Template:Infobox Country Template:Portal The Republic of Singapore (Simplified Chinese: 新加坡共和国; Pinyin: Xīnjiāpō Gònghéguó, Malay: Republik Singapura; Tamil: சிங்கப்பூர் குடியரசு), is an island city-state in Southeast Asia, situated on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of the Indonesian Riau Islands. Its coordinates are Template:Coor dm, just 137 km north of the Equator. The name Singapore was derived from Malay word singa (lion), which itself is derived from the Sanskrit word सिंह siMha of the same meaning, and the Sanskrit word पुर pura (city) .
Singapore was originally a small Malay settlement until 1819, when the British started a trading post that developed into an important commercial and military imperial base. Except for the interruption for the three years that the Japanese occupied Singapore during World War II, it was a Crown Colony from 1867 until 1963, when it declared independence from Britain. Singapore joined the Federation of Malaysia shortly afterwards. On expulsion from Malaysia in 1965, Singapore was separated from its traditional markets and faced economic degeneration. In resolution, government-led rapid industrialisation and business-friendly policies stimulated some of the fastest economic growth in the modern world. Singapore now has one of the highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita rates in the world; it is a major financial, transport and medical hub. Crime is low, and Transparency International consistently rates it as one of the least corrupt countries in the world.
Practices such as the restrictions on chewing gum and fines for littering, spitting have led some to label Singapore a "nanny state". The state has a very strict judicial system dubbed to be favourable to the state and its aims and Capital Punishment is metted out on certain offenses like drug trafficking and murder. Singapore has one of the highest per capita legal execution in the world.National service is mandatory for Singaporean men and male children of permanent residents. Even though it has not been engaged in any military conflict, the Singapore Armed Forces maintains a 100,000-strong active force and 350,000-strong reserve force. Singapore has relatively warm relations with Malaysia especially since the recent changes of leadership in both countries. However, disputes still exist over issues such as the sale of water and territorial claims over the small Pedra Branca rock formation.
- Main article: History of Singapore
The first records of Singapore's existence are in Chinese texts from the 3rd century. The island was an outpost of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire and originally bore the Javanese name Temasek. Temasek rose to become a significant trading city, but subsequently declined. There are few remnants of old Temasek in Singapore other than archaeological evidence.
In 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, a British East India Company official, made a treaty with the Sultan of Johore and established Singapore as a trading post and settlement. Singapore was later made a crown colony in 1867 after a series of territorial expansions. It soon grew as an entrepot town due to its strategic location along the busy shipping routes connecting Europe to China.
During World War II, Japanese forces invaded Malaya and the surrounding region in the Battle of Malaya, culminating in the Battle of Singapore. The British were unprepared and swiftly defeated, despite having superior numbers of troops. They surrendered on February 15th 1942 to the Japanese. The Japanese renamed Singapore as Syonan-to ("Light of the South") and occupied it until the Japanese defeat September 1945. In 1959, Singapore became a self-governing crown colony with Lee Kuan Yew from the People's Action Party (PAP) as the first Prime Minister of Singapore following the 1959 elections. After a national referendum in 1962, Singapore was admitted into the Federation of Malaysia along with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak as a state with autonomous powers in September 1963. After heated ideological conflict developed between the state government formed by PAP and the Federal government in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore was expelled from the federation on August 7 1965. It gained official sovereignty two days later on August 9 1965 with Malaysia the first country to recognise it as an independent nation, the date becoming Singapore's National Day. Singapore's National Days are celebrated with annual parades and other festivities.
The fledgling nation had to struggle for self-sufficiency, and faced problems including mass unemployment, housing shortages and the lack of land and natural resources, like oil. During Lee Kuan Yew's term as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, his administration curbed unemployment, raised the standard of living, developed Singapore's economic infrastructure and overcame problems such as lack of housing, social stability and an independent national defence. This elevated Singapore into developing nation and subsequently to developed status.
On 26 November 1990 Goh Chok Tong became prime minister. Under his tenure the country tackled the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the SARS outbreak in 2003 as well as terrorist threats posed by the Jemaah Islamiah (JI). Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the third prime minister on 12 August 2004 after securing the confidence of a majority of Parliament, which is still dominated by the PAP.
