Singapore officially the Republic of Singapore, is an island city-state located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, lying 137 kilometres (85 mi) north of the equator, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of Indonesia’s Riau Islands. At 710.2 km2 (274.2 sq mi), Singapore is a microstate and the smallest nation in Southeast Asia. This is substantially larger than Monaco and Vatican City, the only other surviving sovereign city-states.
Before European settlement, the island now known as Singapore was the site of a Malay fishing village at the mouth of the Singapore River. Several hundred indigenous Orang Laut people also lived along the nearby coast, rivers and on smaller islands. In 1819, the British East India Company, led by Sir Stamford Raffles, established a trading post on the island, which was used as a port along the spice route. Singapore became one of the most important commercial and military centres of the British Empire, and the hub of British power in Southeast Asia.
During the Second World War, the British colony was occupied by the Japanese after the Battle of Singapore, which Winston Churchill called “Britain’s greatest defeat”. Singapore reverted to British rule in 1945, immediately after the war.
Eighteen years later, in 1963, the city, having achieved independence from Britain, merged with Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak to form Malaysia. However, the merger proved unsuccessful, and, less than two years later, it seceded from the federation and became an independent republic within the Commonwealth of Nations on August 9, 1965. Singapore was admitted to the United Nations on September 21 of that year.
Since independence, Singapore’s standard of living has risen dramatically. Foreign direct investment and a state-led drive to industrialization based on plans drawn up by the Dutch economist Albert Winsemius have created a modern economy focused on industry, education and urban planning. Singapore is the 5th wealthiest country in the world in terms of GDP (PPP) per capita.
In December 2008, the foreign exchange reserves of this small island nation stood at around US$174.2billion. The Singapore government, with approval from the President, announced in March 2009 that it would tap into their official reserves for the first time ever and withdraw some S$4.9 billion. The funds were then used as part of the S$20.5 billion resilience package unveiled by Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on 5 February 2009. As of January 2009, Singapore’s official reserves stands at US$170.3 billion.
In 2009, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Singapore the tenth most expensive city in the world in which to live—the third in Asia, after Tokyo and Osaka. The 2009 Cost of Living survey, by consultancy firm Mercer, has ranked Singapore similarly as the tenth most expensive city for expatriates to live in.
The population of Singapore including non-residents is approximately 4.86 million. Singapore is highly cosmopolitan and diverse with Chinese people forming an ethnic majority with large populations of Malay, Indian and other people. English, Malay, Tamil, and Chinese are the official languages.
Singapore is a parliamentary republic, and the Constitution of Singapore establishes representative democracy as the nation’s political system. The People’s Action Party (PAP) dominates the political process and has won control of Parliament in every election since self-government in 1959.
The English language name Singapore comes from Malay Singapura, “Lion-city”, but it is possible that one element of its name had a more distant original source. Pura comes from Sanskrit puram, “city, fortress”, and is related to Greek polis, “citadel, city”. Singa- comes from Sanskrit siṃha, which means lion. Today the city-state is referred to as the Lion City.
Recent studies of Singapore indicate that lions probably never lived there, not even Asiatic lions; the beast seen by Sang Nila Utama, the founder of Singapore who gave it the name meaning “Lion City”, was most likely a tiger, probably the Malayan Tiger. Alternatively, it could simply be a reference to the ancient Sinhapura as described in the Mahabharata.
Singapore is a popular travel destination, making tourism one of its largest industries. About 7.8 million tourists visited Singapore in 2006. The total visitor arrivals reached around 10.2 million in 2007. The Orchard Road shopping district is one of Singapore’s most well-known and popular tourist draws.
To attract more tourists, the government decided to legalise gambling and to allow two casino resorts (euphemistically called Integrated Resorts) to be developed at Marina South and Sentosa in 2005. To compete with regional rivals like Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai, the government has announced that the city area would be transformed into a more exciting place by lighting up the civic and commercial buildings. Cuisine has also been heavily promoted as an attraction for tourists, with the Singapore Food Festival in July organised annually to celebrate Singapore’s cuisine.
Singapore is fast positioning itself as a medical tourism hub — about 200,000 foreigners seek medical care in the country each year and Singapore medical services aim to serve one million foreign patients annually by 2012 and generate USD 3 billion in revenue. The government expects that the initiative could create an estimated 13,000 new jobs within the health industries.
Singapore now is a true melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Arabic communities. Tourists will see women with Chinese features wear sarongs and Arabic dress, and this cultural aspects contribute to making Singapore one of the unique destinations to visit.
