Definitions

singapore island

Singapore

[sing-guh-pawr, -pohr, sing-uh-]

|common_name = Singapore |image_flag = Flag of Singapore.svg |image_coat = Coats_of_arms_of_Singapore.svg |symbol_type = Coat of Arms |image_map = LocationSingapore.png |national_motto = "Majulah Singapura"
"Onward, Singapore" |national_anthem = Majulah Singapura |capital = Singapore City (Downtown Core) |official_languages = English
Malay
Mandarin
Tamil |demonym = Singaporean |government_type = Parliamentary republic |leader_title1 = President |leader_name1 = Sellapan Ramanathan |leader_title2 = Prime Minister |leader_name2 = Lee Hsien Loong |leader_title3 = Speaker of Parliament |leader_name3 = Abdullah Tarmugi |leader_title4 = Chief Justice |leader_name4 = Chan Sek Keong |sovereignty_type = Independence |established_event1 = City status |established_date1 = 24 July 1951 |established_event2 = Self-government
|established_date2 = 3 June 1959 |established_event3 = Declaration of independence |established_date3 = 31 August 1963 |established_event4 = Merger with Malaysia |established_date4 = 16 September 1963 |established_event5 = |established_date5 = 9 August 1965 |area_km2 = 707.1 |area_rank = 190th |area_sq_mi = 270 |area_magnitude = 1_E8 |percent_water = 1.444 |population_estimate_year = 2007 |population_estimate = 4,588,600 |population_estimate_rank = 117th |population_census_year = 2000 |population_census = 4,117,700 |population_density_km2 = 6,489 |population_density_sq_mi = 16,392 |population_density_rank = 3rd |GDP_PPP_year = 2007 |GDP_PPP = US$228.116 billion |GDP_PPP_rank = 44th |GDP_PPP_per_capita = US$49,714 |GDP_PPP_per_capita_rank = 6th |GDP_nominal = US$171.95 billion |GDP_nominal_year = 2007 |GDP_nominal_per_capita = US$39,952.44 |HDI_year = 2007 |HDI = 0.922 |HDI_rank = 25th |HDI_category = high |currency = Singapore dollar |currency_code = SGD |time_zone = SST |utc_offset = +8 |cctld = .sg |calling_code = 65 |calling_code_note = ² |footnote1 = Singapore is a city-state. |footnote2 = 02 from Malaysia. }}

Singapore (Chinese: 新加坡, Xīnjiāpō; Malay: Singapura; Tamil: சிங்கப்பூர், Cingkappūr), officially the Republic of Singapore, is an island country located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It lies 137 kilometres (85 mi) north of the equator, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of Indonesia's Riau Islands. At , Singapore is one of four remaining true city-states in the world. It is the smallest nation in Southeast Asia.

Prior to 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 established a trading post on the island, which was used thereafter as a strategic trading post along the spice route. Singapore would become one of the most important commercial and military centres of the British Empire, and the hub of British power in Southeast Asia. The city was occupied by the Japanese during World War II, which Winston Churchill called "Britain's greatest defeat". Singapore reverted to British rule immediately postwar, in 1945. Eighteen years later the city, having achieved independence from Britain, merged with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia. However, less than two years later it seceded from the federation and became an independent republic on 9 August 1965. Singapore joined the United Nations on 21 September that same year.

Since independence, Singapore's standard of living has been on the rise. Foreign direct investment and a state-led drive to industrialisation based on plans drawn up by the Dutch economist Albert Winsemius have created a modern economy focused on electronics manufacturing, petrochemicals, tourism and financial services alongside traditional entrepôt trade. Singapore is the 6th wealthiest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita. This small nation has foreign exchange reserves of more than US$177 billion.

The population of Singapore is approximately 4.59 million. Though Singapore is highly cosmopolitan and diverse, ethnic Chinese form the majority of the population. English is the administrative language of the country.

The Constitution of the Republic of Singapore established the nation's political system as a representative democracy, while the country is recognised as a parliamentary republic. The People's Action Party (PAP) dominates the political process and has won control of Parliament in every election since self-government in 1959.

History

Etymology

The name Singapore comes from the Malay words Singa and Pura, which in turn comes from the Sanskrit words singa सिंह siṃha ("lion") and पुर pura ("city"). According to the Malay Annals, this name was given by a 14th century Sumatran prince named Sang Nila Utama, who, landing on the island after a thunderstorm, spotted an auspicious beast on the shore, which his chief minister erroneously identified as a 'singha' or lion. Recent studies of Singapore, however, indicate that lions have never lived there, not even Asiatic lions; the beast seen by Sang Nila Utama was most likely a tiger, probably the Malayan Tiger.

First settlement

The first records of settlement in Singapore are from the 2nd century AD. The island was an outpost of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire and originally had the Javanese name Temasek ('sea town'). Temasek (Tumasek) rapidly became a significant trading settlement, but declined in the late 14th century. There are few remnants of old Temasek in Singapore, but archaeologists in Singapore have uncovered artefacts of that and other settlements. Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, Singapore island was part of the Sultanate of Johor. During the Malay-Portugal wars in 1613, the settlement was set ablaze by Portuguese troops. The Portuguese subsequently held control in that century and the Dutch in the 17th, but throughout most of this time the island's population consisted mainly of fishermen.

