Republic of Singapore
FLAG: The flag consists of a red stripe at the top and a white stripe on the bottom. On the red stripe, at the hoist, are a white crescent opening to the fly and five white stars.
ANTHEM: Long Live Singapore.
MONETARY UNIT: The Singapore dollar (s$) of 100 cents is a freely convertible currency. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and 1 dollar and notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 10,000 dollars. s$1 = us$0.60606 (or us$1 = s$1.65) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is in force, but some local measures are used.
HOLIDAYS: Major Western, Chinese, Malay, and Muslim holidays are celebrated, some of which fall on annually variable dates because of the calendars used. Major holidays include New Year's Day, 1 January; Chinese New Year; Good Friday; Vesak Day (Buddhist festival); Labor Day, 1 May; Hari Raya Puasa (Muslim festival); National Day, 9 August; Hari Raya Haji (Malay Muslim festival); Dewali; Christmas, 25 December.
TIME: 8 pm = noon GMT.
The Republic of Singapore, the second-smallest country in Asia, consists of Singapore Island and several smaller adjacent islets. Situated in the Indian Ocean off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore has an area of 693 sq km (268 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Singapore is slightly more than 3.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. Singapore Island extends 41.8 km (26 mi) ene–wsw and 22.5 km (14 mi) sse–nnw and has a coastline of 193 km (120 mi), including about 84 km (52 mi) along the water channel between the island and the Malay Peninsula. Singapore is connected to the nearby western portion of Malaysia by a causeway 1,056 m (3,465 ft) in length across the narrow Johore Strait. Singapore's position at the eastern end of the Strait of Malacca, which separates western Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, has given it economic and strategic importance out of proportion to its small size. Singapore's capital city, Singapore, is located on the country's southern coast.
Singapore Island is mostly low-lying, green, undulating country with a small range of hills at the center. The highest point of the island is Bukit Timah (166 m/545 ft). There are sections of rain forest in the center and large mangrove swamps along the coast, which has many inlets, particularly in the north and west. Singapore's harbor is wide, deep, and well protected. The longest river, the Seletar, is only 14 km (9 mi) long.
The climate is tropical, with heavy rainfall and high humidity. The range of temperature is slight; the average annual maximum is 31°c (88°f), and the average minimum 24°c (75°f). The annual rainfall of 237 cm (93 in) is distributed fairly evenly throughout the year, ranging from 39 cm (15 in) in December to 28 cm (11 in) in May. It rains about one day in two.
Singapore Island is mostly denuded, the dense tropical forest that originally covered it being mostly cleared. There is some rain forest in the central area of the island, however, as well as extensive mangrove swamps along the coast. The greatest concentration of plant life can be found in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, one of the largest areas of primary rain forest in the country. Urban development has limited animal life. As of 2002, there were at least 85 species of mammals, 142 species of birds, and over 2,200 species of plants throughout the country.
Environmental responsibility for Singapore is vested in the Ministry of the Environment and its Anti-Pollution Unit. Air quality is protected by the Clean Air Act, as adopted in 1971 and amended in 1975 and 1980, and by the Clean Air (Standards) Regulations of 1975. Regulations limiting the lead content of gasoline were imposed in 1981, and emissions standards for motor vehicles were tightened in 1986. Air pollution from transportation vehicles is a problem in the nation's growing urban areas. In 1992, Singapore was among 50 nations with the world's highest levels of industrial carbon dioxide emissions, which totaled 49.8 million metric tons, a per capita level of 17.99 metric tons. In 2000, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 59 million metric tons.
Water quality is regulated through the Water Pollution Control and Drainage Act of 1975 and the Trade Effl uent Regulations of 1976. Singapore does not have enough water to support the needs of its people. In total, the nation about has about 0.1 cu mi of water. Four percent of the annual withdrawal is used for farming and 51% for industrial purposes. Pollution from the nation's oil industry is also a significant problem, and the cities produce about 0.9 million tons of solid waste per year. Wastewater is treated and recycled to conserve water supplies.
In 2003, only about 4.9% of the total land area was protected. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 3 types of mammals, 10 species of birds, 4 types of reptiles, 13 species of fish, 1 species of invertebrate, and 54 species of plants. Threatened species in Singapore include the Ridley's leaf-nosed bat, Chinese egret, yellow-crested cockatoo, batagur, tigers, and the Singapore roundleaf horseshoe bat.
The population of Singapore in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 4,296,000, which placed it at number 119 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 8% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 20% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 101 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–10 was expected to be 0.6%, a rate the government viewed as too low. The projected population for the year 2025 was 5,108,000. The population density was 6,929 per sq km (17,946 per sq mi). Singapore is virtually a city-state, and the entire population (100%) is considered urban.
Singapore had only a few Malay fishermen as inhabitants at the time of its founding as a British trading post in 1819. It was subsequently and quite rapidly populated by immigrant peoples, primarily Chinese but also Malays (from Sumatra as well as adjacent Malaya) and Indians (who took advantage of common British governance to migrate to Singapore in search of better employment). Thus immigration, rather than natural increase, was the major factor in Singapore's fast population growth through the mid-20th century.
In November 1965, following separation from Malaysia, Singapore's newly independent government introduced measures to restrict the flow of Malaysians entering the country in search of work. These immigrants, who averaged 10,000 a year up to 1964, had to establish residence for several years to qualify for citizenship. In addition, all noncitizens were required to apply for a work permit or employment pass. Immigration is now generally restricted to those with capital or with special skills. There were 1,352,000 migrants living in Singapore in 2000. The number of foreign workers in Singapore jumped from 70,000 in 1975 to 600,000 in 2003. The share of foreigners in the workforce rose from 7% in 1975 to 25% in 2003. In 2004, there was a single refugee in Singapore and there were three asylum seekers.
In 2000, the net migration rate was 19.6 migrants per 1,000 population. This rate was significantly reduced by 2005 to an estimated 10.3 migrants per 1,000 population.
The people of Singapore are predominantly of Chinese origin, with the ethnic Chinese accounting for about 76.8% of the population. About 15% are Malays and 8% are Indians (including Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Sri Lankans).
There are four official languages in Singapore: Chinese (Mandarin dialect), Malay, English, and Tamil. English is the principal medium of government and is widely used in commerce; it is spoken by about 23% of the population. In 1987, under a government mandate, English was made the primary language of the school system. Mandarin is the most widely known language, spoken by about 35% of the population. Malay is spoken by 14% and Tamil by 3%. Other languages include Hokkien (11%), Cantonese (6%), and Teochew (5%).
The Chinese adhere in varying degrees to Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. According to a 2000 census, these faiths, as well as traditional ancestor worship, were practiced by about 51% of the population. Malays and persons with origins in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi portions of the Indian subcontinent are almost exclusively Muslim. About 15% of the total population practices Islam. About 15% of the population is Christian, with Protestants outnumbering Roman Catholics by about two to one. Most of the Indian minority (4%) are Hindus. There are also small Sikh, Jewish, Zoroastrian, and Jain communities.
There is complete separation of state and religion in Singapore and freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed. However, all religious groups must be registered under the Societies Act, and the government has maintained a ban on the registration of Jehovah's Witnesses and the Unification Church. The government also has a semiofficial relationship with the Islamic Religious Council. One holiday from each of the nation's major religions (Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism) is recognized as a national holiday.
Singapore's history is partly the history of the island country's important regional role as a transportation link between East and West and between the mainland and insular portions of Southeast Asia. As long ago as 1822—only three years after the establishment of a British colonial presence on the island—1,575 ships called at the new port of Singapore from nearby islands, Europe, India, and China. With a natural deepwater harbor that is open year-round, Singapore now ranks as the largest container port in the world, with anchorage facilities that can accommodate supertankers. Ships of some 600 shipping lines, flying the flags of nearly all the maritime nations of the world regularly call at Singapore. In 2005, Singapore's merchant fleet comprised 923 ships of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 23,065,290 GRT.
Commercial air service was inaugurated in Singapore in 1930. In 2004, there were 10 airports, 9 of which had paved runways as of 2005. The two principal air facilities are Changi International and Seletar Airport. Singapore's own carrier is Singapore Airlines. In 2003, about 14.737 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.
There were 3,130 km (1,947 mi) of roadways in 2002, all of which were paved, including 150 km (93 mi) of expressways. In 2003, there were 600,550 motor vehicles, of which 414,300 were automobiles and 186,250 were commercial vehicles. Singapore's sole rail facility is a 38.6-km (24-mi) section of the Malayan Railways, which links Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. There is also an 83km (52-mi) mass transit system with 48 stations.
Some historians believe a town was founded on the Singapore Island as early as the 7th century, while other sources claim that "Singapura" (Lion City) was established by an Indian prince in 1299. Historians believe that during the 13th and 14th centuries, a thriving trading center existed until it was devastated by a Javanese attack in 1377. Singapore, however, was virtually uninhabited when Sir Stamford Raffl es, in 1819, established a trading station of the British East India Company on the island. In 1824, the island was ceded outright to the company by the Sultan of Johore, the Malay state at the extreme southern end of the peninsula. In 1826, it was incorporated with Malacca (Melaka, Malaysia) and Penang (Pinang, Malaysia) to form the Straits Settlements, a British Crown colony until World War II. The trading center grew into the city of Singapore and attracted large numbers of Chinese, many of whom became merchants.
