's GDP in 2013. For the past decade, it has been the only Asian country with the top AAA rating from all major credit rating agencies, i.e. Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch Ratings.
Singapore ranks high on key measures of national social progress, It leads Asia, and 9th globally, on the Human Development Index, including education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety, housing. Although income inequality is high, 90% of citizens own their homes and the nation has the one of the highest per capita incomes. The cosmopolitan and culturally diverse nation is home to 5.5 million residents, 38% of whom are permanent residents and other foreign nationals. Singaporeans - Chinese (74.1%), Malays (13.4%), Indians (9.2%), and Eurasians - are mostly bilingual, with English as its common language and a second mother-tongue language.
The nation's core principles are meritocracy, multiculturalism and secularism. It is noted for its effective, pragmatic and incorrupt governance and civil service, which together with its rapid development policies, is widely cited as the "Singapore model". Singapore is a unitary multiparty parliamentary republic, with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government. The People's Action Party has won every election since self-government in 1959. One of the five founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Singapore is also the host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat, and a member of the East Asia Summit, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Commonwealth of Nations. Singapore has significant influence on global affairs relative to its size, leading some analysts to classify it as a middle power. It is ranked as Asia's most influential city and 4th in the world by Forbes.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Government and politics
- 4 Foreign relations
- 5 Military
- 6 Geography
- 7 Climate
- 8 Economy
- 9 Infrastructure
- 10 Demographics
- 11 Culture
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 External links
The English name of Singapore is derived from the Malay word, Singapura (Singa is "lion", Pura "city"; Sanskrit: सिंहपुर), hence the lion is embraced in many of the nation's symbols (i.e. coat of arms) and the customary reference to the nation as the Lion City. However, it is unlikely that lions ever lived on the island; Sang Nila Utama, who founded and named the island Singapura, most likely saw a Malayan tiger.13
Since the 1970s, Singapore has also been widely known as the Garden City, owing to its extensive greening policy covering the whole island, a priority of its first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, dubbed the nation's "Chief Gardener". The nickname, Red Dot, is a reference to its size on the map, contrasting with its achievements. In 2015, Singapore's Golden Jubilee year, the celebratory "SG50" branding is depicted inside a red dot.
- For the historical city that was part of British Singapore, see Singapore City (historical entity)
Temasek ('Sea Town' in the Malay language), a second century outpost of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire, is the earliest known settlement on Singapore. The island was part of the Sri Vijaya Empire until it was invaded by the south Indian Emperor Rajendra Chola I, of the Chola Empire, in the 11th century.1415 In 1613, Portuguese raiders burned down the settlement and the island sank into obscurity for the next two centuries.16 Nominally, it belonged to the Johor Sultanate during this period, while the maritime region and trade was under Dutch control.
In 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived and signed a treaty with Sultan Hussein Shah of Johor, on behalf of the British East India Company, to develop the southern part of Singapore as a British trading post. In 1824, the entire island became a British possession under a further treaty with the Sultan, as well as the Temenggong.17 In 1826, Singapore became part of the Straits Settlements, under the jurisdiction of British India, becoming the regional capital in 1836.18 Prior to Raffles' arrival, there were approximately 1,000 people living on the island, mostly indigenous Malays along with a handful of Chinese.19 By 1860, the population exceeded 80,000 and more than half were Chinese. Many immigrants came to work at rubber plantations and, after the 1870s, the island became a global centre for rubber exports.17 After World War I, the British built the large Singapore Naval Base. Lieutenant General Sir William George Shedden Dobbie was appointed General Officer Commanding of the Malaya Command on 8 November 1935, holding the post until 1939;20 in May 1938, he warned how Singapore could be conquered by the Japanese via an attack from northern Malaya, but his warnings were not heeded, resulting in the fall of Singapore nearly four years later in early 1942 during World War II.212223
World War II and Japanese occupation
During World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded British Malaya, culminating in the Battle of Singapore. The British surrendered on 15 February 1942. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the defeat "the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history".24 Between 5,000 and 25,000 ethnic Chinese people were killed in the subsequent Sook Ching massacre.25 From November 1944 to May 1945, the Allies conducted an intensive bombing of Singapore. The Japanese occupied Singapore until the British repossessed it in September 1945, after the Surrender of Japan.26 David Marshall, pro-independence leader of the Labour Front, won Singapore's first general election in 1955. He led a delegation to London, but Britain rejected his demand for complete self-rule. He subsequently resigned to be replaced by Lim Yew Hock, whose policies convinced Britain to grant Singapore full internal self-government for all matters except defence and foreign affairs.27
During the May 1959 elections, the People's Action Party won a landslide victory. Singapore became an internally self-governing state within the Commonwealth and Lee Kuan Yew became the country's first Prime Minister.28 Governor Sir William Allmond Codrington Goode served as the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Head of State), and was succeeded by Yusof bin Ishak, who became the first President of Singapore in 1965.29 During the 1950s, Chinese Communists with strong ties to the trade unions and Chinese schools carried out an armed uprising against the government, leading to the Malayan Emergency and later, the Communist Insurgency War. The 1954 National Service Riots, Chinese middle schools riots, and Hock Lee bus riots in Singapore were all linked to these events.30
Merger with Malaysia
As a result of the 1962 Merger Referendum, on 31 August 1963 Singapore joined with the Federation of Malaya, the Crown Colony of Sarawak and Crown Colony of North Borneo to form the new federation of Malaysia under the terms of the Malaysia Agreement. Singaporean leaders chose to join Malaysia primarily due to concerns regarding their limited land size and scarcity of land, water, markets and natural resources. Some Singaporean and Malaysian politicians were also concerned that Singapore might form a communist government, a possibility perceived as an internal threat to Singapore and an external threat to the Federation of Malaya.