Colonial rule

On 29 January 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles landed on the main island. Spotting its potential as a strategic geographical trading post in Southeast Asia, Raffles signed a treaty with Sultan Hussein Shah on behalf of the British East India Company on 6 February 1819 to develop the southern part of Singapore as a British trading post and settlement. Until August 1824, Singapore was still a territory controlled by a Malay Ruler. Singapore only officially became a British colony in August 1824 when the British extended control over the whole island. John Crawfurd, the second resident of Singapore, was the one who made Singapore a British possession. He signed a treaty with Sultan Hussein Shah on 2 August 1824 in which the Sultan and the Temmenggong handed over the whole island to the British East India Company thus marking the start of the island's modern era. Raffles's deputy, William Farquhar, oversaw a period of growth and ethnic migration, which was largely spurred by a no-restriction immigration policy. The British India office governed the island from 1858, but Singapore was made a British crown colony in 1867, answerable directly to the Crown. By 1869, 100,000 lived on the island.

The early onset of town planning in colonial Singapore came largely through a "divide and rule" framework where the different ethnic groups were settled in different parts of the South of the island. The Singapore River was largely a commercial area that was dominated by traders and bankers of various ethnic groups with mostly Chinese and Indian coolies working to load and unload goods from barge boats known locally as "bumboats". The Malays, consisting of the local "Orang Lauts" who worked mostly as fishermen and seafarers, and Arab traders and scholars were mostly found in the South-east part of the river mouth, where Kampong Glam stands today. The European settlers, who were few then, settled around Fort Canning Hill and further upstream from the Singapore River. Like the Europeans, the early Indian migrants also settled more inland of the Singapore River, where Little India stands today. Very little is known about the rural private settlements in those times (known as kampongs), other than the major move by the post-independent Singapore government to re-settle these residents in the late 1960s.

World War II

Years before the rise of the Japanese, the British noted that Japan was building its forces rapidly. Wanting to protect its assets in SouthEast Asia, the British decided to build a naval base on the Northern end of Singapore. However, due to the German war in Europe, all warship and war equipment was brought over to Europe.

During World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Malaya, culminating in the Battle of Singapore. The ill-prepared British, with most of their forces in Europe, were defeated in six days, and surrendered the supposedly impregnable fortress to General Tomoyuki Yamashita on 15 February 1942. The surrender was described by British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill as "the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history. The British naval base(see above) was destroyed before the Japanese could take over the base and make use of it. The Japanese renamed Singapore , from Japanese , or "southern island obtained in the age of Shōwa", and occupied it until the British repossessed the island on 12 September 1945, a month after the Japanese surrender.

The name Shōnantō was, at the time, romanised as "Syonan-to" or "Syonan", which means "Light of the South".

Independence

Singapore became a self-governing state within the British Empire in 1959 with Yusof bin Ishak its first Yang di-Pertuan Negara and Lee Kuan Yew its first Prime Minister. It declared independence from Britain unilaterally in August 1963, before joining the Federation of Malaysia in September along with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak as the result of the 1962 Merger Referendum of Singapore. Singapore left the federation two years later after heated ideological conflict between the state's PAP government and the federal Kuala Lumpur government. Singapore officially gained sovereignty on 9 August 1965. Yusof bin Ishak was sworn in as the first President of Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew remained prime minister.

While trying to be self-sufficient, the fledging nation faced problems like mass unemployment, housing shortages, and a dearth of land and natural resources. During Lee Kuan Yew's term as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, his administration tackled the problem of widespread unemployment, raised the standard of living, and implemented a large-scale public housing programme. It was during this time that the foundation of the country's economic infrastructure was developed; the threat of racial tension was curbed; and an independent national defence system centring around compulsory male military service was created.

In 1990, Goh Chok Tong succeeded Lee as Prime Minister. During his tenure, the country tackled the impacts of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the 2003 SARS outbreak, and terrorist threats posed by Jemaah Islamiyah after the September 11 attacks. In 2004, Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the third prime minister. Amongst his more notable decisions is the plan to open casinos to attract more foreign tourists.

Government and politics

Singapore is a parliamentary democracy with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government representing different constituencies. The bulk of the executive powers rests with the Cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister, currently Lee Hsien Loong. The office of President of Singapore, historically a ceremonial one, was granted some veto powers as of 1991 for a few key decisions such as the use of the national reserves and the appointment of judiciary positions. Although the position is to be elected by popular vote, only the 1993 election has been contested to date. The legislative branch of government is the Parliament.

Parliamentary elections in Singapore are plurality-based for group representation constituencies since the Parliamentary Elections Act was modified in 1991.

The Members of Parliament (MPs) consist of either elected, non-constituency or nominated Members. The majority of the Members of Parliament are elected into Parliament at a General Election on a first-past-the-post basis and represent either Single Member or Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs).