With its excellent harbor, Singapore also became a flourishing commercial center and the leading seaport of Southeast Asia, handling the vast export trade in tin and rubber from British-ruled Malaya. In 1938, the British completed construction of a large naval base on the island, which the Japanese captured in February 1942 during World War II, following a land-based attack from the Malay Peninsula to the north.
Recaptured by the United Kingdom in 1945, Singapore was detached from the Straits Settlements to become a separate Crown colony in 1946. Under a new constitution, on 3 June 1959, Singapore became a self-governing state, and on 16 September 1963, it joined the new Federation of Malaysia (formed by bringing together the previously independent Malaya and Singapore and the formerly British-ruled northern Borneo territories of Sarawak and Sabah). However, Singapore, with its predominantly urban Chinese population and highly commercial economy, began to find itself at odds with the Malay-dominated central government of Malaysia. Frictions mounted, and on 9 August 1965, Singapore separated from Malaysia to become wholly independent as the Republic of Singapore. Harry Lee Kuan Yew, a major figure in the move toward independence, served as the country's prime minister from 1959 until 1990. Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand formed the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967.
The People's Action Party (PAP), founded in 1954, has been the dominant political party, winning every general election since 1959. The PAP's popular support rested on law-and-order policies buttressed by economic growth and improved standards of living. Although the PAP regularly carried 60–75% of the popular vote, it managed to capture virtually all seats repeatedly in the National Assembly. The PAP won all parliamentary seats in the general elections from 1968 to 1980. In the 1981 by-election, J. B. Jeyaretnam, secretary-general of the Workers' Party, won a seat; he maintained it in the 1984 general election. Chiam See Tong, leader of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), won another seat for the opposition in the same election. In March 1985, the third state president, Devan Nair, former trade unionist and member of the Singapore's "old guard," resigned from office under allegations related to alcoholism. The new president, Wee Kim Wee, took office in August. In May and June 1987, the government detained 22 persons under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for alleged involvement in a "Marxist conspiracy." These detentions triggered international protests by those critical of the government's abuse of human rights, including detention without trial and allegations of torture. Most of the alleged conspirators were released by December, but eight were rearrested in April 1988 after issuing a joint press statement regarding the circumstances of their detention. Two of the eight remained in custody until June 1990.
The September 1988 general election took place under an altered electoral system that increased the total seats in parliament from 79 to 81. The new constituencies consisted of 42 singlemember districts and the reorganization of the other 39 seats into 13 group representation constituencies (GRCs). Teams of three representatives for each party contested the GRCs, at least one of which must be from an ethnic minority, i.e., non-Chinese. Ostensibly, these changes were to ensure minority participation, but at the same time small and/or resource-poor opposition parties were handicapped by the requirement to field three candidates.
In November 1992, the media announced that Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (son of Lee Kuan Yew) and Ong Teng Cheong had been diagnosed with cancer. (The former was pronounced fully cured in 1994 but has been little seen in political circles.) On 28 November 1990, Lee Kuan Yew, prime minister of Singapore for over 31 years, transferred power to Goh Chok Tong, the former first deputy prime minister. Lee remained in the cabinet as senior minister to the prime minister's office and retained the position of secretary-general of the PAP. Singapore's first direct presidential elections were held on 28 August 1993, with Ong Teng Cheong becoming the first elected president.
An incident that garnered worldwide attention was the Singapore government's October 1993 arrest of nine foreign youths charged with vandalism involving the spray painting of some 70 cars. Michael Fay, an 18-year-old American student and the oldest in the group, was suspected to be the leader. Under police interrogation Fay admitted his guilt and pleaded guilty in court to two counts of vandalism and one count of receiving stolen property. In March 1994, Fay was sentenced to four months in prison, a fine of us$2,230, and six strokes of the cane. On 7 March 1994, President Bill Clinton urged Singapore to reconsider the flogging of Fay amid a failed appeal. A plea to the Singaporean president for clemency was rejected, but as a "goodwill gesture towards President Clinton," the sentence of caning was reduced from six strokes to four. The sentence was carried out on 5 May 1994.
In 1994, Singapore made international news when the government sued the International Herald Tribune for libel over an editorial the paper published suggesting that Prime Minister Goh was simply a figurehead and that ultimate power rested, as it always had, with Senior Minister and former Prime Minister Lee. The Singapore High Court, in a move that halted critical comments from the press, ruled in favor of the government and ordered the Herald Tribune to pay $667,000 in damages to Goh, Lee, and Deputy Prime Minister Lee. In 1995, the government was again criticized in the international press, this time in the New York Times, in which columnist William Safire called the country a dictatorship. Singaporean leaders took center stage in the international arena and proclaimed their right to reject Western values. They claimed that Asian values eschewed the precedence of individual liberty over social stability and that these values promoted an increasingly wealthy, clean, and hospitable city-state devoid of social pathologies that plagued both the West and other large Asian cities. The subsequent sentencing, on 1 December 1995 of Nick Leeson, an investment banker who single-handedly destroyed Barings through speculative investments in the Japanese stock market, seemed to confirm the bankruptcy of individual greed.
Parliamentary elections were held in 1997 and, unsurprisingly, the PAP retained its vast majority—opposition parties won only 2 of 83 seats. One seat, that won by Tang Liang Hong, remained vacant in 1997 as Tang fled the country fearing government persecution—including lawsuits, freezing of bank accounts, and restrictions on travel—which began in earnest after his election. Tang's victory was seen as especially threatening to the rigid regime of the PAP because during the campaign, Tang had suggested that the English-speaking section of the ruling class monopolized power and that the Chinese needed to assert more control. These statements branded Tang as a Chinese chauvinist, an inflammatory label in the ethnically divided country.
From 1998 to 2005, an international piracy wave disturbed shipping in the Malacca Straits and Singapore Straits. Vulnerable small "feeder" ships that ferry cargo from massive container vessels too large to visit many ports were subjected to an increased number of incidents, an increase in violence, and the death of crew members.
In 2000, while some tax cuts were rescinded, Singapore announced positive economic growth, coming after two years of budgetary uncertainty related to the Asian economic crisis. The government also announced a budget surplus. However, other directives were exerted in 2000 when the government controlled media banned an episode of an American television show in which the lead female character kisses another woman. Broadcasters' responsibilities extended to taking "action against overtly sexy or alternative themes."
On 28 April 2001, an unprecedented antigovernment rally was held, the first legally sanctioned demonstration outside of an election campaign. Over 2,000 people gathered in support of opposition leader J. B. Jeyaretnam, who faced bankruptcy and thus expulsion from parliament. Jeyaretnam owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in defamation lawsuits brought by senior government officials and their supporters.
In September 2001, Malaysia and Singapore came to a series of agreements over issues that had strained relations between them for years. Largely prodded by concern over the growing influence of Islam in Malaysian politics, Singapore agreed to a Malaysian proposal that the causeway linking the two countries be demolished and replaced by a bridge and undersea tunnel after 2007. Malaysia agreed to supply water to Singapore after two water agreements expire in 2011 and 2061. Also discussed were disputes over the use of Malaysian-owned railway land in Singapore, and requests by Singapore to use Malaysian airspace.
On 3 November 2001, parliamentary elections were held in which the PAP won 82 out of 84 seats. Opposition candidates contested only 29 of the seats. The next elections were to be held 25 June 2007.
Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the United States urged countries around the world to increase antiterrorist measures. Southeast Asia was a primary focus of attention. In May 2002, the 10 members of ASEAN pledged to form a united antiterror front and to set up a strong regional security framework. The steps included introducing national laws to govern the arrest, investigation, prosecution, and extradition of suspects. As well, they agreed to exchange intelligence information and to establish joint training programs, such as bomb detection and airport security. As of December 2002, five of the ASEAN nations (Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand) had acceded to the Agreement on Information Exchange and Establishment of Communication Procedures to fight terrorism and other transnational crime. Singapore said it was not ready to join the pact.
In December 2001, Singapore arrested 15 individuals believed to be part of a terrorist cell with links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. Two suspects were released, but the others belonged to Jemaah Islamiya (JI), an Islamic organization with cells in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The cell's plot was to destroy key buildings in Singapore, including the American Embassy. JI's ambition was initially to create an Islamic Indonesia. However, the group expanded its goals to include an Islamic archipelago, Dauliah Islam Nusantara, to include Malaysia, the southern Philippines, and Singapore in a larger Islamic Indonesia. In August 2002, Singapore arrested 21 terrorist suspects who had allegedly carried out "reconnaissance and surveys" of potential terrorist attack targets in Singapore. They were purportedly members of Jemaah Islamiyah.
In 2003, Singapore was shaken medically and financially by SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. As the disease was identified, Singapore took stringent precautions—closing markets, screening air passengers with thermal imaging, and establishing quarantines. About 33 people in Singapore died from SARS. A sharp economic contraction occurred as the illness also hit the economy hard. The service sector was worst hit as tourists stayed away and local people stayed home. Also in 2003, an unprecedented medical procedure to separate two adult Iranian sisters joined at the head was undertaken in Singapore by an international team of neurosurgeons. These efforts ended in failure, as the sisters died within one and a half hours of each other postoperatively as their circulation failed.