However, the Singapore state government and the Malaysian central government disagreed on many political and economics issues, leading to discontent that culminated in the 1964 race riots in Singapore. After much heated ideological conflicts between the two governments, on 9 August 1965, the Malaysian Parliament voted 126 to 0 to expel Singapore from Malaysia with Singaporean delegates not present.83132
Singapore gained independence as the Republic of Singapore (remaining within the Commonwealth of Nations) on 9 August 1965.8 Race riots broke out once more in 1969. In 1967, the country co-founded ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations,33 and in 1970 it joined the Non-Aligned Movement. Lee Kuan Yew became Prime Minister. His emphasis on rapid economic growth, support for business entrepreneurship, limitations on internal democracy, and close relationships with China set the new nation's policies for the next half-century.34
In 1990, Goh Chok Tong succeeded Lee Kuan Yew as Prime Minister, while Lee continued serving as a Cabinet Minister by being appointed as Senior Minister until 2004, and then Minister Mentor until May 2011. During his tenure, the country faced the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the 2003 SARS outbreak and terrorist threats posed by Jemaah Islamiyah. In 2004, Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the country's third Prime Minister.35
In 2011, the ruling PAP suffered its worst election results since independence, winning about 60% of votes.
In 2015, Singapore celebrated its Golden jubilee, 50th year of independence, with a year-long series of events branded SG50.
Government and politics
Singapore is a parliamentary republic with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government representing constituencies. The country's constitution establishes a representative democracy as the political system.36 Freedom House ranks Singapore as "partly free" in its Freedom in the World report,37 and The Economist ranks Singapore as a "flawed democracy", the second best rank of four, in its "Democracy Index".38
Executive power rests with the Cabinet of Singapore, led by the Prime Minister and, to a much lesser extent, the President.29 The President is elected through a popular vote, and has veto powers over a specific set of executive decisions, such as the use of the national reserves and the appointment of judges, but otherwise occupies a largely ceremonial post.39
The Parliament serves as the legislative branch of the government.29 Members of Parliament (MPs) consist of elected, non-constituency and nominated members. Elected MPs are voted into the Parliament on a "first-past-the-post" (plurality) basis and represent either single-member or group representation constituencies.40 The People's Action Party has won control of Parliament with large majorities in every election since self-governance was secured in 1959.37 Although the elections are clean, there is no independent electoral authority and the political process is dominated by the PAP, which has strong influence on the media and the courts hampering opposition campaigning. This has led Freedom House to regard Singapore as not a proper electoral democracy.41 Despite this, in the most recent Parliamentary elections in 2011, the opposition, led by the Workers' Party, increased its representation to six elected MPs.42
The legal system of Singapore is based on English common law, but with substantial local differences. Trial by jury was abolished in 1970 so that judicial decisions would rest entirely in the hands of appointed judges.43 Singapore has penalties that include judicial corporal punishment in the form of caning, which may be imposed for such offenses as rape, rioting, vandalism, and certain immigration offenses.4445 There is a mandatory death penalty for murder, as well as certain aggravated drug-trafficking and firearms offenses.46 Amnesty International has said that some legal provisions of the Singapore system conflict with the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that Singapore has "... possibly the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population".47 The government has disputed Amnesty's claims.48 In a 2008 survey of international business executives, Singapore and Hong Kong received the top ranking with regard to judicial system quality in Asia.49 Singapore has been consistently rated among the least corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International.50
In 2011, the World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index ranked Singapore among the top countries surveyed with regard to "Order and Security", "Absence of Corruption", and "Effective Criminal Justice". However, the country received a much lower ranking for "Freedom of speech" and "Freedom of assembly".51 All public gatherings of five or more people require police permits, and protests may legally be held only at the Speakers' Corner.52
Singapore's foreign policy is aimed at maintaining security in Southeast Asia and surrounding territories. An underlying principle is political and economic stability in the region.53 It has diplomatic relations with more than 180 sovereign states.54 As one of the five founding members of ASEAN,55 it is a strong supporter of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and the ASEAN Investment Area, because Singapore's economy is closely linked to that of the region as a whole. Former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong proposed the formation of an ASEAN Economic Community, a step beyond the current AFTA, bringing it closer to a common market. This was agreed to in 2007 for implementation by 2015. Other regional organisations are important to Singapore, and it is the host of the APEC Secretariat. Singapore maintains membership in other regional organisations, such as Asia–Europe Meeting, the Forum for East Asia-Latin American Cooperation, the Asian Network of Major Cities 21, and the East Asia Summit.53 It is also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement56 and the Commonwealth.57
In general, bilateral relations with other ASEAN members are strong; however, disagreements have arisen,53 and relations with neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia have sometimes been strained.58 Malaysia and Singapore have clashed over the delivery of fresh water to Singapore,59 and access by the Singapore Armed Forces to Malaysian airspace.58 Border issues exist with Malaysia and Indonesia, and both have banned the sale of marine sand to Singapore over disputes about Singapore's land reclamation.60 Some previous disputes have been resolved by the International Court of Justice. Piracy in the Strait of Malacca has been a cause of concern for all three countries.59 Close economic ties exist with Brunei, and the two share a pegged currency value.61