The elected Members of Parliament act as a bridge between the community and the Government by ensuring that the concerns of their constituents are heard in the Parliament. The present Parliament has 94 Members of Parliament consisting of 84 elected Members of Parliament, one NCMP and nine Nominated members of Parliament.

  • Elected Members, In Group Representation Constituencies, political parties field a team of between three to six candidates. At least one candidate in the team must belong to a minority race. This requirement ensures that parties contesting the elections in Group Representation Constituencies are multi-racial so that minority races will be represented in Parliament. Presently there are 14 Group Representation Constituencies and 9 Single Member constituencies.
  • Non-Constituency Members,This is to ensure that there will be a minimum number of opposition representatives in Parliament and that views other than the Government's can be expressed in Parliament.
  • Nominated Members, up to nine Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) was made in 1990 to ensure a wide representation of community views in Parliament. Nominated Members of Parliament are appointed by the President of Singapore for a term of two and a half years on the recommendation of a Special Select Committee of Parliament chaired by the Speaker. Nominated Members of Parliament are not connected to any political parties.

Politics in Singapore have been controlled by the People's Action Party (PAP) since self-government was attained. In consequence, foreign political analysts and several opposition parties like the Workers' Party of Singapore, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) have argued that Singapore is essentially a one-party state. Many analysts consider Singapore to be an illiberal or procedural democracy rather than a true democracy. The Economist Intelligence Unit describes Singapore as a "hybrid regime" of democratic and authoritarian elements. Freedom House ranks the country as "partly free". Though general elections are free from irregularities and vote rigging, the PAP has been criticized for manipulating the political system through its use of censorship, gerrymandering, and civil libel suits against opposition politicians. Francis Seow, the exiled former Solicitor-General of Singapore, is a prominent critic. Seow and opposition politicians such as J.B. Jeyaretnam and Chee Soon Juan claim that Singapore courts favour the PAP government, and there is no separation of powers.

Singapore has a successful and transparent market economy. Government-linked companies are dominant in various sectors of the local economy, such as media, utilities, and public transport. Singapore has consistently been rated as the least corrupt country in Asia and among the world's ten most free from corruption by Transparency International.

Although Singapore's laws are inherited from British and British Indian laws, including many elements of English common law, the PAP has also consistently rejected liberal democratic values, which it typifies as Western and states there should not be a 'one-size-fits-all' solution to a democracy. There are no jury trials. Laws restricting the freedom of speech are justified by claims that they are intended to prohibit speech that may breed ill will or cause disharmony within Singapore's multiracial, multi-religious society. For example, in September 2005, three bloggers were convicted of sedition for posting racist remarks targeting minorities. Some offences can lead to heavy fines or caning and there are laws which allow capital punishment in Singapore for first-degree murder and drug trafficking. Amnesty International has criticised Singapore for having "possibly the highest execution rate in the world" per capita. The Singapore government argues that there is no international consensus on the appropriateness of the death penalty and that Singapore has the sovereign right to determine its own judicial system and impose capital punishment for the most serious crimes.

Geography and climate

Singapore consists of 63 islands, including mainland Singapore. There are two man-made connections to Johor, MalaysiaJohor-Singapore Causeway in the north, and Tuas Second Link in the west. Jurong Island, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin and Sentosa are the largest of Singapore's many smaller islands. The highest natural point of Singapore is Bukit Timah Hill at .

The south of Singapore, around the mouth of the Singapore River and what is now the Downtown Core, used to be the only concentrated urban area, while the rest of the land was either undeveloped tropical rainforest or used for agriculture. Since the 1960s, the government has constructed new residential towns in outlying areas, resulting in an entirely built-up urban landscape. The Urban Redevelopment Authority was established on 1 April 1974, responsible for urban planning.

Singapore has on-going land reclamation projects with earth obtained from its own hills, the seabed, and neighbouring countries. As a result, Singapore's land area grew from in the 1960s to today, and may grow by another 100 km² (38.6 sq mi) by 2030. The projects sometimes involve some of the smaller islands being merged together through land reclamation in order to form larger, more functional islands, such as in the case of Jurong Island.

Under the Köppen climate classification system, Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate with no distinctive seasons. Its climate is characterized by uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity, and abundant rainfall. Temperatures range from 22 °C to 34 °C (72° to 93 °F). On average, the relative humidity is around 90% in the morning and 60% in the afternoon. During prolonged heavy rain, relative humidity often reaches 100%. The lowest and highest temperatures recorded in its maritime history are and respectively. June and July are the hottest months, while November and December make up the wetter monsoon season. From August to October, there is often haze, sometimes severe enough to prompt public health warnings, due to bushfires in neighbouring Indonesia. Singapore does not observe daylight saving time or a summer time zone change. The length of the day is nearly constant year round due to the country's location near the equator.