Also in 2003, subsequent to Singapore's support of US policies on the war on terror and in Iraq, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong signed a free trade agreement with the United States. Depicted as the "gold standard" for free trade agreements, it helped Singapore fix its position as a leading financial and trading nation in the region, especially after the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and 1998 and the effect of SARS in the region. Linked to Singapore's economic recovery from SARS, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong announced he would step down after the recovery. He also named his successor, Lee Hsien Loong, the elder son of Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. On 12 August 2004, Lee Hsien Loong took office as prime minister of Singapore in this planned handover of power. In this shuffl e, Goh Chok Tong became senior minister and Lee Kuan Yew filled the newly created post of minister mentor, overseeing the cabinet.
Indonesia and Singapore pledged in 2005 to finalize their 1973 maritime boundary agreement by defining unresolved areas north of Batam Island. In August 2005, a prominent Hong Kong journalist, chief China correspondent for the Straits Times newspaper of Singapore, was formally charged by China for spying.
In a continuing effort to promote tourism, in April 2005, a controversial plan to legalize casino gambling was approved, paving the way for the construction of two multi-billion dollar casino resorts. As an added attraction, Singapore announced plans to build a giant Ferris wheel, the Singapore Flyer, 558 feet tall, towering over the 450-foot London Eye.
On 1 September 2005, Singapore's President S.R. Nathan was sworn in for his second term of office without running for reelection because Singapore's Presidential Election Committee had ruled that he was the only candidate fit for presidency. Three rivals had submitted candidacy papers to the committee, but they were disqualified as ineligible, thus canceling elections that would have been held on 27 August.
The constitution of the Republic of Singapore, as amended in 1965, provides for a unicameral parliamentary form of government, with a president who, prior to 1991, served as titular head of state. Singapore practices universal suffrage, and voting has been compulsory for all citizens over 21 since 1959.
In 1993, the unicameral legislature consisted of an 81 elected member parliament and six nominated members (NMPs) appointed by the president. The maximum term for parliamentary sessions is five years, although elections may be called at any time within that period. A general election is held within three months of dissolution. The number of parliamentary seats has increased with each general election since the seating of Singapore's first parliament, from 58 seats (1968) to 60 seats (1972), 69 seats (1976), 75 seats (1980), 79 seats (1984), 81 seats (1988), and 84 seats (2002).
Until the 1988 election, all constituencies were single-member constituencies. In 1988, 60 of the original 81 constituencies (out of the increased number for 1988, i.e., from 79 in 1984 to 81 in 1988) were reorganized into 13 group representation constituencies (GRCs). In each GRC teams of three candidates must be fielded, one of who must be from a minority community, i.e., of an ethnic minority group, Malay, Indian, or an "Other" (all persons other than Chinese, Malay, or Indian). A 1984 constitutional amendment allowed for the presence of at least three opposition representatives as nonconstituency (nominated) members of parliament (NMPs), and in 1990, a law increasing their number was passed. Accordingly, up to six NMPs could be appointed from among opposition candidates who were unsuccessful in an election; these NMPs are given limited voting rights.
In the 1991 general election, 60 members were elected from the 15 four-member GRCs, 21 from single-member constituencies, and the president appointed 6 nominated members of parliament. Changes to the electoral procedures included the increase to a minimum of four candidates to contest a GRC and the maintenance of minority qualification for the one person representing the minority community.
The prime minister, who commands the confidence of a majority of parliament, acts as effective head of government. The prime minister appoints a cabinet that, in 1993, consisted of a senior minister, two deputy prime ministers, and 11 other ministers. Prior to 29 November 1991, the president of the republic was elected by parliament to a four-year term. Since 1991, under an amendment to the constitution passed by parliament, the president is no longer elected by parliament but by the electorate, and has custodial powers over the country's reserves, as well as a major role in deciding key appointments to the judiciary, civil service, and statutory boards. The president is elected for a term of six years. The first direct presidential elections were held on 28 August 1993, electing Ong Teng Cheong. In July 1999, as his wife was dying of cancer, Ong announced he was not seeking a second term. Ong himself had been diagnosed with lymphoma in 1992, when he was deputy prime minister. He underwent treatment but the illness recurred in July 1998. Sellapan Rama (S. R.) Nathan was elected president unopposed on 28 August 1999. Ong died 7 February 2002. On 17 August 2005 Singapore's President Nathan was formally reelected for a second term as president without a ballot cast. Similar to 1999, election officials disqualified other potential candidates on a range of technicalities.
Several constitutional reforms were enacted in 1996 and 1997. In 1996, parliament enacted governmental reforms limiting the power of the president, curtailing his veto power—only granted in 1991. Under the new rules, parliament can call a referendum if the president vetoes constitutional changes or other measures. In 1997, the number of nominated members of parliament increased from six to nine. However, the government also moved to tighten control over the political process in 1999 with the PAP filing a petition to close the Workers Party for failure to pay damages and costs associated with a defamation case. Earlier in 1998, the government banned all political parties from producing videos and appearing on television to discuss politics.
For the scheduled 17 August 2005 presidential elections, the Singapore Malay National Organization called for a Malay president. The only Malay president, Yusof Ishak, held the office from 1965 to 1970. The elected presidency replaced a rotational process in 1993. Strict qualification rules make it difficult for many to qualify.
Singapore in the late 1980s was effectively a single-party state. The ruling People's Action Party (PAP) of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew has dominated the country since 1959. In 1961, the radical wing of the PAP split from Lee's majority faction to form a new party, the Socialist Front (SF), also known as the Barisan Socialis. In 1966, 11 SF members resigned their seats in parliament, and 2 others joined the underground opposition to the Lee government, leaving the PAP as the sole party represented in parliament. In the general elections of 1972, 1976, and 1980, the PAP won all seats in parliament but carried a declining percentage of the total votes: 65 seats (84.4%); 69 seats (72.4%); and 75 seats (75.5%) (Far Eastern Economic Review—FEER, 77.7%), respectively. The Workers' Party (WP), the strongest opposition party, won its first parliamentary seat in a 1981 by-election; under its leader, Joshua B. Jeyaretnam, the WP has been critical of undemocratic practices within the PAP government. In the 1984 general elections, the PAP won 77 of the 79 seats, even though it captured only 62.9% of the popular vote, compared with 75.5% in 1980.
In the 1984, 1988, and 1991 general elections, opposition parties gained small ground, and the PAP continued to garner a declining percentage of the total votes: 77 seats (62.9%) PAP [FEER 64.8%], 1 seat Workers Party (WP), 1 seat Singapore Democratic Party (SDP); 80 seats (61.7%) PAP [FEER 63.2%], 1 seat SDP; 77 (61%) PAP [FEER 61%], 1 seat WP, 3 seats SDP, respectively. In the 1991 elections, Chiam See Tong was again the winner for the SDP, along with Ling How Doong and Cheo Chai Chen. The Workers' Party MP was Low Thai Khiang.
The two other seats went to J. B. Jeyaretnam (WP) and to Chiam See Tong of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), the two main opposition parties, which are tolerated but subject to almost continual harassment by the government. For instance, in 1984, Jeyaretnam was accused of making false statements involving irregularities in the collection of the WP's funds; he was acquitted of two of three charges and fined. In 1986, the government appealed the case and the higher court set aside the initial judgment; Jeyaretnam was again fined and jailed for one month, enough to disqualify him from parliament and ban him from contesting elections for five years. On the basis of his criminal convictions he was disbarred and denied a pardon. He was refused permission to appeal against the conviction and sentence that resulted in his disqualification as an MP. But on appeal to the Privy Council against the decision to disbar him, he was vindicated and allowed to practice law again. In October 1991, Jeyaretnam avoided bankruptcy by paying legal costs in a defamation suit he lost, filed by Lee Kuan Yew over remarks made by Jeyaretnam in a 1988 election rally. On 10 November 1991, the ban on Jeyaretnam standing election expired. By avoiding bankruptcy, he would be able to contest the by-elections that Prime Minister Goh had promised to hold in the next 12–18 months. However, the WP failed to field the four required candidates for a group represented constituency (GRC).
Then, in March 1993, Dr. Chee Soon Juan, an opposition politician from the SDP who ran against Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in the 1992 by-election, was expelled from his post as lecturer in the Department of Social Work and Psychology at the National University of Singapore (NUS) based on claims of "dishonest conduct" for using us$138 out of his research grant to courier his wife's doctoral thesis to a US university. In the end, Dr. Chee ended up losing his case to be reinstated.