The first diplomatic contact with China was made in the 1970s, with full diplomatic relations established in the 1990s. Since then the two countries have been major players in strengthening the ASEAN–China relationship.62 Singapore and the United States share a long-standing close relationship, in particular in defence, the economy, health, and education. The United States was Singapore's third largest trading partner in 2010, behind China (2nd) and Malaysia (1st).63 The two countries have a free-trade agreement, and Singapore views its relationship with the United States as an important counterbalance to China's influence.64 A Strategic Framework Agreement between the two, signed in 2005, formalises security and defence cooperation.65 Singapore has pushed regional counter-terrorism initiatives, with a strong resolve to deal with terrorists inside its borders. To this end it has given support to the US-led coalition to fight terrorism, with bilateral cooperation in counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation initiatives, and joint military exercises.53
The Singaporean military is arguably the most technologically advanced in Southeast Asia.66 It comprises the Singapore Army, Republic of Singapore Navy, and Republic of Singapore Air Force. It is seen as the guarantor of the country's independence.67 The nation's philosophy of defence is one of diplomacy and deterrence.68 This principle translates into the culture, involving all citizens in the country's defence.69 The government spends 4.9% of the country's GDP on the military, and one out of every four dollars of government spending is spent on defence.70
After its independence, Singapore had two infantry regiments commanded by British officers. This force was considered too small to provide effective security for the new country, so the development of the military became a priority.71 Britain pulled its military out of Singapore in October 1971, leaving behind only a small British, Australian and New Zealand force as a token military presence. The last British soldier left Singapore in March 1976. New Zealand troops were the last to leave, in 1989.72
A great deal of initial support came from Israel,71 a country that is not recognised by neighbouring Muslim-majority nations of Malaysia, Indonesia or Brunei.737475 The main fear after independence was an invasion by Malaysia. Israeli Defense Force (IDF) commanders were tasked with creating the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) from scratch, and Israeli instructors were brought in to train Singaporean soldiers. Military courses were conducted according to the IDF's format, and Singapore adopted a system of conscription and reserve service based on the Israeli model.71 Singapore still maintains strong security ties with Israel and is one of the biggest buyers of Israeli arms and weapons systems.76 The MATADOR is one example of recent Singapore-Israeli collaboration.77
The SAF is being developed to respond to a wide range of issues, in both conventional and unconventional warfare. The Defence Science and Technology Agency is responsible for procuring resources for the military.68 The geographic restrictions of Singapore mean that the SAF must plan to fully repulse an attack, as they can not fall back and re-group. The small size of the population has also affected the way the SAF has been designed, with a small active force but a large number of reserves.69
Singapore has conscription for all able-bodied males at age 18, except those with a criminal record or who can prove that their loss would bring hardship to their families. Males who have yet to complete pre-university education or are awarded the Public Service Commission scholarship can opt to defer their draft. Though not required to perform military service, the number of women in the SAF has been increasing: since 1989 they have been allowed to fill military vocations formerly reserved for men. Before induction into a specific branch of the armed forces, recruits undergo at least 9 weeks of basic military training.78
Because of the scarcity of open land on the main island, training involving activities such as live firing and amphibious warfare is often carried out on smaller islands, typically barred to civilian access. This also avoids risk to the main island and the city. However, large-scale drills are considered too dangerous to be performed in the area, and since 1975 have been performed in Taiwan.78 Training is also held in about a dozen other countries. In general, military exercises are held with foreign forces once or twice per week.69
Due to airspace and land constraints, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) maintains a number of overseas bases in Australia, the United States, and France. The RSAF's 130 Squadron is based in RAAF Base Pearce, Western Australia,79 and its 126 Squadron is based in the Oakey Army Aviation Centre, Queensland.80 The RSAF has one squadron – the 150 Squadron – based in Cazaux Air Base in southern France.8182 The RSAF also has a few overseas detachments in the United States, in San Diego, California, Marana, Arizona, Grand Prairie, Texas and Luke Air Force Base, among others.8384
The SAF has sent forces to assist in operations outside the country, in areas such as Iraq85 and Afghanistan,86 in both military and civilian roles. In the region, it has helped stabilise East Timor and has provided aid to Aceh in Indonesia following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. The SAF also helped in relief efforts during Hurricane Katrina.87 Singapore is part of the Five Power Defence Arrangements, a military alliance with Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.69
Singapore consists of 63 islands, including the main island, widely known as Singapore Island or Pulau Ujong in Malay.88 There are two man-made connections to Johor, Malaysia: the Johor–Singapore Causeway in the north and the Tuas Second Link in the west. Jurong Island, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin and Sentosa are the largest of Singapore's smaller islands. The highest natural point is Bukit Timah Hill at 163.63 m (537 ft).89
Ongoing land reclamation projects have increased Singapore's land area from 581.5 km2 (224.5 sq mi) in the 1960s to 718.3 km2 (277.3 sq mi) presently.9 The country is projected to grow by another 100 km2 (40 sq mi) by 2030.90 Some projects involve merging smaller islands through land reclamation to form larger, more functional islands, as has been done with Jurong Island.91
Nearly 10% of Singapore's land has been set aside for parks and nature reserves. The network of nature reserves, parks, park connectors, nature ways, tree-lined roads and other natural areas have enhanced the sense of green space in the city.92 This is a result of five decades of greening efforts, which began in 1963, when Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew launched Singapore’s first tree-planting campaign by planting a mempat tree (cratoxylum formosum). The aim was to soften the harshness of urbanisation and improve the quality of life.93 This initiative continued into the 1970s and 1980s under the Parks and Recreation Department (PRD), renamed the National Parks Board (abbreviation: NParks) in July 1996.
Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen: Af ) with no distinctive seasons, uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity, and abundant rainfall. Temperatures usually range from 22 to 35 °C (72 to 95 °F). Relative humidity averages around 79% in the morning and 73% in the afternoon.95not in citation given April and May are the hottest months, with the wetter monsoon season from November to January.96 From July to October, there is often haze caused by bush fires in neighbouring Indonesia, usually from the island of Sumatra.97 Although Singapore does not observe daylight saving time (DST), it follows the GMT+8 time zone, one hour ahead of the typical zone for its geographical location.98
|Climate data for Singapore|
|Record high °C (°F)||34.3
|Average high °C (°F)||30.1
|Daily mean °C (°F)||26.0
|Average low °C (°F)||23.3
|Record low °C (°F)||19.4
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||243.2
|Average rainy days||15||11||14||15||15||13||13||14||14||16||19||19||178|
|Average relative humidity (%)||84.7||82.8||83.8||84.8||84.4||83.0||82.8||83.0||83.4||84.1||86.4||86.9||84.2|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||172.4||183.2||192.7||173.6||179.8||177.7||187.9||180.6||156.2||155.2||129.6||133.5||2,022.4|
|Source #1: National Environment Agency (Temp 1929–1941 and 1948–2011, Rainfall 1869–2011, Humidity 1929–1941 and 1948–2011, Rain days 1891–2011) 99dead link|
|Source #2: NOAA (sun only, 1961—1990)100|
Before independence in 1965, Singapore was the capital of the British Straits Settlements, a Crown Colony. It was also the main British naval base in East Asia.101 Because it was the main British naval base in the region and held the Singapore Naval Base, the largest dry dock of its time, Singapore was commonly described in the press as the 'Gibraltar of the East'.102 The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 caused a major increase in trade between Europe and Asia, helping Singapore become a major world trade center, and turning the Port of Singapore into one of the largest and busiest ports in the world.103 Prior to 1965, Singapore had a GDP per capita of $511, then the third-highest in East Asia.104 After independence, the combination of foreign direct investment and a state-led drive for industrialisation, based on plans by Goh Keng Swee and Albert Winsemius, started the expansion of the country's economy.105
Today, Singapore has a highly developed market economy, based historically on extended entrepôt trade. Along with Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan, Singapore is one of the original Four Asian Tigers, but has surpassed its peers in terms of GDP per capita. The Singaporean economy is known as one of the freest,106 most innovative,107 most competitive,108 and most business-friendly.109 The 2015 Index of Economic Freedom ranks Singapore as the second freest economy in the world. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Singapore is consistently ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, along with New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries.
For the past decade, Singapore has been the only Asian country to receive the top-tier AAA sovereign ratings from all major credit rating agencies, including Standard & Poor's, Moody's, Fitch. Globally, it is one of only nine countries with AAA rating from the Big Three (credit rating agencies).110111112 Singapore attracts a large amount of foreign investment as a result of its location, corruption-free environment, skilled workforce, low tax rates and advanced infrastructure. There are more than 7,000 multinational corporations from the United States, Japan, and Europe in Singapore. There are also approximately 1,500 companies from China and a similar number from India. Foreign firms are found in almost all sectors of the country's economy. Singapore is also the second-largest foreign investor in India.113 Roughly 44 percent of the Singaporean workforce is made up of non-Singaporeans.114 Over ten free-trade agreements have been signed with other countries and regions.53 Despite market freedom, Singapore's government operations have a significant stake in the economy, contributing 22% of the GDP.115
Singapore is considered a barometer of global economic health, especially within Asia, owing to its high dependence on external trade. Its foreign trade and capital flows is 407.9% of its GDP, making it the most trade dependent country in the world. It is the 14th largest exporter and the 15th largest importer in the world.