About 23% of Singapore's land area consists of forest and nature reserves. Urbanisation has eliminated many areas of former primary rainforest, with the only remaining area of primary rainforest being Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. A variety of parks are maintained with human intervention, such as the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Economy

Singapore has a highly developed market-based economy, which historically revolves around extended entrepot trade. Along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, Singapore is one of the Four Asian Tigers. The economy depends heavily on exports refining imported goods, especially in manufacturing. Manufacturing constituted 26% of Singapore's GDP in 2005. The manufacturing industry is well-diversified into electronics, petroleum refining, chemicals, mechanical engineering and biomedical sciences manufacturing. In 2006, Singapore produced about 10% of the world's foundry wafer output. Singapore is the busiest port in the world in terms of tonnage shipped. Singapore is the world's fourth largest foreign exchange trading centre after London, New York City and Tokyo.

Singapore has been rated as the most business-friendly economy in the world, with thousands of foreign expatriates working in multi-national corporations. The city-state also employs tens of thousands of foreign blue-collared workers around the world.

As a result of global recession and a slump in the technology sector, the country's GDP contracted 2.2% in 2001. The Economic Review Committee (ERC) was set up in December 2001, and recommended several policy changes with a view to revitalising the economy. Singapore has since recovered from the recession, largely due to improvements in the world economy; the Singaporean economy itself grew by 8.3% in 2004, 6.4% in 2005 and 7.9% in 2006. In the first half of Year 2007, the economy grew by 7.6%. The growth forecast for the whole year is expected to be between 7% to 8%, up from the original estimation of 5% to 7%. On 19 August 2007, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in his National Day Rally Speech that Singapore's economy is expected to grow by at least 4-6% annually over the next 5-10 years.

The per capita GDP in 2006 was US$29,474. As of September 2007, the unemployment rate is 1.7%, which is the lowest in a decade, having improved to around pre-Asian crisis level. Employment continued to grow strongly as the economy maintained its rapid expansion. In the first three quarters of 2007, 171,500 new jobs were created, which is close to the 176,000 for the whole of 2006. For the whole of 2007, Singapore's economy has grown 7.5% and drew in a record S$16 billion of fixed asset investments in manufacturing and projects generating S$3 billion of total business spending in services. The government expects the Singapore economy to grow by 4.5% to 6.5% in 2008. Singapore introduced a Goods and Services Tax (GST) with an initial rate of 3% on 1 April 1994 substantially increasing government revenue by S$1.6 billion and stabilizing government finances. The taxable GST was increased to 4% in 2003, to 5% in 2004, and to 7% on 1 July 2007.

Singapore is a popular travel destination, making tourism one of its largest industries. About 9.7 million tourists visited Singapore in 2006. 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 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 organized 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.

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.

Free Trade Agreements

Singapore has 14 bilateral and multilateral trade agreements:

  • ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA)
  • ASEAN-China (ACFTA)
  • ASEAN-Korea (AKFTA)
  • Australia (SAFTA)
  • EFTA (European Free Trade Association: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland)
  • Jordan (SJFTA)
  • India (CECA)
  • Japan (JSEPA)
  • New Zealand (ANZSCEP)
  • Panama (PSFTA)
  • Peru
  • South Korea (KSFTA)
  • Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (Trans-Pacific SEP): Brunei, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore
  • United States of America USSFTA

Currency

The currency of Singapore is the Singapore dollar, represented by the symbol S$ or the abbreviation SGD. The central bank of Singapore is the Monetary Authority of Singapore, responsible for issuing currency. Singapore established the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Singapore, on 7 April 1967 and issued its first coins and notes. The Singapore dollar was exchangeable at par with the Malaysian ringgit until 1973. Interchangeability with the Brunei dollar is still maintained.

On 27 June 2007, to commemorate 40 years of currency agreement with Brunei, a commemorative S$20 note was launched; the back is identical to the Bruneian $20 note launched concurrently.

Foreign relations

Singapore maintains diplomatic relations with 175 countries although it does not maintain a high commission or embassy in many of those countries. It is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth, ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement. Due to obvious geographical reasons, relations with Malaysia and Indonesia are most important but the domestic politics of the three countries often threatens their relations. On the other hand, Singapore enjoys good relations with many European nations, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the latter sharing ties via the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) along with Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. Good relations are also maintained with the United States, a country perceived as a stabilizing force in the region to counterbalance the regional powers.

Singapore supports the concept of Southeast Asian regionalism and plays an active role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Singapore is a founding member. Singapore is also a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which has its Secretariat in Singapore. Singapore also has close relations with fellow ASEAN nation Brunei and maintains Army training facilities in the Sultanate.