The main opposition parties are the SDP and the WP. Smaller minority parties are the United People's Front, which is also critical of antidemocratic aspects of the government rule and pro-Malaysian; the Singapore Malays' National Organization; and the Singapore Solidarity Party, formed in 1986 by three former leaders of the SDP. There were 22 registered political parties at the beginning of 1993: The Singapore Chinese Party; Persatuan Melayu Singapura; Partai Rakyat, Singapore State Division; Angkatan Islam; The Workers' Party; Pertubohan Kebangsaan Melayu Singapura; People's Action Party (PAP); United People's Party; Barisan Socialis (BS), Socialist Front (SF); Parti Kesatuan Ra'ayat (United Democratic Party); Singapore Indian Congress; Alliance Party Singapura; United National Front; National Party of Singapore; People's Front; Justice Party, Singapore; Democratic Progressive Party; People's Republican Party; United People's Front; Singapore Democratic Party (SDP); National Solidarity Party (NSP); Singapore National Front. The Malay Communist Party and the underground Malayan National Liberation Front are illegal.
In 1997, parliamentary elections were held and, again, the PAP maintained its virtual monopoly of seats. Of 83 seats up for election, the long-ruling party captured 81, with 47 unopposed. The opposition leaders Jeyaretnam and Tang Liang Hong, both with the WP, won seats. After the election, in a move that has been commonplace in Singapore, leaders of the PAP, including Prime Minister Goh and Senior Minister (and longtime leader) Lee, sued Tang for defamation. Tang promptly fled the country, saying he feared for his safety as the government froze his assets and imposed travel restrictions on his family. Jeyaretnam continued to face bankruptcy and the loss of his parliamentary seat as well, from a defamation payment awarded against him for allegedly defaming a PAP parliamentarian and nine other members of the Tamil community in an article written by a colleague in 1995. In the 1997 elections, the SDP lost all three seats it had won in the 1991 round.
In parliamentary elections held on 3 November 2001, the PAP won 82 out of 84 seats with 75.3% of the vote. Opposition candidates contested only 29 of the seats. The WP took one seat, as did the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA), which includes the Singapore People's Party (SPP), Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), National Solidarity Party, Singapore Justice Party, and Singapore Malay National Organization. The opposition parties complained that constituency changes and a range of regulations imposed by the PAP made it more difficult for them to win votes. The Parliamentary Elections Act was amended, curbing the use of the Internet for political campaigning and banning the publication of opinion polls during elections. The next parliamentary elections were to be held 25 June 2007.
Singapore, veritably a city-state, has no local government divisions. When the People's Action Party (PAP) came to power in 1959, the postcolonial city council was abolished. The former city council and rural board were integrated into departments of the central government. The Town Councils Act, enacted in June 1988, reintroduced a local organizational structure. Town councils were formed to take over the management and maintenance of the common properties of housing estates within towns. As of 1 March 1991, 27 town councils had been formed. After the general elections of August 1991, five town councils were dissolved and three new town councils were established, bringing the number of town councils to 25. In 1997, the number of town councils was reduced to 16.
Prime Minister Goh announced the creation of Community Development Councils (CDCs) in 1996. Set up after the 1997 general election as social parallels to the town councils, the CDCs were established to improve community bonding and to manage a spectrum of social services, from child care centers to public welfare assistance. Originally nine CDCs were established; in November 2001, their number was reduced to five. They are South West, North West, Central Singapore, South East, and North East. They are managed by a council comprising a mayor and between 12 and 80 council members.
In 2005, a Campaign Against Dengue was launched in Singapore, with town councils playing a major oversight role. Town councils stepped up checks for mosquitoes, as dengue cases soared to 9,540 cases by mid-September, already surpassing the 2004 total of 9,459.
Singapore's legal system is based on British common law. The judiciary includes the Supreme Court as well as subordinate courts. The subordinate courts include the magistrates' courts, trying civil and criminal offenses with maximum penalties of three years' imprisonment or a fine of s$60,000; the district courts, trying cases with maximum penalties of 10 years' imprisonment or a fine of s$250,000; the juvenile courts, for offenders below the age of 16; the coroners' courts; and the small claims courts, which hear civil and commercial claims for sums of less than s$10,000. The Supreme Court is headed by a chief justice and is divided into the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Court of Criminal Appeal. The High Court has unlimited original jurisdiction in both criminal and civil cases but ordinarily chooses to exercise such jurisdictional authority only in major cases. In its appellate jurisdiction, the High Court hears criminal and civil appeals from the magistrates' and district courts. Appeal in a civil case heard by the High Court in its original jurisdiction goes to the Court of Appeal, and in a criminal case, to the Court of Criminal Appeal.
In 1993, the former Court of Appeal (for civil cases) and the Court of Criminal Appeal were combined to form a single Court of Appeal. This reform was part of an overall plan for the eventual elimination of referrals to the Privy Council in London. All appeals to the Privy Council in London were eliminated in 1994.
The president appoints judges of the Supreme Court on the recommendation of the prime minister after consultation with the chief justice. A Legal Service Commission supervises and assigns the placement of the subordinate court judges and magistrates who have the status of civil servants; however, the president appoints subordinate courts judges on the recommendation of the chief justice. While the constitution provides for an independent judiciary and the judicial system provides a fair and efficient judicial process, the Internal Security Act allows the government to arrest, detain, and prosecute those who are deemed to threaten national security. Defendants have the right to be present at the trials, to have an attorney, and to confront witnesses against them.
In 2005, Singapore's armed forces numbered 72,500 active personnel, supported by 312,500 reservists. The Army had 50,000 personnel, including a single Rapid Deployment division and three combined arms divisions. Equipment included 100 main battle tanks, 350 light tanks, 294 armored infantry fighting vehicles, over 1,280 armored personnel carriers, and more than 286 artillery pieces. The Navy had 4,000 active personnel. The fleet's major units included three tactical submarines, six corvettes, and 17 patrol/coastal vessels. The Air Force totaled 13,500 personnel with 111 combat-capable aircraft that included 43 fighters, 44 fighter ground attack aircraft, and 28 attack helicopters. Paramilitary forces numbered 93,800 active members and included the Singapore Police Force (12,000), an 81,800-member civil defense force, and a 1,500-man contingent of gurkha troops. The 2005 defense budget totaled $5.57 billion.
Having joined the United Nations (UN) on 21 September 1965, Singapore participates in ESCAP and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the IAEA, the World Bank, ILO, UNCTAD, and the WHO. Singapore served on the UN Security Council in 2001–02. It is a participant in APEC, the Asian Development Bank, the Colombo Plan, the WTO, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and G-77. Probably its most important international association is its membership—along with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Brunei—in ASEAN, the Association of South-East Asian Nations. Singapore has played a leading part in this important regional grouping, which has sought to maximize economic cooperation among its member states, to regularize political consultation on the part of the constituent governments, and to limit foreign political and military interference in the area. Singapore is part of the Nonaligned Movement.
In environmental cooperation, Singapore is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.
Historically, Singapore's economy was based primarily on its role as an entrepôt for neighboring countries due to its strategic geographic location at the entrance to the Strait of Malacca. It did not have minerals or other primary products of its own to export, but it served a major economic function by processing and transshipping the goods of nearby lands. Its most significant natural resource is a deep water harbor. As a result of these circumstances, Singapore became highly active in shipbuilding and repair, tin smelting, and rubber and copra milling. Until about 1960, however, its economy was frequently shaken by major fluctuations in its export earnings (particularly from rubber and tin) as a consequence of often adverse commodity and price trends. Since the early 1960s, Singapore has attempted to break away from this economic pattern. Its government embarked on an ambitious and largely successful program of promoting industrial investment (both from abroad and locally), developing industrial estates, and providing industrial financing and technical services.
By the early 1980s, Singapore had built a much stronger and diversified economy, which gave it an economic importance in Southeast Asia out of proportion to its small size. Government plans during the first half of the 1980s called for realigning industrial activities from traditional labor-intensive, low-wage activities to capital-intensive, high-wage and high-technology activities, notably the electronic industries and oil refining. In 1985, however, Singapore's economy declined for the first time in 20 years. One of the reasons for the decline was high wages, which made Singaporean products less competitive on the world market. Other reasons for the economic downturn included a slumping demand for oil and electronic products and the economic woes of Malaysia, Indonesia, and other important trading partners.
By the late 1980s, Singapore had begun to further diversify its economy, making it capable of providing manufacturing, financial, and communications facilities for multinational firms. In the late 1980s, one of the fastest-growing sectors of Singapore's economy was international banking and finance, accounting for some 25% of GDP. It ranked behind Tokyo and Hong Kong among financial service centers in the Southeast Asia region. In 1989, earnings from manufacturing accounted for 30% of GDP. Manufacturing accounted for 24.3% of GDP in 2002.