Singapore also possesses the world's eleventh largest foreign reserves,116 and has one of the highest net international investment position per capita.117118 The currency of Singapore is the Singapore dollar, issued by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.119 It is interchangeable with the Brunei dollar.120
In recent years, the country has been identified as an increasingly popular tax haven for the wealthy due to the low tax rate on personal income and tax exemptions on foreign-based income and capital gains. Australian millionaire retailer Brett Blundy, with an estimated personal wealth worth AU$835 million, and multi-billionaire Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin are two examples of wealthy individuals who have settled in Singapore (Blundy in 2013 and Saverin in 2012).121 Singapore ranked fifth on the Tax Justice Network's 2013 Financial Secrecy Index of the world's top tax havens, scoring narrowly ahead of the United States.122
Singapore is a world leader in several economic areas: The country is the world's fourth leading financial centre,123 the world's second largest casino gambling market,124 one of the world's top three oil-refining centres, the world's largest oil-rig producer, and a major hub for ship repair services.125126127 The World Bank has named Singapore as the easiest place in the world to do business,124 and ranks Singapore the world's top logistics hub.128 The 4th edition of the Global Green Economy Index™ (GGEI) revealed that expert practitioners ranked Singapore the 7th greenest city in the world.129
In April 2013, for the first time, Singapore surpassed Japan in average daily foreign-exchange trading volume with $383 billion per day. So the rank became: the United Kingdom (41%), the United States (19%), Singapore (5.7)%, Japan (5.6%) and Hong Kong (4.1%).130
Singapore's economy depends heavily on exports and refining imported goods, especially in manufacturing,131 which constituted 27% of the country's GDP in 2010, and includes significant electronics, petroleum refining, chemicals, mechanical engineering and biomedical sciences sectors. In 2006, Singapore produced about 10% of the world's foundry wafer output.132 Singapore has a diversified economy, a strategy that the government considers vital for its growth and stability despite its size.133
Tourism also forms a large part of the economy, with over 15 million tourists visiting the city-state in 2014.134 To attract more tourists, the government legalised gambling in 2005 and allowed two casino resorts (called Integrated Resorts) to be developed.135 Singapore also promotes itself as a medical tourism hub: about 200,000 foreigners seek medical care there each year. Singapore medical services aim to serve at least one million foreign patients annually and generate USD 3 billion in revenue.136
Singapore is an education hub, and many foreign students study in Singapore. More than 80,000 international students studied in Singapore in 2006.137 Every morning, more than 5,000 Malaysian students cross the Johor–Singapore Causeway for education in Singapore.138 In 2009, 20% of all students in Singaporean universities were international students. The students were mainly from ASEAN, China and India.139
As a result of the recession in the early 2000s and a slump in the technology sector, Singapore's GDP contracted by 2.2% in 2001. The Economic Review Committee was set up in December 2001 and recommended several policy changes to revitalise the economy. Singapore has since recovered, due largely to improvements in the world economy; the economy grew by 8.3% in 2004, 6.4% in 2005,140 and 7.9% in 2006.141 After a contraction of 0.8% in 2009, the economy recovered in 2010, with GDP growth of 14.5%. Most work in Singapore is in the service sector, which employed 2,151,400 people out of 3,102,500 jobs in December 2010. The percentage of unemployed economically active people above age 15 is about 2%.142
Employment and poverty
Singapore has the world's highest percentage of millionaires, with one out of every six households having at least one million US dollars in disposable wealth. This excludes property, businesses, and luxury goods, which if included would increase the number of millionaires, especially as property in Singapore is among the world's most expensive.143 Singapore does not have a minimum wage, believing that it would lower its competitiveness. It also has one of the highest income inequalities among developed countries, being below Hong Kong and above the United States.144145
Acute poverty is rare in Singapore. The government provides numerous assistance programmes to the homeless and needy through the Ministry of Social and Family Development. Some of the programmes include providing between SGD 400 and SGD 1000 per month to needy households, providing free medical care at government hospitals, and paying for children's school fees.146147148 The Singapore government also provides numerous benefits to the citizenry, including: free money to encourage residents to exercise in public gyms,149 up to $166,000 worth of Baby bonus benefits for each baby born to a citizen,150 heavily susidised healthcare, money to help the disabled, cheap laptops for poor students,151 rebates for numerous areas such as public transport,152 utility bills and more.153154
Singapore traditionally has one of the lowest unemployment rates among developed countries. The Singaporean unemployment rate has not exceeded 4% in the past decade,timeframe? hitting a high of 3% during the 2009 global financial crisis and falling to 1.9% in 2011.155156
Although it has been recognised that foreign workers are crucial to the country's economy, the government is considering capping these workers,157 as foreign workers make up 80% of the construction industry and up to 50% of the service industry.158159 In order to keep an effective tap on the issue of immigration and to also attract foreign talents at the same time, the Ministry of Manpower (MoM) issues employment pass under three categories viz: P1 Employment Pass for those individuals with monthly earning of $8,000 and up, P2 Employment Pass for individuals with monthly earning of $4,500 - $7,999 and Q1 Employment Pass individuals with at least a monthly earning of $3,000.160
Education for primary, secondary, and tertiary levels is mostly supported by the state. All institutions, private and public, must be registered with the Ministry of Education.161 English is the language of instruction in all public schools,162 and all subjects are taught and examined in English except for the "mother tongue" language paper.163 While the term "mother tongue" in general refers to the first language internationally, in Singapore's education system, it is used to refer to the second language, as English is the first language.164165 Students who have been abroad for a while, or who struggle with their "Mother Tongue" language, are allowed to take a simpler syllabus or drop the subject.166167