Disputes

Singapore has several long-standing disputes with Malaysia over a number of issues:

  • Water deliveries to Singapore
  • Mutual maritime boundaries
  • Air routes between Singapore Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport
  • The Singapore island known as Pedra Branca in Singapore and as Pulau Batu Puteh in Malaysia (names mean "White Rock" in Portuguese and "White Rock Island" in Malay respectively), is located off the east coast of Singapore with a land area of . The island also comprises Middle Rocks owned by Malaysia which are two clusters of rocks situated south of the main island. Both countries have staked a claim on the island and have been unable to settle the dispute between themselves. The case was heard at the International Court of Justice in 2007, with both parties presenting their case. The court had delivered its judgment on 23 May 2008 with Singapore having ownership of Pedra Branca and Malaysia owning Middle Rocks. Ownership of South Ledge, a nearby rock formation which can be seen only at low tide is still disputed
  • Relocating the Singapore station of Malaysia's Keretapi Tanah Melayu from Tanjong Pagar to Bukit Timah (see Malaysia-Singapore Points of Agreement of 1990) and moving Malaysia's immigration checkpoint from the railway station to the Causeway.
  • Not allowing laid off workers, employed in Singapore shipyards in 1998, to receive their Central Provident Funds (CPF) contributions, which are estimated to be RM2.4 billion.

Military

The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), currently headed by Minister Teo Chee Hean, oversees the Singapore Army, the Republic of Singapore Navy, and the Republic of Singapore Air Force, collectively known as the Singapore Armed Forces, along with volunteer private companies involved in supporting roles. The Chief of Defence Forces is Lieutenant-General Desmond Kuek Bak Chye.

The armed forces serve primarily as a deterrent against potential aggressors and also provide humanitarian assistance to other countries. Singapore has mutual defence pacts with several countries, most notably the Five Power Defence Arrangements. There is an extensive overseas network of training grounds in the United States, Australia, Republic of China (Taiwan), New Zealand, France, Thailand, Brunei, India and South Africa. Since 1980, the concept and strategy of "Total Defence" has been adopted in all aspects of security; an approach aimed at strengthening Singapore against all kinds of threats.

The recent rise in unconventional warfare and terrorism has cast increasing emphasis on non-military aspects of defence. The Gurkha Contingent, part of the Singapore Police Force, is also a counter-terrorist force. In 1991, the hijacking of Singapore Airlines Flight 117 ended in the storming of the aircraft by Singapore Special Operations Force and the subsequent deaths of all four hijackers without injury to either passengers or SOF personnel. A concern is Jemaah Islamiyah, a militant Islamic group whose plan to attack the Australian High Commission was ultimately foiled in 2001.

Singapore's defence resources have been used in international humanitarian aid missions, including United Nations peacekeeping assignments involved in 11 different countries. In September 2005, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) sent three CH-47 Chinook helicopters to Louisiana to assist in relief operations for Hurricane Katrina. In the aftermath of the 2004 Asian Tsunami (or Boxing Day Tsunami), the SAF deployed 3 tank landing ships, 12 Super Puma and 8 Chinook helicopters to aid in relief operations to the countries that were affected by the tsunami.

Singapore Armed Forces

The Singapore Armed Forces, the military forces of Singapore, takes charge of the overall defence of the country. It comprises three branches: the Singapore Army, Republic of Singapore Air Force, and the Republic of Singapore Navy.

The Singapore Army is one of the three services of the Singapore Armed Forces. It is headed by the Chief of Army (COA), currently Major General Neo Kian Hong. The Army focuses on leveraging technology and weapon systems as "force-multipliers". It is currently undergoing the transformation into, what it calls a 3rd Generation fighting force.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), the air force branch, guards the airspace of Singapore. The RSAF was established in 1968 as the Singapore Air Defence Command. It operates from four air bases. It also operates its aircraft in several overseas locations in order to provide greater exposure to its pilots. The main aircraft found in its fleet include F-16 Fighting Falcons, CH-47 Chinook and C-130 Hercules.

The final branch, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), is the navy of the Singapore Armed Forces, responsible for the defence of Singapore against seaborne threats and protection of its sea lines of communications. Operating within the crowded littoral waters of the Singapore Strait, the RSN is regarded as one of the best in the region. The RSN operates from two bases, Tuas Naval Base and Changi Naval Base, and has a large number of vessels, including 4 submarines, 6 frigates, and 4 amphibious transport docks. All commissioned ships of the RSN have a prefix RSS, which means Republic of Singapore Ship.

Singapore Police Force

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) is the main agency tasked with maintaining law and order in the country. Formerly known as the Republic of Singapore Police, it has grown from an 11-man organisation to a 38,587 strong force. It enjoys a relatively positive public image, and is credited for helping to arrest Singapore's civic unrests and lawlessness in its early years, and maintaining the low crime rate today. The organisation structure of the SPF is split between the staff and line functions, roughly modelled after the military. There are currently 15 staff departments and 13 line units. The SPF is headquartered in a block at New Phoenix Park in Novena, adjacent to a twin block occupied by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Police officers typically respond to calls in rapid-deployment vehicles known as the Fast Response Car. They have been staunch users of Japanese-made saloon cars since the 1980s for patrol duties, with the mainstay models in use being the various generations of the Mitsubishi Lancers, Mazda 323s, Toyota Corollas & Subaru Impreza.