In the 1990s, productivity increased, as did labor costs. Export growth in high-technology manufactured goods signaled Singapore's success in shifting to higher value added production. The electronics industry accounted for the largest share of value-added in manufacturing. Manufacturing was dominated by the production of computer peripherals and oil processing. Between 1992 and 1995, property prices doubled, reaching their peak in 1996. In the five years 1993 to 1997, GDP growth averaged 8.84%. In June 1997, Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule, which was one trigger for the Asian financial crisis. In Singapore, GDP growth dropped to 1.5% in 1998 and residential property prices fell 40%. Singapore's sensitivity to the external economic environment, with trade running 300% of GDP, is extreme. Nevertheless, Singapore weathered the crisis without a contraction, and in 1999, growth recovered to 5.4%. Driven by the worldwide boom in information technology (IT) demand and robust recoveries in domestic consumption and investment, GDP growth soared to 9.9% in 2000. However, the dot.com bust in 2001 led to the economy's first yearly contraction since 1985, 2%. Recovery began in the second quarter of 2002, and though weak because of continued low export demand, growth was a positive 2.2% for the year. GDP growth in 2003 was a sluggish 0.8%, but in 2004 it soared to an estimated 8.4%, thanks to the recovery of the tourism sector, double-digit retail sales gains, rising investment rates, increased manufacturing production, and the construction industry's recovery from a two-year slump, among other factors. Real GDP growth was estimated at a more moderate 4.9% in 2005, due to a global electronics downturn and a slowdown of the US economy. GDP growth was forecast to average 4.5% a year in 2006–07. GDP growth averaged 3.1% over the 2001–05 period.
Constraints on Singapore's economic performance are labor shortages, rising labor costs, and declines in productivity. Singapore maintains one of the most liberal trading regimes in the world, and has regularly been ranked one of the least corrupt and most competitive countries. The government is a major and active player in the economy, owning substantial productive assets (land and capital). The government directs and targets the economy through laws, regulations, and incentives and participates in business ventures through Singapore's unique hybrid, the government linked company (GLC). Unemployment rose to 4.7% in 2001 and remained above 4% throughout 2002, a high level for Singapore. Unemployment stood at 4.8% in 2003 and was estimated at 3.4% in 2004. Inflation over the 2001–05 period averaged 0.6%.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $131.3 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $29,700. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4.5%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 0.3%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 0% of GDP, industry 33.6%, and services 66.4%.
Foreign aid receipts amounted to $7 million (about $2 per capita) and accounted for approximately 0.0% of the gross national income (GNI).
The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Singapore totaled $39.41 billion (about $9,272 per capita) based on a GDP of $92.4 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003, household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 5.4%. Approximately 15% of household consumption was spent on food, 5% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 14% on education.
In 2005, Singapore's workforce was estimated at 2.19 million. In 2003, manufacturing accounted for 18%; construction 6%; transportation and communication 11%; financial, business, and other services 49%; and other undefined occupations at 16%. About 24% of the labor force consists of some 600,000 foreign workers. The unemployment rate was estimated at 3.4% in 2005.
In 2001, there were 72 registered trade unions in Singapore, with some 350,000 members. All but nine were affiliated with Singapore's National Trade Unions Congress (which represents, as a result, about 99% of the country's organized workers). The government generally asserts a strong influence over trade policies. Workers have the right to strike but rarely do so. Collective bargaining is utilized.
The standard legal workweek is 44 hours, with one day off each week. An annual bonus equal to at least one month's salary is customarily paid. Minors as young as 12 may work with the permission of the commissioner of labor, but there are few applications for such permission and one has never been granted. In practice, the minimum working age is 14 and violations of this regulation are very rare. The government has set minimum workplace health and safety regulations that are effectively enforced. There is no minimum wage.
Urbanization and industrialization have taken ever larger amounts of land away from agricultural activity in post–World War II Singapore. (World War II was fought 1939–45.) Many of the rubber and coconut plantations that dominated Singapore's landscape before the war have disappeared altogether. Housing for a growing population—and factories for its employment—stand where rubber and coconut trees used to grow. Nonetheless, agriculture remains part of Singapore's total economic activity. Growing methods on the island are the most intensive in all of Southeast Asia.
About 3% of the land area is used for farming, and vegetables remain a significant source of income. Remarkably, through the decades of the 1960s and 1970s and into the 1980s, Singapore was able to increase its primary produce annually through intensification. In 2004, production of fresh vegetables totaled 5,000 tons, resulting in a decreased need to rely on foreign produce imports. Singapore's trade deficit in agricultural products was us$1.36 billion in 2004. Orchids are grown for export.
Singapore has been self-sufficient (or nearly so) in the production of pork, poultry, and eggs since 1964, a notable achievement considering the modest amount of land available and the demands of growing urbanization and industrialization. The bird flu virus, which has affected a number of chicken-producing countries in East Asia since 2004, has created an atmosphere of uncertainty for chicken traders in Singapore. Hog and poultry farming together constitute Singapore's largest primary products industry. However, hog farming is being phased out because of environmental pollution; domestic pork requirements are increasingly being met by imports. In 2005, the livestock population included two million chickens and 200,000 pigs. That year, about 22,000 tons of eggs were produced.
The Pig and Poultry Research and Training Institute and Lim Chu Kang Veterinary Experimental Station conduct research on feeding, housing, breeding, management, and disease control.
Local fishermen operate chiefly in inshore waters, but some venture into the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. Traditional fishing methods are in use along coastal waters, but there is a trend toward mechanization in both offshore and deep-sea fishing. In 2003, Singapore's fishermen caught 7,109 tons of fish (71% aquaculture).
All fresh fish are auctioned at the Jurong Central Fish Market or at the Punggol Fishing Port and Wholesale Fish Market. The Jurong facility provides modern shore-support assistance and processing plants. Aquaculture concentrates on the breeding of grouper, sea bass, mussels, and prawns. A marine fish-farming scheme to encourage aquaculture in designated coastal waters was implemented in 1981; by the end of 1985, 60 marine fish farms were in operation. In 2003, exports of fish products were valued at us$315 million.
In 2000, about 3.3% of Singapore's land area was classified as forest. There is little productive forestry left on the island, but Singapore continues to have a fairly sizable sawmilling industry, processing timber imported largely from Malaysia (with some additional imports from Indonesia). Both Malaysia and Indonesia are expanding their processing capacities, however, and the industry is declining in Singapore in the face of the government's policy shift to high-technology industries. Roundwood imports totaled 34,900 cu m (1,232,000 cu ft) in 2004. Imports of forestry products totaled us$533.1 million, while exports amounted to us$451.3 million.
There is no mining in Singapore. However, although the city-state has limited natural resources, it is one of the most important shipping centers in the world. Singapore has the world's third-largest oil-refining center, behind Houston and Rotterdam, and the major oil and metal futures trading market in Asia. The production of chemicals was the second leading industry in 2002, and the manufacture of oil drilling equipment and petroleum refining ranked fourth and fifth, respectively. Chemicals, mineral fuels, and petroleum products ranked among the top five export commodities. Singapore has no integrated cement plant and local operations ground imported clinker to produce cement.
Singapore's total electrical generating capacity in 2002 was estimated at 7.657 million kW. All power was generated thermally, largely from imported mineral fuels. Production of electricity generated in 2002 totaled 32.585 billion kWh, with demand put at 30.304 billion kWh. Three subsidiaries of Singapore Power (PowerSeraya, Senoko Power and Tuas Power) generate 90% of Singapore's power. Another subsidiary of Singapore Power (PowerGrid) operates and maintains the country's electric power distribution and transmission system.
Although Singapore must import all the oil and natural gas it consumes, the country is a major petroleum-refining center. As of 1 January 2005, Singapore's crude oil refining capacity was estimated at 1.3 million barrels per day. In 2002, refined oil product output averaged 814,100 barrels per day. All petroleum product imports in 2002 averaged 1,619,810 barrels per day, of which 813,210 barrels per day were crude oil. Exports of refined petroleum products in 2002 averaged 917,900 barrels per day. Domestic demand for refined oil products averaged 698,050 barrels per day. Consumption and imports of natural gas in 2002 each totaled 41.67 billion cu ft. Imports of coal in 2002 totaled 11,000 short tons.
Singapore's major industries were once rubber milling and tin smelting. The modern industrialization of Singapore began in 1961 with the creation of the Economic Development Board to formulate and implement an ambitious manufacturing scheme. Most of the first factories set up under this program were of an import-substitute nature requiring tariff protection, but many such protective tariffs were subsequently withdrawn. Large-scale foreign manufacturing operations in Singapore commenced in 1967 with the establishment of plants by several major multinational electronics corporations. The Jurong Town Corporation was established under the Jurong Town Corporation Act of 1968 to develop and manage industrial estates and sites in Singapore. The emphasis was on upgrading facilities to attract high-technology and skill-intensive industries. The manufacturing sector grew by an average annual rate of about 20% during the 1962–74 period, and it registered an average annual increase of over 10% from 1975 to 1981.
Industry's share of GDP rose from 12% in 1960 to 29% in 1981. Such dramatic achievements were in large measure made possible by the existence of one of the most developed economic infrastructures in Southeast Asia, as well as by government efforts to provide a skilled, disciplined, and highly motivated workforce. Labor-intensive operations are encouraged to move offshore by the government, and service and high-technology industries are encouraged. Major industries are electronics, financial services, oil-drilling equipment, petroleum refining, rubber processing and rubber products, processed food and beverages, ship repair, and biotechnology. The most important manufacturing sector is electronics. During the 1990s, Singapore was the world's leading producer of computer disk drives, and as of the mid-2000s, there has been significant investments in wafer-fabrication plants. However, this dependence upon electronics can have negative consequences as well as positive ones: When world demand for electronics declines, Singapore is hard hit. In 1998, industry accounted for 35% of GDP, and manufacturing for 22%. In 2001, industry contributed 33% of GDP and employed about 33% of the labor force. In 2004, industry contributed 36.2% of GDP and employed about 24% of the labor force. Of the components of the industrial sector, manufacturing contributes about 25% to GDP and construction about 6.8%. Within manufacturing, electronics account for about half of manufactured output, with chemicals second. The electronics sector accounts for about 48% of investment in manufacturing; chemicals about 24%; engineering, 17%; and the biomedical sector about 9%.