Education takes place in three stages: primary, secondary, and pre-university education. Only the primary level is compulsory. Students begin with six years of primary school, which is made up of a four-year foundation course and a two-year orientation stage. The curriculum is focused on the development of English, the mother tongue, mathematics, and science.168169 Secondary school lasts from four to five years, and is divided between Special, Express, Normal (Academic), and Normal (Technical) streams in each school, depending on a student's ability level.170 The basic coursework breakdown is the same as in the primary level, although classes are much more specialised.171 Pre-university education takes place over two to three years at senior schools, mostly called Junior Colleges.172
National examinations are standardised across all schools, with a test taken after each stage. After the first six years of education, students take the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE),168 which determines their placement at secondary school. At the end of the secondary stage, GCE "O"-Level exams are taken; at the end of the following pre-university stage, the GCE "A"-Level exams are taken. Of all non-student Singaporeans aged 15 and above, 18% have no education qualifications at all while 45% have the PSLE as their highest qualification; 15% have the GCE 'O' Level as their highest qualification and 14% have a degree.173
Singaporean students consistently rank in the top five in the world in the two major international assessments of mathematics and science knowledge:
- Singaporean students were ranked first in the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, and have been ranked in the top three every year since 1995.174175
- Singaporean students were also ranked in the top five in the world in terms of mathematics, science, and reading in the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment, conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).176
Singapore has a generally efficient healthcare system, even though their health expenditures are relatively low for developed countries.178 The World Health Organisation ranks Singapore's healthcare system as 6th overall in the world in its World Health Report.179 In general, Singapore has had the lowest infant mortality rate in the world for the past two decades.180 Life expectancy in Singapore is 80 for males and 85 for females, placing the country 4th in the world for life expectancy. Almost the whole population has access to improved water and sanitation facilities. There are fewer than 10 annual deaths from HIV per 100,000 people. There is a high level of immunisation. Adult obesity is below 10%.181
The government's healthcare system is based upon the "3M" framework. This has three components: Medifund, which provides a safety net for those not able to otherwise afford healthcare, Medisave, a compulsory health savings scheme covering about 85% of the population, and Medishield, a government-funded health insurance program.178 Public hospitals in Singapore have autonomy in their management decisions, and compete for patients. A subsidy scheme exists for those on low income.182 In 2008, 32% of healthcare was funded by the government. It accounts for approximately 3.5% of Singapore's GDP.183
Science and technology
Internet in Singapore is provided by internet service providers (ISPs) that offer residential service plans of speeds up to 1 Gbit/s. The rise of these Gigabit Networks increased exports and created 80,000 jobs in 2006.184 Mobile phone penetration rate is extremely high at 148 mobile phone subscribers per 100 people.185
Since Singapore is a small island with a high population density, the number of private cars on the road is restricted so as to curb pollution and congestion. Car buyers must pay for duties one-and-a-half times the vehicle's market value, and bid for a Singaporean Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which allows the car to run on the road for a decade. The cost of the Singaporean certificate of entitlement alone would buy a Porsche Boxster in the United States. Car prices are generally significantly higher in Singapore than in other English-speaking countries.186 As with most Commonwealth countries, vehicles on the road and people walking on the streets keep to the left.187
Singaporean residents also travel by foot, bicycles, bus, taxis and train (MRT or LRT). Two companies run the public bus and train transport system – SBS Transit and SMRT Corporation. There are six taxi companies, who together put out over 28,000 taxis on the road.188 Taxis are a popular form of public transport as the fares are relatively cheap compared to many other developed countries.189
Singapore has a road system covering 3,356 kilometres (2,085 mi), which includes 161 kilometres (100 mi) of expressways.190191 The Singapore Area Licensing Scheme, implemented in 1975, became the world's first congestion pricing scheme, and included other complementary measures such as stringent car ownership quotas and improvements in mass transit.192193 Upgraded in 1998 and renamed Electronic Road Pricing, the system introduced electronic toll collection, electronic detection, and video surveillance technology.194
Singapore is a major international transport hub in Asia, positioned on many sea and air trade routes. The Port of Singapore, managed by port operators PSA International and Jurong Port, was the world's second-busiest port in 2005 in terms of shipping tonnage handled, at 1.15 billion gross tons, and in terms of containerised traffic, at 23.2 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). It is also the world's second-busiest, behind Shanghai, in terms of cargo tonnage with 423 million tons handled. In addition, the port is the world's busiest for transshipment traffic and the world's biggest ship refuelling centre.195
Singapore is an aviation hub for Southeast Asia and a stopover on the Kangaroo Route between Sydney and London.196 There are eight airports in the country, and Singapore Changi Airport hosts a network of over 100 airlines connecting Singapore to some 300 cities in about 70 countries and territories worldwide.197 It has been rated one of the best international airports by international travel magazines, including being rated as the world's best airport for the first time in 2006 by Skytrax.198 The national airline is Singapore Airlines.199
As of mid-2014, the estimated population of Singapore was 5,469,700 people, 3,343,000 (61.12%) of whom were citizens, while the remaining 2,126,700 (38.88%) were permanent residents (527,700) or foreign students/foreign workers/dependants (1,599,000).9 According to the country's most recent census in 2010, nearly 23% of Singaporean residents (i.e. citizens and permanent residents) were foreign born (which means about 10% of Singapore citizens were foreign-born naturalised citizens); if non-residents were counted, nearly 43% of the total population were foreign born.200201 The same census also reports that about 74.1% of residents were of Chinese descent, 13.4% of Malay descent, 9.2% of Indian descent, and 3.3% of other (including Eurasian) descent.200 Prior to 2010, each person could register as a member of only one race, by default that of his or her father, therefore mixed-race persons were solely grouped under their father's race in government censuses. From 2010 onward, people may register using a multi-racial classification, in which they may choose one primary race and one secondary race, but no more than two.202