Singapore Civil Defence Force

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) is the main agency in charge of the provision of emergency services in Singapore during peacetime and emergencies. A uniformed organisation under the purview of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the SCDF provides ambulance, fire fighting and emergency response services to the Republic of Singapore. It also plays a major role in the Republic's disaster relief operations. It is branched into 6 Operational and Training Divisions beneath the Headquarters Element. Of these six, four are known as Operational Divisions, also known as Territorial Divisions, and each cover vast sections of Singapore corresponding roughly to the four cardinal points of the compass.

The SCDF maintains a large fleet of custom vehicles, called appliances, to provide an emergency response force capable of mitigating any and all kinds of fires and disasters. Ranging from the generic fire truck and ambulance to more sophisticated mobile command structures and disaster mitigation vehicles of all kinds, many of the appliances were designed and commissioned by the Force itself rather than obtaining ready-made designs from industries.

National Service

Singapore legislation requires every able-bodied male Singapore citizen and second-generation permanent resident to undertake National Service for a minimum of 2 years upon reaching 18 years of age or completion of his studies (whichever comes first), with exemption on medical or other grounds. After serving for two years, every male is considered operationally ready, and is liable for reservist national service to the age of 40 (50 for commissioned officers). More than 350,000 men serve as operationally-ready servicemen assigned to reservist combat units, and another 72,500 men form the full-time national service and regular corps.

Demographics

Population

According to government statistics, the population of Singapore as of 2007 was 4.59 million, of whom 3.58 million were Singaporean citizens and permanent residents (termed "Singapore Residents"). Various Chinese ethnic groups formed 75.2% of Singapore's residents, Malays 13.6%, Indians 8.8%, while Eurasians 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, excluding Macau and Hong Kong, which are special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China. 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 ageing, 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.

Religion

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, the Bahá'í Faith 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.

Education

English is the first language learned by half the children by the time they reach preschool age and is the primary medium of instruction in primary school; however mother tongues are taught in the respective languages.

Many children attend private kindergartens until they start at primary school at the age of six. Singapore's ruling political party, the PAP, is a big provider of preschool education through its community arm.

English is the language of instruction for mathematics and the natural sciences. For the Chinese community, there are Special Assistance Plan schools which receive extra funding to teach in Mandarin. Some schools also integrate language subjects with mathematics and the sciences, using both English and a second language.

Curricular standards are set by the Ministry of Education with a mix of private schools and public schools. There is no strict public-private dichotomy: the degree of autonomy, regarding curriculum and student admission, government funding received, and tuition burden on the students is further classified into "government-run", "government-aided", "autonomous", "independent", and "privately-funded". In addition, international schools cater to expatriate students, and to a few local students given permission by the education ministry.

There are four state universities in Singapore; the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University and SIM University. A further public university is under consideration as the government looks to provide higher education for 30% of each cohort. There are also five polytechnics (Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic). Unlike similarly named institutions in many other countries, Singapore polytechnics do not teach to degree level.

The educational system features non-compulsory kindergarten for three years, followed by six years of primary education concluding with the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). Four to five years of secondary education follow, leading to N level or Singaporean GCE 'O' Level examinations that assess their individual subject mastery and determine which kind of tertiary education they can pursue.

Junior colleges like Tampines Junior College and Millennia Institute provide a two or three-year pre-university education route to university. An alternative, the Integrated Programme, lets the more academically-inclined skip 'O' levels to proceed straight to 'A' levels. Polytechnics offer courses leading to a diploma for students as a substitute for 'A' levels while tertiary institutions offer various bachelor's, master's, doctoral degrees, other higher diplomas, and associate degree courses.

Other institutes include the National Institute of Education (NIE), a teaching college to train teachers, various management institutes, and vocational education institutes such as the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

The Economic Development Board (EDB) has been actively recruiting foreign schools to set up campuses in Singapore under the "Global Schoolhouse" programme which aims to attract 150000 foreign students by 2015. INSEAD, a leading business school, opened its first overseas campus here in 2001, while ESSEC Business School, a century-old Parisian business school, provide courses specific to Asia. University of Chicago Graduate School of Business has a campus here as well. Tisch School of the Arts was the latest to set up a branch campus here in 2007.

However, the EDB failed to attract and retain the University of Warwick and University of New South Wales, respectively, citing lack of academic freedom and financial concerns.

In 1999, the Ministry of Education started the Programme for Rebuilding and Improving Existing schools (PRIME) to upgrade school buildings, many of which were built over 20 to 30 years ago, in phases at a cost of S$4.5 billion. This programme achieves to provide a better school environment for the students by upgrading school buildings to latest standards. In 2005, the Flexible School Infrastructure (FlexSI) framework was implemented through the building of modular classrooms which can be opened up for larger lectures, and allowing a school's staff members to mould their school's designs to suit the school's unique identity and culture. At the same time, an indoor sports hall will be provided to every school so that schools can carry out physical education lessons in inclement weather.