Politics and government
Singapore is a republic with a Westminster system of a unicameral parliamentary government, with the bulk of the executive powers resting in the hands of a cabinet of ministers led by a prime minister. The office of the president was, historically, a ceremonial one as head of state, but the Constitution was amended in 1991 to create the position of a popularly elected president and also to grant the president veto powers in a few key decisions such as the use of the national reserves and the appointment of key judiciary positions. The legislative branch of government is the Parliament.
Politics of Singapore have been dominated by the People's Action Party (PAP) since its independence in 1965. Critics have called Singapore a de facto one party state and have accused the PAP of taking harsh actions against opposition parties to impede their success, including gerrymandering and the filing of civil suits against the opposition for libel or slander.
Critics claim that Singaporean courts have been favouring the government and the PAP in these lawsuits, although there were a few cases in which the opposition won. They consider the form of government in Singapore to be closer to authoritarianism rather than true democracy, and could be considered an illiberal democracy or procedural democracy.
Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Singapore has what many consider to be a highly successful and transparent market economy. PAP's policies contain certain aspects of socialism, which includes large scale public housing programme, public education system and the dominance of government controlled companies in the local economy. Although present in almost all segments of Singaporean society, the government has a clean, corruption-free image, and has consistently been rated as the least-corrupt country in Asia and amongst the top ten cleanest in the world by Transparency International since its first annual survey conducted in 1995.
Although Singapore's laws are inherited from British and British Indian laws, the PAP has also consistently rejected wholesale Western democratic values, with former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew citing incompatibilities with "Asian values". Singapore's position is that there should not be a "one-size-fits-all" solution to a democracy. Most recently, the PAP has relaxed some of its socially conservative policies and encouraged entrepreneurship.
Singapore enjoys one of the lowest crime rates in the world, and this has often been cited by foreign companies as one of the reasons for investing in Singapore. Laws in Singapore are generally strict with harsh punishments such as caning and execution and a stringent censorship of the media including magazines, newspapers, movies and TV programmes. Pornography, oral sex, anal sex and homosexual intercourse are illegal in Singapore. Material that may cause race or religious disharmony are not tolerated in Singapore, even on the Internet. In September 2005, three bloggers were charged with sedition for posting racist remarks, including two who were later fined and sentenced to imprisonment. Some offences can lead to heavy fines or caning, while murder and drug trafficking are grounds for execution by hanging. According to an Amnesty International report, 400 people were hanged between 1991 and 2004, which the report claimed is "possibly the highest execution rate in the world" per capita. Although the Government claims this figure to be false and exaggerated, it has not provided information that would refute Amnesty International's report.
- Main article: Geography and climate of Singapore
Singapore is a diamond-shaped island with surrounding smaller islands. There are two connections from Singapore to the Malaysian state of Johor — a man-made causeway (known as the Causeway) to the north, crossing the Tebrau Straits, and Tuas Second Link (called Linkedua Expressway in Malaysia), a bridge in the western part of Singapore that connects to Johor.
Of Singapore's dozens of smaller islands, Jurong Island, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin and Sentosa are the larger ones. The highest point of Singapore is Bukit Timah Hill, with a height of 164 m (538 feet).
The urban area used to be concentrated on the southern part of Singapore around the mouth of the Singapore River, while the rest of the land was tropical rain forest or used for agriculture. Since the 1960s, the government has constructed new towns in outlying areas, resulting in an entirely built-up and urban landscape with a few exceptions, such as the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. In addition, Singapore has reclaimed land with earth obtained from its own hills, the seabed and neighbouring countries. As a result, Singapore's land area grew from 581.5 km² in the 1960s to 697.2 km² today, and may grow by another 100 km² by 2030.
Without natural freshwater rivers and lakes, the primary domestic source of water in Singapore is rainfall, collected in reservoirs or catchment areas. Rainfall supplies approximately 50% of Singapore's water; the remainder is imported from Malaysia. In addition to existing catchment areas, recycled water facilities (called NEWater) and desalination plants, more NEWater and desalination plants are being built or proposed to reduce reliance on foreign supply.
Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate with no distinct seasons, under the Köppen climate classification. Its climate is characterised by uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity and abundant rainfall. Temperatures range from 23ºC to 35ºC. On average, the relative humidity is around 90 percent in the morning and 60 percent in the afternoon. During prolonged heavy rain, relative humidity often reaches 100 percent.
- Main article: Economy of Singapore
Singapore has a highly developed market-based economy in which the state plays a major role. It has one of the highest per capita gross domestic products in the world and is considered one of the "East Asian Tigers". Domestic demand is relatively low, and the economy depends heavily on exports produced from refining imported goods in a form of extended entrepot trade. This is especially true in electronics and manufacturing.
Singapore was hit hard in 2001 by the global recession and the slump in the technology sector, which caused the GDP that year to contract by 2.2 percent. The Economic Review Committee (ERC), set up in December 2001, made key recommendations in remaking Singapore's economy.
Singapore introduced the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on April 1, 1994, starting at 3 percent. This has substantially increased government revenue as well assisted in maintaining the stability of the government's finances to spend on reforming the economy into more services and value added goods instead of relying on electronics manufacturing. The taxable GST is now at 5 percent, with the last increase in 2004.
The economy has since recovered in response to improvements in the world economy, and grew by 8.4 percent in 2004. In the longer term the government hopes to establish a new growth path that will be less vulnerable to the external business cycle than the current export-led model, but is unlikely to abandon efforts to establish Singapore as Southeast Asia's financial and high-tech hub. The per capita GDP in 2005 is US$28,228. In September 2005, the unemployment rate was 3.3 percent.
- Main article: Tourism in Singapore
Singapore as a travel destination has become noted among many international travellers, making tourism one of the largest industries in Singapore. Much of its attraction can be attributed to its cultural diversity that reflects its rich colonial history and Malay, Chinese, Eurasian, Arab and Indian ethnicities. For many years considered to be the business hub of Southeast Asia, Singapore has an expansive shopping precinct located in the Orchard Road district. Filled with many multi-story shopping centres, the area also has many hotels, and is centre of tourism in Singapore, as opposed to Raffles Place, which can be thought of as the financial heart.
Other popular tourist attractions include the Singapore Zoological Gardens and its Night Safari, which allows people to explore Asian, African and American habitats at night, without any visible barriers between guests and the wild animals. The Singapore Zoo has embraced the 'open zoo' concept whereby animals are kept in enclosures, separated from visitors by hidden dry or wet moats, instead of caging the animals. Also famous is the Jurong Bird Park, wherein there are specimens of magnificent bird life from around the world, including a flock of one thousand flamingos. The tourist island of Sentosa, located in the south of Singapore, consists of about 20-30 landmarks, such as Fort Siloso, which was built as a fortress to defend against the Japanese during World War II. Guns from the World War II era can be seen at Fort Siloso, from a mini-sized to a 16-pound (7 kg) gun. Recently, the island has built the Carlsberg Sky Tower, which allows visitors to view the whole of Sentosa, as well as the Sentosa Luge, a small one- or two-person sled on which one sleighs supine and feet-first. Steering is done by shifting the weight or pulling straps attached to the sled's runners. Singapore will have two integrated resorts with casinos in 2009, one at Marina Bayfront and the other at Sentosa which the government announced during a parliament session on April 18, 2005.
- Main article: Transport in Singapore
Singapore is a major transport hub in Asia and its history has been closely tied to the growth of its transport industry since its infancy. The transport industry contributes over 10% of gross domestic product despite an increasingly diversified economy.
The Port of Singapore, managed by port operators PSA International and Jurong Port, is the world's busiest in terms of shipping tonnage handled. 1.04 billion gross tons were handled in the year 2004, crossing the one billion mark for the first time in Singapore's maritime history. Singapore also emerged as the top port in terms of cargo tonnage handled with 393 million tonnes of cargo in 2004, surpassing the port in Rotterdam for the first time. Singapore is ranked second globally in terms of containerised traffic with 21.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units handled in 2004, and retains her position as the world's busiest hub for transhipment traffic. She is also the world's biggest bunkering hub with 23.6 million tonnes of bunkers sold in 2004.