90.3% of resident households (i.e. households headed by a Singapore citizen or permanent resident) own the homes they live in, and the average household size is 3.43 persons (which include dependants who are neither citizens nor permanent residents).203 However, due to scarcity of land, 80.4% of resident households live in subsidised, high-rise, public housing apartments known as "HDB flats" because of the government board (Housing and Development Board) responsible for public housing in the country. Also, 75.9% of resident households live in properties that are equal to, or larger than, a four-room (i.e. three bedrooms plus one living room) HDB flat or in private housing.203204 Live-in foreign domestic workers are quite common in Singapore, with about 224,500 foreign domestic workers there, as of December 2013.205
The median age of Singaporean residents is 39.3,206 and the total fertility rate is estimated to be 0.80 children per woman in 2014, the lowest in the world and well below the 2.1 needed to replace the population.207 To overcome this problem, the Singapore government has been encouraging foreigners to immigrate to Singapore for the past few decades. The large number of immigrants has kept Singapore's population from declining.208
Buddhism is the most widely practised religion in Singapore, with 33% of the resident population declaring themselves adherents at the most recent census. The next-most practised religion is Christianity, followed by Islam, Taoism, and Hinduism. 17% of the population did not have a religious affiliation. The proportion of Christians, Taoists, and non-religious people increased between 2000 and 2010 by about 3% each, whilst the proportion of Buddhists decreased. Other faiths remained largely stable in their share of the population.209 An analysis by the Pew Research Center found Singapore to be the world's most religiously diverse nation.210211
There are monasteries and Dharma centres from all three major traditions of Buddhism in Singapore: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Most Buddhists in Singapore are Chinese and are of the Mahayana tradition,212 with missionaries having come into the country from Taiwan and China for several decades. However, Thailand's Theravada Buddhism has seen growing popularity among the populace (not only the Chinese) during the past decade. Soka Gakkai International, a Japanese Buddhist organisation, is practised by many people in Singapore, but mostly by those of Chinese descent. Tibetan Buddhism has also made slow inroads into the country in recent years.213
Singapore has four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil.215 English is the common language, and is the language of business, government, and the medium of instruction in schools.216217 Public bodies in Singapore, i.e. the Singapore Public Service (which includes the Singapore Civil Service and other agencies), conduct their businesses in English, and official documents written in a non-English official language such as Malay, Chinese or Tamil typically have to be translated into English to be accepted for submission. The Constitution of Singapore and all laws are written in English,218 and translators are required if one wishes to address the Singaporean Courts in a language other than English.219220 However, English is the native tongue for only one-third of all Singaporeans, with roughly a third of all Singaporean Chinese, a quarter of all Singaporean Malays and half of all Singaporean Indians speaking it as their native tongue. Twenty percent of Singaporeans cannot read or write in English.209221
Many, but not all, Singaporeans are bilingual in English and another official language, with vastly varying degrees of fluency. The official languages ranked in terms of literacy amongst Singaporeans are English (80% literacy), Mandarin (65% literacy), Malay (17% literacy), and Tamil (4% literacy).209222 Singapore English is based on British English,223 and forms of English spoken in Singapore range from Standard Singapore English to a pidgin known as "Singlish". Singlish is heavily discouraged by the government.224
Mandarin is the language that is spoken as the native tongue by the greatest number of Singaporeans, half of them.214 Singaporean Mandarin is the most common version of Chinese in the country,225 with 1.2 million using it as their home language. Nearly half a million speak other varieties of Chinese, mainly Hokkien, Teochew, and Cantonese, as their home language, although the use of these is declining in favour of Mandarin and English.226
Malay was chosen as a national language by the Singaporean government after independence from Britain in the 1960s to avoid friction with Singapore's neighbours — Malaysia and Indonesia — which are Malay-speaking.227 It has a symbolic, rather than functional purpose.215228229 It is used in the national anthem "Majulah Singapura",230 in citations of Singaporean orders and decorations, and in military commands. Today, in general, Malay is spoken within the Singaporean Malay community, with only 17% of all Singaporeans literate in Malay231 and only 12% using it as their native language.214
Around 100,000, or 3%, of Singaporeans speak Tamil as their native language.214 Tamil has official status in Singapore and there have been no attempts to discourage the use of other Indian languages.232
Singapore has one of the lowest rates of drug use in the world. Culturally, the use of illicit drugs is viewed as highly undesirable by Singaporeans, unlike in many European societies. Singaporeans' disapproval towards drug use has resulted in laws that impose the mandatory death sentence for certain serious drug trafficking offenses. Singapore also has a low rate of alcohol consumption per capita and low levels of violent crime, and one of the lowest intentional homicide rate globally. The average alcohol consumption rate is only 2 litres annually per adult, one of the lowest in the world.
Foreigners make up 42% of the population,201226 and have a strong influence on Singaporean culture. The Economist Intelligence Unit, in its 2013 "Where-to-be-born Index", ranks Singapore as having the best quality of life in Asia and sixth overall in the world.233
Languages, religions, and cultures
Singapore is a very diverse and young country. It has many languages, religions, and cultures for a country its size.234
When Singapore became independent from the United Kingdom in 1963, most of the newly minted Singaporean citizens were uneducated labourers from Malaysia, China and India. Many of them were transient labourers who were seeking to make some money in Singapore and they had no intention of staying for good. A sizeable minority of middle-class, local-born people, known as the Peranakans, also existed. With the exception of the Peranakans (descendants of late 15th and 16th-century Chinese immigrants) who pledged their loyalties to Singapore, most of the labourers' loyalties lay with their respective homelands of Malaysia, China and India.235236 After independence, the process of crafting a Singaporean identity and culture began.