Languages

The national language of Singapore is Malay for historical reasons, and it is used in the national anthem, "Majulah Singapura". The official languages are English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. English has been promoted as the country's language of administration since its independence. The English used is primarily based on British English, with some American English influences. The use of English became widespread in Singapore after it was implemented as a first language medium in the education system, and English is the most common language in Singaporean literature. In school, children are required to learn English and one of the three other official languages. Public signs and official publications are in English, although there are usually translated versions in other official languages. However, most Singaporeans speak a localised hybrid form of English known as Singlish ("Singapore English"), which has many creole-like characteristics, incorporating vocabulary and grammar from Standard English, various Chinese dialects, Malay, and Indian languages. The second-most common language in Singapore is Mandarin with over seventy percent of the population having it as a second language.

Culture

Singapore is a mixture of an indigenous Malay population with a third generation Chinese majority, as well as Indian and Arab immigrants with some intermarriages. There also exist significant Eurasian and Peranakan (known also as 'Straits Chinese') communities.

Cuisine

Singaporean cuisine is an example of diversity and cultural diffusion in Singapore, with a fusion of Chinese, Indian, Malay and Tamil influences. In Singapore's hawker centres, traditionally Malay hawker stalls selling halal food may serve halal versions of traditionally Tamil food. Chinese food stalls may introduce indigenous Malay ingredients or cooking techniques. This continues to make the cuisine of Singapore a significant cultural attraction.

Local foods are diverse, ranging from Hainanese chicken rice to satay. Singaporeans also enjoy a wide variety of seafood including crabs, clams, squid, and oysters. One such dish is stingray barbecued and served on banana leaf and with sambal or chili.

Amongst locals, popular dishes include bak chor mee, mee poh, sambal stingray, laksa, nasi lemak, chili crab and satay. All of which, can be found at local hawker centres around Singapore.

Performing arts

Since the 1990s, the government has been striving to promote Singapore as a centre for arts and culture, and to transform the country into a cosmopolitan 'gateway between the East and West'. The highlight of these efforts was the construction of Esplanade, a centre for performing arts that opened on 12 October 2002.

An annual arts festival is also organised by the National Arts Council that incorporates theatre arts, dance, music and visual arts, among other possibilities.

A first Singapore Biennale took place in 2006 to showcase contemporary art from around the world. The next one will be in 2008 which will feature Southeast Asian works.

Media

Around 38,000 people work in the media in Singapore, including publishing, print, broadcasting, film, music, digital and IT media sectors. The industry contributed 1.56% to Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2001 with an annual turnover of S$10 billion. The industry grew at an average rate of 7.7% annually from 1990 to 2000, and the government seeks to increase its GDP contribution to 3% by 2012.

The Singapore government says the media play an important role in the country, and describes the city as one of the key strategic media centres in the Asia-Pacific region. The goal of the government's Media 21 plan, launched in 2002, is to establish Singapore as a global media hub.

In its Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index for 2004, Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore 147 out of 167. Most of the local media are directly or indirectly controlled by the government through shareholdings of these media entities by the state's investment arm Temasek Holdings, and are often perceived as pro-government.

Broadcasting

State-owned MediaCorp operates all seven free-to-air terrestrial local television channels licensed to broadcast in Singapore, as well as 14 radio channels. Radio and television stations are all government-owned entities. All seven television channels are owned by MediaCorp. The radio stations are mainly operated by MediaCorp with the exception of four stations, which are operated by SAFRA Radio and SPH UnionWorks respectively. Private ownership of satellite dish receivers capable of viewing uncensored televised content from abroad is illegal.

Print

There are a total of 16 newspapers in active circulation. Daily newspapers are published in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil.

Print is dominated by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), the government-linked publisher of the flagship English-language daily, The Straits Times. SPH publishes all other daily newspapers with the exception of Today, a free English-language tabloid published by the state-owned broadcaster MediaCorp.

There are also several popular magazines circulating in Singapore, like i-weekly, 8 days, Maxim Singapore and FHM Singapore.

Sport and recreation

Singaporeans participate in a wide variety of sports and recreational activities. Favorite sports include football, cricket, swimming, badminton, basketball, rugby union, volleyball and table tennis. Most people live in public residential areas that often provide amenities such as swimming pools, outdoor basketball courts and indoor sport complexes. As might be expected on an island, water sports are popular, including sailing, kayaking and water skiing. Scuba diving is another recreation, particularly around the southern island of Pulau Hantu which is known for its rich coral reefs.

The 55,000 seat National Stadium, Singapore, located in Kallang was opened in July 1973 and was used for sporting, cultural, entertainment and national events until its official closure on 30 June 2007 to make way for the Singapore Sports Hub on the same site. This sports complex is expected to be ready by 2011 and will comprise a new 55,000-capacity National Stadium with a retractable roof, a 6,000-capacity indoor aquatic centre, a 400-metre warm-up athletic track and a 3,000-seater multi-purpose arena. 36,000 square metres of space have also been reserved for commercial development.

Golf is gaining popularity among Singaporeans. There are 15 golf clubs in Singapore. Some golfers prefer travelling to regional golf courses especially in Johor, Malaysia, due to relatively cheaper club membership.