Petroleum refining is a well-established industry in Singapore. After Rotterdam and Houston, Singapore is the world's third-largest refining center. Production capacity from its three main refineries (capable of processing 40 different types of crude oil) was 1.3 million barrels per day in 2005. The petrochemical industry has grown rapidly as a direct result of Singapore's refinery capacity. A large project to reclaim seven islands to form a 12-sq mi petrochemical complex on Jurong Island was due to be completed in mid-2006. A $200 million synthetic gas plant has been built on Jurong Island by the Messer Group of Germany and Texaco of the United States. Also, Singapore's second naptha cracking plant was launched in 2002 by the Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore and its partners, Phillips Petroleum, the Polyolefin Co., Hoechst, and Seraya Chemicals. The Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore is a government-linked company (GLC). GLCs are majority government owned but operate commercially, unlike traditional parastatals. GLCs account for more than 60% of Singapore's GDP. Industrial GLCs include Singapore Technologies (aerospace and electronics manufacturer); Keppel Corporation (oil drilling and related equipment manufacturer); Sembawang Corporation (construction and environmental engineering); Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing; Singapore Telecom Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore; and Singapore Refining Corporation.
The Science Council, established in 1967, advises the minister for trade and industry on scientific and technological matters relating to research and development (R&D) and to the training and utilization of manpower. The Singapore National Academy of Science promotes the advancement of science and technology, and the Singapore Association for the Advancement of Science, founded in 1976, disseminates science and technology. Other major scientific and technical learned societies and research facilities include an academy of medicine, an institute of physics, an institute of technical education, botanical gardens, a mathematical society, and a medical association. Scientific education is stressed at the university level and supported by training programs for more than 20,000 students (1990) in the nation's technical and vocational institutes. Special centers have been established for research on cancer, human reproduction, viruses, and immunology. Two new research institutions were established in 1985: the Institute of Systems Science, which does research in the area of information technology, and the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, a center for biotechnological research. The Singapore Science Park, located near the National University of Singapore, was developed in 1987. In 1993, the National Computer Board announced an effort to create an "intelligent island" through an information infrastructure linking all of Singapore.
In 2002, there were 4,352 scientists and engineers and 381 technicians engaged in R&D per million people. In that same year, high-technology exports were valued at $63.792 billion and accounted for 60% of the country's manufactured exports.
In 1991, the government announced a s$250 million spending program to create science and high-technology parks. Expenditures for R&D in 2002 totaled $2,188.905 million, or 2.19% of GDP. Of that amount, the business sector accounted for the largest portion at 49.9%, followed by the government at 41.8%. Higher education, private nonprofit organizations, and foreign sources accounted for 0.7%, 0.5%, and 7.2%, respectively.
Courses in basic and applied sciences are offered at Nanyang Technical University (founded in 1981), the National University of Singapore (founded in 1980 by merger), Ngee Ann Polytechnic (founded in 1963), Singapore Polytechnic (founded in 1954), and Temasek Polytechnic (founded in 1990).
Marketing has always been an activity in which Singapore's Chinese, Indian and Arab merchants have played a major role. Their participation has increased in recent years as local branches of European firms have become less important. Warehousing, packaging, freight forwarding, and related services are of a high standard. A wide range of consumer goods, such as luxury, electronic, handicraft, and food items, are available in Singapore from international department stores, brand name specialty stores, local department store chains, and neighborhood shops and markets. Prices are fixed in most larger retail establishments; however, haggling is still common in smaller shops. Within the industrial sector, prices are inflated to account for bargaining.
Advertising is done by radio and television, outdoor displays, slides in motion picture theaters, and newspapers. There are several advertising agencies. Consumers are highly brand conscious, and advertising concentrates considerably on product trademarks.
Usual business hours are 9 am to 5 pm, with many businesses closed from 1 pm to 2 pm. Most major enterprises and foreign firms operate Monday through Friday and are open a half day on Saturday. A number of Chinese and Indian businesses maintain longer hours, with some open seven days a week. Bank hours are 9:30 am to 3 pm, Monday through Friday, and Saturday from 9:30 am to 1 pm. Government offices are open from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday, and 8 am to 1 pm on Saturday. Retail stores are open from 10 am to 9 pm Monday through Saturday, with most shops also open on Sunday.
Since World War II, Singapore has changed from an entrepôt center for the incoming and outgoing traffic of its neighbors in Southeast Asia to an exporting power in its own right. The leading exports of the mid-1960s—rubber, coffee, pepper, and palm oil—were replaced in the early 1980s by a variety of capital-intensive manufactures. Except for an occasional slowdown, annual levels of trade regularly record double-digit expansion. During the late 1990s, expansion in the high-end manufacturing and services sectors began replacing capital-intensive production. The total value of trade in goods (exports and imports) was equivalent to 273% of GDP in 2002. This figure included a large volume of reexport trade, which is encouraged by Singapore's favorable location in the Strait of Malacca and its excellent port facilities. Re-exports accounted for 47% of total exports in 2002. Exports reached
|China, Hong Kong SAR||14,423.3||3,089.1||11,334.2|
|Other Asia nes||6,897.9||6,467.1||430.8|
|Korea, Republic of||6,058.6||4,959.5||1,099.1|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
|Balance on goods||29,319.0|
|Balance on services||1,137.0|
|Balance on income||-1,125.0|
|Direct investment abroad||-5,536.0|
|Direct investment in Singapore||11,409.0|
|Portfolio investment assets||-11,265.0|
|Portfolio investment liabilities||363.0|
|Other investment assets||-18,792.0|
|Other investment liabilities||-1,289.0|
|Net Errors and Omissions||3,770.0|
|Reserves and Related Items||-6,679.0|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
168% of GDP in 2004. (Exports can count for more than 100% of GDP because most of the components used to produce them are imported.)
Most of the advanced electronics that Singapore exports also make up a substantial percentage of the world export market. Because electronics are vulnerable to the vagaries of world demand, however, Singpore has taken steps to revive domestic consumption.
Singapore's main trading partners are the ASEAN group—principally Malaysia—the United States, China and Hong Kong, and Japan.
Singpore's main exports in 2004 were electronics (22.7% of total exports); oil (11.1%); petroleum products (9.4%); and telecommunications apparatus (1.6%). Major imports in 2004 included machinery and equipment (58.6% of total imports); oil (15%); manufactured goods (6.7%); and chemicals and chemical products (6.5%).
The traditional current account surplus is largely due to demand for non-oil exports (especially electronics) from the United States, Japan, and regional countries with electronics production facilities. The account also benefits from high net investment income receipts. Total official reserves are estimated to be equal to 8.8 months of imports. A sharp contraction of imports in 1998 due to the financial crisis caused a high current account surplus, while the devalued currency caused an even larger outflow of cash from the financial accounts. Singapore's balance of payments weakened in 2001, largely due to that year's decline in trade. Singapore's recorded trade surplus in 2003 was $28.1 billion. Exports totaled $158.4 billion, and imports stood at $130.3 billion. The current account surplus averaged 22.8% of GDP over the 2001–05 period. The current account surplus stood at an estimated $8.8 billion in 2004.
Singapore was founded as a trading outpost by Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffl es of the East India Co. in 1819. The country's rigid development was closely linked to the government's efficient financial management. Conservative fiscal and monetary policies generated high savings, which, along with high levels of foreign investment, allowed growth without the accumulation of external debt. The banking system was opened to foreign banks in the late 1960s. In 1988, Singapore had foreign reserves worth about $533 billion, which, per capita, put it ahead of Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan. Many sources of finance are available to organizations doing business in Singapore. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) requires banks to observe its policy of discouraging the internalization of the Singapore dollar. The MAS performs the functions of a central bank, except for the issuing of currency. The Board of Commissioners of Currency deals with currency issues. The MAS seeks to strike a balance between supervision on the one hand, and development of the financial markets on the other.
Singapore has not encouraged the freewheeling financial services culture of Hong Kong, nor has it resorted to a divigiste approach, as in South Korea or Taiwan. Until quite recently, Singapore has tried to enjoy the best of both worlds. This is now starting to change, as Singapore's own major banks, long regarded as complacent due to their domestic oligopoly, are beginning to venture overseas. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $20.1 billion. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $101.0 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 1.99%. As of 1999, Singapore had more than 700 financial institutions, including approximately 230 commercial and merchant banks, 142 of them commercial banks. Some 9 of the 31 banks with full banking licenses were locally incorporated; the remainder were branches of various overseas banks. Since 1971, the government has sought to attract representation by a variety of foreign banks in terms of countries and geographical regions. Most of the new foreign banks allowed into Singapore have been offshore banks that concentrated on foreign exchange transactions. The Post Office Savings Bank (POS-Bank) is the national savings bank (est. 1877). Thirteen commercial banks have restricted licenses, and 98 banks operate offshore. Singapore's four largest banks—DBS Bank, United Overseas Bank (UOB), OCBC Bank, and Overseas Union Bank Ltd. (OUB)—had a 90% jump in profits in 1999 over 1998, recovering from the financial crisis quickly.