Former Prime Ministers of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, have stated that Singapore does not fit the traditional description of a nation, calling it a society-in-transition, pointing out the fact that Singaporeans do not all speak the same language, share the same religion, or have the same customs.234237 Even though English is the first language of the nation, according to the government's 2010 census 20% of Singaporeans, or one in five, are illiterate in English. This is a marked improvement from 1990 where 40% of Singaporeans were illiterate in English.238239
Unlike many other countries, languages, religions and cultures among Singaporeans are not delineated according to skin colour or ancestry. Among Chinese Singaporeans, one in five is Christian, another one in five is atheist, and the rest are mostly Buddhists or Taoists. One-third speak English as their home language, while half speak Mandarin Chinese. The rest speak other Chinese varieties at home. Most Malays in Singapore speak Malay as their home language with some speaking English.238 Singaporean Indians are much more religious. Only 1% of them are atheists. Six in ten are Hindu, two in ten Muslim, and the rest mostly Christian. Four in ten speak English as their home language, three in ten Tamil, one in ten Malay, and the rest other Indian languages as their home language.238
Each Singaporean's behaviours and attitudes would therefore be influenced by, among many other things, his or her home language and his religion. Singaporeans who speak English as their native language tend to lean toward Western culture, while those who speak Chinese as their native language tend to lean toward Chinese culture and Confucianism. Malay speaking Singaporeans tend to lean toward the Malay culture, which itself is closely linked to the Islamic culture.
Attitudes and beliefs
Racial and religious harmony is regarded by Singaporeans as a crucial part of Singapore's success, and played a part in building a Singaporean identity.241 Singapore has a reputation as a nanny state.242243 The national flower of Singapore is the hybrid orchid, Vanda 'Miss Joaquim', named in memory of a Singapore-born Armenian woman, who crossbred the flower in her garden at Tanjong Pagar in 1893.244 Many national symbols such as the Coat of arms of Singapore and the Lion head symbol of Singapore make use of the lion, as Singapore is known as the Lion City. Other monikers by which Singapore is widely known is the Garden City and the Red Dot. Public holidays in Singapore cover major Chinese, Western, Malay and Indian festivals.245
Singaporean employees work an average of around 45 hours weekly, relatively long compared to many other nations. Three in four Singaporean employees surveyed stated that they take pride in doing their work well, and that doing so helps their self-confidence.246
Dining, along with shopping, is said to be the country's national pastime.247 The focus on food has led countries like Australia to attract Singaporean tourists with food-based itineraries.248 The diversity of food is touted as a reason to visit the country,249 and the variety of food representing different ethnicities is seen by the government as a symbol of its multiculturalism.250 The "national fruit" of Singapore is the durian.251
In popular culture, food items belong to a particular ethnicity, with Chinese, Malay, and Indian food clearly defined. However, the diversity of cuisine has been increased further by the "hybridisation" of different styles (e.g., the Peranakan cuisine, a mix of Chinese and Malay cuisine).249
Since the 1990s, the government has been promoting Singapore as a centre for arts and culture, in particular the performing arts, and to transform the country into a cosmopolitan "gateway between the East and West".252 One highlight was the construction of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, a performing arts centre opened in October 2002.253 The national orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, plays at the Esplanade. The annual Singapore Arts Festival is organised by the National Arts Council. The stand-up comedy scene has been growing, with a weekly open mic.254 Singapore hosted the 2009 Genée International Ballet Competition, a classical ballet competition promoted by London's Royal Academy of Dance.255
Sport and recreation
Popular sports include football, basketball, cricket, swimming, sailing, table tennis and badminton. Most Singaporeans live in public residential areas (known as "HDB flats", as mentioned above) near amenities such as public swimming pools, outdoor basketball courts and indoor sport complexes. Water sports are popular, including sailing, kayaking and water skiing. Scuba diving is another popular recreational sport. The southern island of Pulau Hantu, particularly, is known for its rich coral reefs.256
Singapore's football (soccer) league, the S-League, formed in 1994,257 currently comprises 12 clubs including foreign teams.258 The Singapore Slingers, formerly in the Australian National Basketball League, is one of the inaugural teams in the ASEAN Basketball League, founded in October 2009.259
Singapore began hosting a round of the Formula One World Championship, the Singapore Grand Prix, in 2008. The race takes place on the Marina Bay Street Circuit and was the inaugural F1 night race,260 and the first F1 street race in Asia.261 The Singapore Grand Prix will remain on the F1 calendar through at least 2017, after race organisers signed a contract extension with Formula One Group on the eve of the 2012 event.262
Companies linked to the government control much of the domestic media in Singapore.264 MediaCorp operates most free-to-air television channels and free-to-air radio stations in Singapore. There are a total of seven free-to-air TV channels offered by Mediacorp.265 The channels are Channel 5 (English channel), Channel News Asia (English channel), Okto (English channel), Channel 8 (Chinese channel), Channel U (Chinese channel), Suria (Malay channel) and Vasantham (Indian channel).266 Starhub Cable Vision (SCV) also offers cable television with channels from all around the world267 and Singtel's Mio TV provides an IPTV service.268 Singapore Press Holdings, a body with close links to the government, controls most of the newspaper industry in Singapore.269
Singapore's media industry has sometimes been criticised for being too regulated and lacking in freedom by human rights groups such as Freedom House.264 In 2014, Reporters Without Borders, a France-based international non-governmental organisation, ranked Singapore 150 out of 180 in its Press Freedom Index. This was the lowest ranking for Singapore since the inception of this index.270
The Media Development Authority regulates Singaporean media, claiming to balance the demand for choice and protection against offensive and harmful material.271 Private ownership of TV satellite dishes is banned.269 Television is censored, and shows like Sex and the City and Queer as Folk are banned. There are 3.4 million users of the internet in Singapore,269 one of the highest internet penetration rates in the world. The Singapore government does not engage in widespread censoring of the internet,272 but it maintains a list of one hundred websites (mostly pornographic) that it blocks as a 'symbolic statement of the Singaporean community's stand on harmful and undesirable content on the Internet'.273 As the block covers only home internet access, users may still visit the blocked websites from their office computers.274
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