Singaporean sportsmen have performed in regional as well as international competitions in sports such as table tennis, badminton, bowling, sailing, silat, swimming and water polo. Athletes such as Fandi Ahmad, Ang Peng Siong, Li Jiawei and Ronald Susilo have become household names in the country.

The Singapore Slingers joined the Australian National Basketball League in 2006 and have three Singaporeans in their squad. Despite being the team with the largest support pool in the NBL, they generally get the smallest crowds in the NBL.

Beginning in 2008, Singapore will be hosting a round of the Formula One World Championship. The race will be staged at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in the Marina Bay area and will become the first night race on the F1 circuit and the first street circuit in Asia.

On 21 February 2008, the International Olympic Committee announced that Singapore won the bid to host the inaugural 2010 Summer Youth Olympics. Singapore beat Moscow in the final by 53 votes to 44.

Architecture

The architecture of Singapore is varied, reflecting the ethnic build-up of the country. Singapore has several ethnic neighbourhoods, including Chinatown and Little India. These were formed under the Raffles Plan to segregate the immigrants. Many places of worship were also constructed during the colonial era. Sri Mariamman Temple, the Masjid Jamae mosque and the Church of Gregory the Illuminator are among those that were built during the colonial period. Work is now underway to preserve these religious sites as National Monuments of Singapore.

Due to the lack of space and lack of preservation policies during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, few historical buildings remain in the Central Business District (CBD) - the Fullerton Hotel and the previously-moved Lau Pa Sat being some exceptions. However, just outside of Raffles Place, and throughout the rest of the downtown core, there is a large scattering of pre-WWII buildings - some going back nearly as far as Raffles, as with the Empress Place Building, built in 1827. Many classical buildings were destroyed during the post-war decades, up until the 1990s, when the government started strict programmes to conserve the buildings and areas of historic value.

Past the shopping malls are streets lined with shophouses. Many other such areas have been gazetted as historic districts. Information can be found at the URA Centre in Maxwell Road, where there are exhibits and several models of the island and its architecture. Singapore has also become a centre for postmodern architecture. Historically, the demand for high-end buildings has been in and around the Central Business District (CBD). After decades of development, the CBD has become an area with many tall office buildings. These buildings comprise the skyline along the coast of Marina Bay and Raffles Place, a tourist attraction in Singapore. Plans for tall buildings must be reviewed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. No building in Singapore may be taller than 280 metres. The three tallest buildings in Singapore, namely Republic Plaza, UOB Plaza One and OUB Centre, are all 280 metres in height.

Resources

Water resource

Without natural freshwater rivers and lakes, rainfall is the primary domestic source of water supply in Singapore. About half of Singapore's water comes from rain collected in reservoirs and catchment areas while the rest comes from Malaysia. The two countries have long argued of the legality of agreements to supply water that were signed in colonial times.

Singapore has a network of reservoirs and water catchment areas. In 2001, there were 19 raw water reservoirs, 9 treatment works and 14 storage or service reservoirs locally to serve domestic needs. Marina Barrage is a dam being constructed around the estuary of three Singapore rivers, creating a huge freshwater reservoir by 2009, the Marina Bay reservoir. This will increase the rainfall catchment to two-thirds of the country's surface area.

Historically, Singapore relied on imports from Malaysia to supply half of its water consumption. However, two water agreements that supply water to Singapore are due to expire by 2011 and 2061 respectively. The two countries are engaged in a dispute on the price of water. Without a resolution in sight, the government of Singapore decided to increase self-sufficiency in its water supply. Presently, more catchment areas, facilities to recycle water (producing NEWater) and desalination plants are being built. This "four tap" strategy aims to reduce reliance on foreign supply and to diversify its water sources.

Transport

International

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 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.

Domestic

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 Rapid Transit (LRT) light rail system, adds accessibility to housing estates. Established in 2001, 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, 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.

Notes

References

  • Hill, Michael, & Kwen Fee Lian (1995). The Politics of Nation Building and Citizenship in Singapore. Routledge. ISBN 041512025X
  • Mauzy, Diane K. & R. S. Milne (2002). Singapore Politics: Under the People's Action Party. Routledge. ISBN 0415246539.
  • Tan, Kenneth Paul (2007). Renaissance Singapore? Economy, Culture, and Politics. NUS Press. ISBN 9971693770.
  • Yew, Lee Kuan (2000). From Third World To First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0060197765
  • Worthington, Ross (2002). Governance in Singapore. Routledge/Curzon. ISBN 070071474X.
  • Census of Population (2000). Singapore Department of Statistics. Retrieved on 2000-01-11..
  • Key Facts & Figures. Ministry of Transport, Singapore. Retrieved on 2003-01-11..
  • Nation's History. Singapore Infomap. Retrieved on 2004-01-11..
  • MOE-PRIME. Programme For Rebuilding and IMproving Existing schools (PRIME). Retrieved on 2007-05-15..
  • Press Releases. Eight More Schools to Benefit from Upgrading. Retrieved on 2007-05-15..

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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