Singapore is a major aviation hub and is an important stopover point for the "Kangaroo route" between Australasia and Europe. Singapore Changi Airport has a network of 77 airlines connecting Singapore to 178 cities in 56 countries. It is one of the top five airports in Asia in terms of passengers handled, with 30 million passengers passing through in 2004. It has been consistently rated as one of the best international airports by numerous international travel magazines . National carrier Singapore Airlines has also received several accolades internationally and is renowned for the image of the 'Singapore Girl', where air stewardesses are clad in traditional dress (Sarong Kebaya) while serving passengers. It will also be the first airline in the world to fly the new Airbus A380 commercially. In anticipation of rising demand in both the regular and low-cost sectors, a third passenger terminal and a low-cost terminal are currently under construction. These will increase the airport's total capacity to 66.7 million passengers annually by 2008.
Domestic transport infrastructure is relatively efficient, and includes the heavy rail passenger Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system, the North-East Line, an autopilot extension of the MRT, the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) system, an extensive expressway and road system and a nationwide system of taxis and buses. The EZ-Link system allows, contactless smartcards to be used as stored value tickets for use in the public transport systems, and improves the convenience of the systems. Vehicles are subject to toll by an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system during hours of heavy road traffic to regulate road usage. Recently, there have been complaints of rising public transport fares but the government asserts that this is due to the increase in global oil prices. Currently, fares are capped at $1.90 (~US$1.10) per ride.
Singapore is the second most densely populated independent country in the world. Eighty-four percent of Singaporeans live in public housing provided by the Housing and Development Board (HDB).
Singapore's population, though small at 4.42 million as of July 2005, is relatively diverse compared to most other countries, although neighbour Malaysia also features a multiracial population. The Chinese, who have constituted the majority of the island population since the colonial days, account for 76.8 percent of Singaporeans. Malays, who are the indigenous native group of the country, constitute 13.9 percent, though this number includes many Malay ethnic groups from other parts of the Malay archipelago including the Javanese, Bugis, Baweans and Minangs. Indians are the third largest ethnic group at 7.9 percent, consisting of several groups—Tamils, who form the largest Indian group, and others such as Malayalees, Punjabis and Bengalis. The rest are made up of smaller groups such as Arabs, Jews, Thais, Japanese, and the Eurasian community.
Singapore is generally a multi-religious country, mainly due to its strategic location and the variety of religious beliefs that most Singaporeans hold. More than 40 percent of Singaporeans profess that they adhere to Buddhism. This is usually due to a lack of distinction between Taoism and Buddhism. Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and ancestral worship are merged into one by most of the Chinese population. Most Muslims are Malay but there are adherents among all races. Christianity in Singapore consists of Roman Catholicism and various denominations and its numbers hover at around 14% of the population.
The government of Singapore has been careful to maintain ethnic harmony after racial riots erupted in the 1960s. Racial harmony has been emphasized in all aspects of society, including education, military and housing. So far the policy has been largely successful, and there have been few signs of ethnic tension since the early 1970s. Current issues include the ban on wearing the Islamic headscarf in public schools. In October 2005, a man was sentenced to one month in jail for making racist comments on an online blog.
The national language of Singapore is Malay for historical reasons, and it is used in the national anthem. The official languages are English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. English has been promoted as the country's language of administration since independence, and it is spoken by the majority of the population, although with concurrent Speak Mandarin Campaigns, most public signs, advertising and print media tend to be in English and Chinese only.
To promote Chinese culture and the use of Mandarin among the Chinese, the government has introduced a Speak Mandarin Campaign (SMC). Historically, the Chinese immigrants often did not understand each other, having migrated from different parts of China, and were linguistically isolated into "dialects" such as Hokkien, Cantonese, Hokchia, Teochew, Hakka, Hokchiu and Hainanese. Malay was thus often used at that time as a common language. During the Speak Mandarin campaign however, Mandarin became a unifying factor at the cost of usage of Malay among the younger generation. Recently, there has been a "Speak Bahasa Melayu" campaign.
- Main article: Culture of Singapore
As Singapore is a small and relatively modern amalgam of semi-indigenous Malay population with the majority Chinese and the minority Indian and Arab migrants with little intermarriage, there appears little in the way of specifically Singaporean culture. However, there exists a community of Peranakan or "Straits Chinese," of mixed Chinese and Malay descent and a steadily increasing Eurasian community.
