Singapore

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Template:Infobox Country Template:Portal The Republic of Singapore (Chinese: 新加坡共和国, Pinyin: Xīnjiāpō Gònghéguó, Malay: Republik Singapura; Tamil: சிங்கப்பூர் குடியரசு, Ciŋakappūr Kudiyarasu), 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 the 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) [1].

Singapore developed from a small Malay fishing village to become a multicultural, major global city with cosmopolitan ideals. It has attracted controversy for some of its policies it has taken to achieve its development since independence in 1965. Throughout recorded history, it has been possessed by multiple countries and empires and changed hands many times, including being in the possession of Melaka and the Sultanate of Johore in ancient history, the British Empire in the colonial era, Japanese Empire in World War II and Malaysia after merger, until its independence. After independence, government-led rapid industrialisation and open policies inviting foreign investments stimulated rapid economic growth and Singapore is presently regarded as a developed nation.

Presently, Singapore can be politically analysed as a democratic socialist country that has adopted a welfare system, although de facto it has a dominant-party system. The Government perceives Singapore as multiracial, and champions it as an ideal. The majority of the population are ethnic Chinese, with Malays, ethnic Indians and Eurasians constituting a significant minority. Singapore has little natural resources, so its economy relies on exports of electronics and manufacturing from her port. More than 90% of Singapore's population lives in housing estates constructed by the Housing Development Board and nearly half utilises the public transport system daily. As a result of public transport and environmental initiatives by government ministries, Singapore's pollutive industries are mostly isolated to heavy industry located offshore in Jurong Island.

Contents

History

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 the 15th and 16th century, Singapore was a part of the Sultanate of Johore. During the Malay-Portugal wars in 1617, Singapore was set ablaze by Portuguese troops.

File:Stamford Raffles statue.jpg
Statue of Thomas Stamford Raffles by Thomas Woolner, erected at the spot where he first landed at Singapore. He is recognised as the founder of modern Singapore.
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, and saw instant growth and immigration from various ethnic groups. Singapore was later made a crown colony by Britain in 1867. After a series of territorial expansions, the British Empire soon raised it 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 to the Japanese on February 15, 1942. 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.

File:Shentonsway.jpg
Shenton Way around 1970, the period of time where Singapore underwent immense economic development under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew

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

Main articles: Politics of Singapore & Laws of Singapore

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. The media arm of the Government applies a monopolistic grip on the local mainstream media, often subjecting it to stringent censorship, as a result, opposition political parties in Singapore usually do not get any mention or coverage. Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore 140th out of 167 countries in its 2005 Worldwide Press Freedom Index.[2]

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, Singapore has what its Government considers 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 dominant in its activities, 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, as its laws are generally strict, and which has often been cited by foreign companies as one of the reasons for investing in Singapore. As the tiny city-state is a multi-racial society, materials that may breed ill-will among its population or cause religious disharmony are not tolerated, even on the Internet. In September 2005, three bloggers were charged with sedition for posting racist remarks targeting minorities, after admitting their guilt, the punishments handed down ranged from serving community service and fines to the maximum imprisonment of a month.

Some offences can lead to heavy fines or caning; laws provide for capital punishment in Singapore in cases of first-degree murder and drug trafficking. 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. However, the Singapore Government responded to AI's report in January 2004 on its Home Affairs website [3] and reiterated capital punishments as a sovereign right for the most serious crimes, a stance in common with democracies like Japan [4] and the United States.

Geography

Main article: Geography and climate of Singapore
File:Sn-map.gif
Singapore is a diamond-shaped island separated from the Peninsular Malaysia by the Tebrau Straits. (details)

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).

File:Singapore botanic garden pond.jpg
Singapore Botanic Gardens, a 52 hectare botanical garden in Singapore that includes the National Orchid Garden which has a collection of more than 3000 species of orchids

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.

Economy

Main article: Economy of Singapore
File:Lit-up CBD from Raffles City - RGW.jpg
The Central Area is the central business district and hub of economic transactions in Singapore, and is also the home of the Singapore Exchange, Asia-Pacific's first demutualised and integrated securities and derivatives exchange.

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 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. Recently, in September 2005, the unemployment rate was 3.3 percent.

Tourism

File:Merlion.jpg
The Merlion is one of the most well-known tourist icons of Singapore
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 Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian and Arab ethnicities. For many years touted as 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 Zoo 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.

Transport

Main article: Transport in Singapore
File:SMRTJE-Front.JPG
A C651 train approaching Jurong East MRT Station on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system, one of three heavy rail passenger transport lines in Singapore.

Singapore is a major transport hub in Asia, as it lies strategically on major trade routes on both land, sea and air. Its history has been closely tied to the growth of its transport industry since its modern port was founded. 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 ship refuelling hub with 23.6 million tonnes of bunker (marine fuel oil) 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 [5]. The 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.

The backbone of domestic transport infrastructure is its its road transport system, which covers most of the island. These roads are overseen by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), which also constructs expressways of Singapore. These expressways form the larger transport arteries between the distinct towns and regional centres as laid out in Singapore's urban planning and naturally allow faster speeds overland for vehicles.

Private transport was initially dominant since its independence, and its usage still grows presently. However, projects by the Land Transport Authority have tried to discourage excessive private transport use, the result of which can be air pollution and congestion. The Land Transport Authority formed a public transport system in Singapore, as part of this. Bus transport in Singapore utilises busses that use the existing road and expressway system to carry many passengers overland with more efficiency than normal private transport. Vehicles are also subject to toll by an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system during hours of heavy road traffic to regulate road usage.

Debates in parliament concluded that a bus system would be insufficient to resolve transport problems associated with an over-reliance on private transport on a road system. The Land Transport Authortiy then contracted construction of the heavy rail passenger Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system, which establishes a metro system between parts of Singapore. Currently, three lines are complete, with one under construction and several others in planning stages. The Light Rapid Transit (LRT) is a light rail system that is linked into the MRT and covers several expanses of housing estates. The EZ-Link system allows contactless smartcards to be used as stored value tickets for use in the public transport systems, and allows convenient transfer between individual components of Singapore's public transport system.

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.

File:Changinet.jpg
Singapore's Changi International Airport is one of the largest aviation facilities in Asia, serving 178 cities in 56 countries.

Demographics

File:SriMariammanTemple.jpg
Built in 1843, the Sri Mariamman Temple is the largest Hindu temple in Singapore. It is also one of the many religious buildings marked as national monuments for their historical value.
Main articles: Demographics of Singapore & Religion in Singapore

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 era, 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.

Culture

Main article: Culture of Singapore

As Singapore is a small and relatively modern amalgam of semi-indigenous Malay population with the majority of third generation Chinese and Indian and Arab immigrants with little intermarriage (although it exists and is most common between the Chinese and Indian races), there appears little in the way of specifically Singaporean culture. However, there exists a Eurasian community and a community of Peranakan or "Straits Chinese," of mixed Chinese and Malay descent.

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 ethnic ghettoes. 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. Oral sex (except as a precursor to regular intercourse) as well as anal sex are also illegal in Singapore.

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.

See also

Template:Singapore topics

External links

Template:Sisterlinks Template:Commonscat

References

Footnotes

  1. ^  Singapore, bartleby.com
  2. ^  Changi Airport, Singapore
File:Singapore river panorama2.JPG
Panoramic view of the Singapore River. There are numerous bars, pubs, seafood restaurants and tall commercial buildings along the river.

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