In October 1992, the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange severed all links with the Singapore Stock Exchange. All the Singapore stocks moved to the Singapore exchange and the Malaysian companies moved to the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. As of 2004, a total of 489 companies were listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange, which had a market capitalization of $171.555 billion. In that same year, the STI index rose 17.1% to 2,066.1.
The Singapore International Monetary Exchange (SIMEX) opened in 1984. SIMEX traded, as of the end of 1985, futures contracts in gold, eurodollar time deposit interest rates, and US/deutschemark and US/yen currency exchanges. Trading in Japanese stock index and sterling futures began in 1986. In 1989, SIMEX also became Asia's first energy market with the introduction of the High-Sulphur Fuel Oil futures, the world's most active contract of its kind. In 1999, SIMEX achieved its second-highest annual volume of 25.8 million contracts. It was voted International Exchange of the Year in 1989, 1992, 1993, and 1998.
Most insurance firms are branches or agencies of UK (or other Commonwealth), European, and US companies, although local participation in insurance, particularly business insurance, is increasing. Marine and warehouse insurance constitutes most of the business insurance, but almost all types of commercial insurance are available. Workers' compensation, third-party automobile liability, and professional liability are all compulsory insurance in Singapore, and must be placed with local companies.
The regulatory authority is the insurance commissioner of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. In 1998, total insurance premiums amounted to s$7.8 billion. As of 30 June 1999, there were a total of 160 registered insurers. In 2003, the value of all direct insurance premiums written totaled $8.898 billion, of which $5.561 billion was accounted for by life insurance premiums. In that same year, the top nonlife insurer was NTUC Income, with gross written nonlife premiums (including personal accident and healthcare) of $208.1 million, while the nation's leading life insurer was AIA, with gross written life insurance premiums of $1,042.5.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Singapore's central government took in revenues of approximately us$18.6 billion and had expenditures of us$18.2 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately us$460 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 102% of GDP. Total external debt was us$24.67 billion.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, central government
|Revenue and Grants||35,100||100.0%|
|General public services||2,618||8.8%|
|Public order and safety||1,767||5.9%|
|Housing and community amenities||3,199||10.8%|
|Recreational, culture, and religion||1,090||3.7%|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
revenues in millions of Singapore dollars were 35,100 and expenditures were 29,741. The value of revenues in millions of US dollars was $19,602 and expenditures $17,129, based on a market exchange rate for 2002 of 1.7906 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 8.8%; defense, 28.5%; public order and safety, 5.9%; economic affairs, 12.3%; housing and community amenities, 10.8%; health, 5.6%; recreation, culture, and religion, 3.7%; education, 23.4%; and social protection, 4.2%.
Individual and commercial incomes are taxed whether derived in Singapore or from outside sources. Types of direct taxation include income, property, estate duty, and payroll taxes; the Inland Revenue Department is responsible for the assessment and collection of all such levies. As of 2006, the top marginal personal tax rate was 21%. In 2007, the top personal rate is to be reduced to 20%. As of 1 January 2004, foreign income received by a resident individual was exempted from Singapore's personal income tax. However, foreign income received via a partnership in Singapore is taxed. Also, nonresidents working in Singapore more than 60 days but less than 183 days in a calendar year are taxed at a 15% rate on gross employment income or taxed on employment income as a resident, whichever is higher.
As of 2005, Singapore had a standard corporate income tax rate of 20%. Industrial establishments, companies, and various other businesses are eligible to deduct from their gross profits varying and usually generous depreciation allowances for building, plants, and machinery. There are tax holidays of 5 to 15 years on qualifying profits for approved "pioneer" industries. Companies whose "pioneer" status has expired or who do not qualify, but still engage in high value operations, can receive a reduced rate of 5% for a period of 10 years and with extensions, up to 25 years. Other taxes include a goods and services tax (GST) at a rate of 5%, a stamp tax, and a property tax.
Prior to the 1960s, Singapore was essentially a free port, with import duties levied only on alcoholic beverages, tobacco and tobacco products, petroleum products, and certain soaps. In 1959, however, a law was passed empowering the government to levy import duties on other products to protect local industries. In the 1960s, many new tariffs were established with the primary aim of helping to support development of local manufacturing firms. In the early 1970s, many items were withdrawn from the tariff list, and by 1982 there were only 176 items on the list, compared with 349 in 1972. In 1985, excise duties on sugar and sugar substitutes and import and excise duties on fuel oil were lifted. By 1993, there were almost no import tariffs except for duties on alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, petroleum products, and a few other items. Duties ranged from 5–45%. There are no export duties. As of 2002, the average tariff in Singapore was below 1%, as more than 99% of goods entered duty free. In 2000, duties were levied on tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, gasoline, automobiles (31%), and motorcycles (12%).
Singapore has six free trade zones, five for seaborne cargo (in the five gateways of the port) and one for air cargo. The GST (goods and service tax) of 5%, which is levied on all imports, is not levied on goods stored in the free trade zones.
Legislation to attract new foreign investments, the Economic Incentives Act, was passed in 1967; it granted exemption from taxation for a five-year period to investors for export development and provided inducements and guarantees with respect to repatriation of profits and capital. Overseas offices were set up to promote such foreign investment in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Zürich, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Stockholm, and Melbourne. The Capital Participation Scheme, adopted in 1973, permitted high-technology industries to set up branches in Singapore with 50% equity participation by the government. With changes in Singapore's industrial development, there have also been alterations in incentives. In the early 1980s, the main criteria for granting tax incentives were capital investment ratios (including training costs) per worker, value added per worker, and the ratio of technical personnel and skilled workers to the total workforce. Major investment activity focused on petroleum refining, general manufacturing, electronics, and hotel construction, as well as on traditional endeavors.
Since the mid-1980s the government's incentive policies have broadened to include Singapore's development as a total international business center, an international air-sea cargo center, a location for the regional operational headquarters of multinational corporations, and a major exporter of services. Investment in the manufacturing sector is encouraged in areas of medium-range or higher technology, or the design and production of higher valueadded products. Singapore does not require that foreign investors take on private-sector or government joint-venture partners.
In 2000, foreign companies' net investment commitments in manufacturing were $4.2 billion, somewhat ahead of the $4.016 billion reached in 1997 before the Asian financial crisis, and $1 billion more than the level in 1998. US companies accounted for 51% of the total; European companies, 23.8%; Japan, 21%; and all other countries, 4.26%. As of 1999, cumulative foreign investment in Singapore was a little over $31 billion, of which $12.2 billion (39%) was from US companies; 31.6% from Japanese companies; and 25% from Europe. Foreign investments account for about one-quarter of cumulative gross fixed assets in the manufacturing sector.
In 2002, the total stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) stood at approximately $137.4 billion, or 1.51% of GDP. Some $49.9 billion of that figure was invested in the manufacturing sector. The United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom were the primary investors.
Technological change and political considerations in the post–World War II period—not least of all the nationalism that accompanied the quest for independence among the region's European colonies—have combined to alter dramatically the economic self-perception and public policies of this diminutive island state. By the late 1950s, it was obvious that prospects for economic growth would be severely limited if Singapore remained bound by its old economic role as entrepôt. The decision to industrialize—and to do so rapidly—was deliberate policy. The initial emphasis in the government's economic development program was on employment. The increasing trend toward economic self-sufficiency in neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia—and the steady retreat of the United Kingdom from defense responsibilities in the region as a whole (centered on its large Singapore naval and air facilities)—prompted the government to focus completely on finding alternative employment for the island's highly skilled and disciplined workforce. By the end of the 1960s, this problem was effectively solved, with Singapore boasting one of the lowest unemployment rates in all of Asia.
Emphasis in the mid-1970s was on labor skills and technology, especially as these were identified with such modern industries as machine tools, petrochemicals, electronics, and other precision work. A high level of participation by private foreign capital provided an important cornerstone to this development. In 1979, the government abandoned its earlier policy of stimulating low-wage industries and adopted a policy of encouraging capital-intensive and technologically sophisticated industries. Especially targeted for investment promotion in the 1980s were computers, computer peripherals, electronic medical instruments, automotive components, specialty chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and optical and photocopying equipment. Following the recession of 1985–86, the government concentrated on developing new markets and on turning Singapore into a manufacturing, financial, and communications center for multinational corporations.
In the 1990s, the economic development strategy emphasized both the manufacturing and service sectors. The Economic Development Board (EDB), formed in 1961, has guided Singapore's industrialization. Early emphasis was placed on promoting investment in manufacturing. The Strategic Economic Plan (SEP), announced in 1991, focused on education and human resources to enhance export competitiveness. Emphasis on developing the service sector has been supported and enhanced by the Operational Headquarters (OHQ) program, encouraging companies to use Singapore as regional headquarters or as a central distribution center. The Creative Business Program promotes investment in the film, media, publishing, arts and entertainment, textile, fashion and design sectors. The EDB works toward Singapore's vision of its future as a developed country through the promotion of business. Singapore's globalization strategy hinges on making a transformation from a production-driven economy to an innovation-driven one. Other key elements of this strategy are the reversal of downward trends in productivity, and sustaining foreign investment in Singapore's capital investment. Singapore initiated the formation of a growth triangle, linking Johor, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia's Riau Province, focusing on Batam Island. Singapore benefits by tapping into a supply of low-wage workers and offshore land to sustain its more labor-intensive industries.