Singapore has also achieved a significant degree of cultural diffusion with its unique combination of these ethnic groups, and has given Singapore a rich mixture of diversity for its young age. One of the prime examples is in Singapore's cuisine, often a cultural attraction for tourists.
The English used is primarily British English, with some American English influences. The local colloquial dialect of English is known formally as Singapore Colloquial English (though it is more commonly called "Singlish"), and has many creole-like characteristics, having incorporated much vocabulary and grammar from various Chinese, Malay, and Indian languages. Singlish is basically identical to Manglish (the English dialect of Malaysia), and is the usual language on the streets, but is frowned upon in official contexts. English use among the population generally became more widespread after the implementation of English as a first language medium in the Singapore education system, and English is the most common language in Singapore literature.
Singapore also has several ethnic neighbourhoods, including a Little India and a Chinatown, which were formed under the Raffles Plan to segregate the new immigrants into specific areas. Although the population is no longer segregated, these ethnic neighbourhoods retain selective elements of their specific culture. The usage of such neighbourhoods is mostly commercial or for a cottage industry specific to the culture of its ethnic neighbourhood, and does not play a big part in housing the population, although it is used for that purpose. Hence, these neighbourhoods have a diverse patronage who probably wish to either eat or buy something specific to that culture.
In other parts of the country, segregation is discouraged and diversity encouraged. This can often be found in the policies of the Housing Development Board (HDB), which try to make sure there is a mix of all races within each housing district. The effect of this can be observed in all parts of the country; for example a store devoted to selling Malay food might be right next to stores selling Chinese or Indian goods. This, in return, is thought by some to foster social cohesion and national loyalty, crucial for sustaining Singapore's growth. There is an extremely strong emphasis towards racial harmony and the history pertaining to it, such as the 1964 Race Riots.
Religious tolerance has been strongly encouraged since the British colonised Singapore; the Sri Mariamman Temple (a south Indian Hindu temple that was declared a national monument in the 1980s), as well as the Masjid Jamae Mosque that served Chulia Muslims from India's Coromandel Coast is situated along South Bridge Road, which is an old major road that runs through Chinatown. Among other religious landmarks is the Church of Gregory the Illuminator, that was built in 1836, making it one of the oldest religious buildings in Singapore. It has been preserved to the present day, and Orthodox services continue to be held in it. Although most religions are tolerated, some unorthodox groups are banned.
Male homosexual intercourse is illegal in Singapore. This has been the subject of much debate both inside and outside the country, and there is no current legislative proposal to alter this. Under the Societies Act, the government has not allowed any gay rights group to form and openly address the issue. The Internet has resulted in a number of alternative communities like PLU (People Like Us), Sambal, Fridae, Red Queen, and others. However, the Singapore Government has considered homosexuality to be taboo, claiming that the population is predominantly conservative.
Since the late 1990s, the government has been striving to promote Singapore as a centre for arts and culture, including theatre and music. This fits in with Singapore's status as a cosmopolitan and multi-racial society, often being called the "gateway between the East and West". The highlight of this plan is the Esplanade - "Theatres on the Bay", a centre for performing arts, opened in 2003. The Esplanade is also informally known as "The Durian", due to its resemblance to the pungent fruit. To attract more tourists, the government passed a bill on 17 April 2005 to legalise gambling. It has decided to build two "Integrated Resorts" (IRs), each with a casino component built-in, at Marina South and Sentosa respectively. The decisions to legalise gambling and to build the resorts came only after great controversy and debate. Bans on bar-top dancing and bungee jumping were also lifted despite their lukewarm demand.
- Amnesty Internationals 2002 report on Singapore
- CIA World Factbook Entry for Singapore
- Online map of Singapore
- Singapore Government Online Portal
- Singapore Infomap
- Singapore Tourist Guide
- AlloExpat - Singapore Information Center
- Diane K. Mauzy & R. S. Milne (2002). Singapore Politics: Under the People's Action Party, Routledge. ISBN 0415246539.
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- This article incorporates public domain text from the websites of Singapore Department of Statistics, United States Department of State, the United States Library of Congress & CIA World Factbook (2004).
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