Under the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), Wireless@SG is a government initiative to build Singapore’s infocomm infrastructure. Working through IDA’s Call-for-Collaboration, SingTel, iCell and QMax deploy a municipal wireless network throughout Singapore. Since late 2006, users have enjoyed free wireless access through Wi-Fi under the “basic-tier” package offered by all three operators for 3 years.
There are approximately 30,000 registered hotel rooms available in Singapore, and average occupancy is around 85%.
According to government statistics, the population of Singapore as of 2008 was 4.84 million, of whom 3.64 million were Singaporean citizens and permanent residents (termed “Singapore Residents”). There were 3.1644 million citizens in 2008. Various Chinese linguistic groups formed 75.2% of Singapore’s residents, Malays 13.6%, Indians 8.8%, while Eurasians, Arabs and other groups formed 2.4%.
In 2006 the crude birth rate stood at 10.1 per 1000, a very low level attributed to birth control policies, and the crude death rate was also one of the lowest in the world at 4.3 per 1000. The total population growth was 4.4% with Singapore residents growth at 1.8%. The higher percentage growth rate is largely from net immigration, but also increasing life expectancy.
Singapore is the second-most densely populated independent country in the world after Monaco. In 1957, Singapore’s population was approximately 1.45 million, and there was a relatively high birth rate.
Aware of the country’s extremely limited natural resources and small territory, the government introduced birth control policies in the late 1960s. In the late 1990s, the population was aging, with fewer people entering the labour market and a shortage of skilled workers. In a dramatic reversal of policy, the Singapore government introduced a “baby bonus” scheme in 2001 (enhanced in August 2004) that encouraged couples to have more children.
In 2006, the total fertility rate was only 1.26 children per woman, the 3rd lowest in the world and well below the 2.10 needed to replace the population. In 2006, 38,317 babies were born, compared to around 37,600 in 2005. This number, however, is not sufficient to maintain the population’s growth. To overcome this problem, the government is encouraging foreigners to immigrate to Singapore. These large numbers of immigrants have kept Singapore’s population from declining.
Singapore is a multi-religious country. According to Statistics Singapore, around 51% of resident Singaporeans (excluding significant numbers of visitors and migrant workers) practice Buddhism and Taoism.
About 15%, mostly Chinese, Eurasians, and Indians, practice Christianity – a broad classification including Catholicism, Protestantism and other denominations. Muslims constitute 14%, of whom Malays account for the majority with a substantial number of Indian Muslims and Chinese Muslims. Smaller minorities practice Sikhism, Hinduism and others, according to the 2000 census.
Some religious materials and practices are banned in Singapore. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, are prohibited from distributing religious materials and are sometimes jailed for their conscientious refusals to serve in the Singaporean military. About 15% of the population declared no religious affiliation.
Singapore is a major Asian transportation hub, 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 was also the world’s second busiest in terms of cargo tonnage, coming behind Shanghai 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.
Singapore is an aviation hub for the Southeast Asian region and a stopover on the Kangaroo route between Australasia and Europe. Singapore Changi Airport has a network of 81 airlines connecting Singapore to 185 cities in 58 countries. It has been rated as 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.
The airport currently has three passenger terminals. There is also a budget terminal, which serves budget carrier Tiger Airways and Cebu Pacific. The national carrier is Singapore Airlines (SIA). The government is moving towards privatising Changi airport.
Singapore is linked to Johor, Malaysia via the Johor-Singapore Causeway and the Tuas Second Link, as well as a railway operated by Keretapi Tanah Melayu of Malaysia, with its southern terminus at Tanjong Pagar railway station. Frequent ferry service to several nearby Indonesian ports also exists.
The domestic transport infrastructure has a well-connected island-wide road transport system which includes a network of expressways. The public road system is served by the nation’s bus service and a number of licensed taxi-operating companies. The public bus transport has been the subject of criticism by Singaporeans, the majority of whom are dependent on it for their daily commuting.
Since 1987, the heavy rail passenger Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) metro system has been in operation. The MRT has been further augmented by the Light Rail Transit (LRT) light rail system, and increases accessibility to housing estates. Established in 2001, the EZ-Link system allows contactless smartcards to serve as stored value tickets for use in the public transport systems in Singapore.
More than 2.85 million people use the bus network daily operated mainly by SBS Transit and SMRT Buses, the two main public bus operators, while more than 1.5 million people use either the LRT or MRT as part of their daily routine. Approximately 945,000 people use the taxi services daily. Private vehicle use in the Central Area is discouraged by tolls implemented during hours of heavy road traffic, through an Electronic Road Pricing system. Private vehicle ownership is discouraged by high vehicle taxes and imposing quotas on vehicle purchase.
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