The Asian financial crisis was only a temporary setback for the healthy economy of Singapore. Roadblocks to further economic development include rising labor costs, which have threatened investment in Singapore's industrial sector, causing the government to implement strategies to cut costs and increase productivity. The rise of Singapore's currency also prompted the dispersion of new industrial enterprises from the country, which the government answered by promoting the development of high-capital industries.
The collapse of the dot.com bubble in 2001 presented a more serious challenge, particularly as subsequent events—the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and global uncertainties attending the war with Iraq—resulted in continued low export demand.
As of the end of 2005, the Singapore economy was growing at a healthy clip of around 5%. At that point, Singapore's central bank (the Monetary Authority of Singapore) stated that its policy of allowing the Singpore dollar to strengthen against a basket of currencies would be maintained. This effective monetary tightening reflected continued confidence in the health of the local economy. The government is seeking to encourage innovation and to diversify the economy toward new services and consumer industries. Singapore wants to foster the development of a knowledge-based economy. Protected sectors, such as financial services, were in the process of being liberalized in 2006, in an effort to increase overall efficiency. Certain bilateral free-trade agreements, including one with the United States, which came into force in 2004, were negotiated in order to improve market access and encourage foreign investment inflows.
The provident fund system was updated in 2004, and covers most employed persons and the self-employed. It provides benefits for old age, disability, death, sickness, and maternity. Retirement is at age 55 subject to conditions. Employee contributions are based on income; employers pay 10% of monthly earnings. There is a special system for public employees, and employers may choose a private plan if approved. Employers also fund workers' compensation benefits for job-related injuries. In addition, employers are required to provide 14 days of paid sick leave and eight weeks of paid maternity leave to their employees.
Women's legal rights are equal to those of men in most areas, including civil liberties, employment, business, and education. Women comprise 42% of the labor force and are well represented in the professions. Despite the legal principle of equal pay for equal work, women earn approximately less then men. This is due in part to the fact that most women work in lower-paying administrative jobs. In 2004, the constitution was amended to remove the inequality that a female citizen could not automatically convey citizenship to her children, but a man could. Spousal abuse and domestic violence are not widespread problems and the laws provide protection to women.
Prison conditions are considered to be good, but there are reports of the mistreatment of detainees. Caning is a common form of punishment for many different offenses. Cases of police abuse are generally investigated by the government and reported in the media. Freedom of assembly and association are restricted.
Singapore's population enjoys one of the highest health levels in all of Southeast Asia. This achievement is largely attributed to good housing, sanitation, and water supply, as well as the best hospitals and other medical facilities in the region. Fully 100% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 99% had adequate sanitation in 1994–95. Nutritional standards are among the highest in Asia. Singapore is financing medical care with a combination of personal contribution and government assistance. In 1984, Singapore initiated a Medisave scheme, a compulsory savings plan for medical expenses. About half the population pays hospital bills through this plan, although as of 1990, the plan did not cover outpatient expenses. Workers must contribute 3–4% of their earnings to a medical savings account to be used for medical expenses. The contribution of workers is matched by employers. Total health care expenditures were estimated at 3.2% of GDP.
There are 19 hospitals, five of which were administered by the government, and five were "government restructured." The remaining nine hospitals are privately run. The main multidisciplinary hospitals are Alexandra Hospital, Changi Hospital, and Tan Tock Hospital (all government run), and National University Hospital, Singapore General Hospital, and Toa Payoh Hospital (all government restructured). In 2004, there were an estimated 140 physicians, 26 dentists, and 424 nurses per 100,000 people.
An estimated 74% of married women (ages 15 to 49) used contraception. The fertility rate was 1.5 children per woman during her childbearing years. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at 12.8 and 4.3 per 1,000 people, respectively. Life expectancy in 2005 was 81.62 years. That year, the infant mortality was 2.29 per 1,000 live births, the lowest in the world. The entire population has access to health care services.
Leading causes of death per were communicable diseases and maternal/perinatal causes, noncommunicable diseases, and injuries. Vaccination rates for children up to one year old were as follows: tuberculosis, 97%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 95%; polio, 93%; measles, 88%; and hepatitis B, 91%. Rates for DPT and measles were 94% and 93%, respectively.
The slow growth of the HIV epidemic in Singapore may be attributed to general awareness and programs promoting condom use at STD clinics. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.20 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 4,100 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.
Sustained rapid population growth in the years preceding and following World War II provided Singapore with an acute housing shortage. In 1947, a housing committee determined that, with a squatter problem worsening each year, 250,000 persons required immediate housing, while another 250,000 people would need new housing by the late 1950s. In 1960, the Housing and Development Board was established by the new PAP government. During its first five-year building program (1960–65), the board spent s$230 million to construct 53,000 dwelling units for more than 250,000 people. It was in this period that Queens Town, Singapore's first satellite community, was developed. By the mid-1970s, Queens Town had a total of 27,000 living units in seven neighborhood complexes, housing upwards of 150,000 people.
In the second five-year building program (1966–70), 67,000 additional units, accommodating 350,000 persons and costing s$305 million, were built. About 113,000 more units were erected by the board in the third building program (1971–75), and over 130,000 in the fourth building program (1976–80). Another 100,000 units were constructed in the fifth building program (1981–85), and 160,000 were planned for the sixth building program (1986–90). In 1985, as a result of these government-sponsored efforts, 2,148,720 persons—or 84% of the total population of Singapore—lived in 551,767 apartments under the management of the Housing and Development Board. Some 397,180 units were sold to the public.
As of the 2000 census, there were about 964,138 occupied housing units nationwide. About 79% of all dwellings were built by the Housing and Development Board. About 93% of all dwellings were owner occupied. As of 2003, about 84% of the population resided in flats constructed through Housing and Development Board programs. The demand for purchase of home ownership flats was at about 13,846 units.
All children who are citizens are entitled to free primary education. Primary schooling is available in all four official languages. Primary school is compulsory and covers a six-year program of study. Secondary school lasts for four years. Based on their primary school final examinations, students are placed in secondary school for general or technical studies. Students eligible to consider university studies enter a three-year preparatory program to complete their secondary education.
In 1996, there were 269,668 students 198 primary schools, with 10,618 teachers. The student-to-teacher ratio stood at 25 to 1, where it remained as of 1999. In 1996, secondary schools had 207,719 students and 10,354 teachers. Fifteen vocational institutes offered training courses in the metalworking, woodworking, electrical, electronic, and building trades.
The National University of Singapore was established on 8 August 1980, through the merger of the University of Singapore and Nanyang University. In addition, there are the Singapore Technical Institute, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, and Nanyang Polytechnic. In 1996, all institutions of higher education had 6,689 teaching staff and enrolled a total of 92,140 students. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 92.5%, with 96.6% for men and 88.6% for women.
As of 2003, public expenditures on education were estimated at 3.7% of GDP.
The National Library of Singapore (founded in 1844 and known, until 1960, as Raffl es National Library) contains 5.6 million volumes, including books in the four official languages. The National Library houses the government archives and serves as a repository for official publications printed in Singapore since 1946. The library has nine full-time branches, and a mobile library service for rural portions of the island. The National University of Singapore Library contains almost 2.2 million volumes, including extensive medical and science/technology collections. (The National University of Singapore was formed in 1980 with the merger of the former University of Singapore and Nanyang University.) Singapore Polytechnic holds 196,000 volumes, and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies holds 140,000. The National Library Board, established in 1995, maintains a three-tiered public library network that includes 3 regional libraries, 19 community libraries, and 18 community children's libraries. The Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, also sponsored by the National Library Board, has a collection of about 530,000 materials.
The National Museum (formerly Raffl es Museum), established in 1849, has collections of natural history, ethnology, and archaeology. Since 1965, it has also specialized in the art, culture, and way of life of Singapore's multiracial communities. The National Art Gallery, established in 1976, features works by the peoples of Southeast Asia, and is a part of the National Museum. The Art Museum and Exhibition Gallery of the National University of Singapore includes in its collections Asian art objects and contemporary Singaporean and Malaysian painting and textiles. The new Singapore Art Museum opened in 1996 with a permanent collection of more than 3,000 contemporary paintings and sculptures from Southeast Asian artists. The Asian Civilizations Museum, concerning ethnology, at Empress Place, opened in 2003 and is the largest museum in Singapore. The Lee Kong Chian Art Museum, the Centre of Fine Arts, and Singapore Science Center are also found in the city-state.
Postal, telephone, and telegraph services in Singapore are among the most efficient in Southeast Asia. National and international telecommunications services are administered by the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore. Service is available on a 24-hour basis for worldwide telegraph, telephone, and telex communication. In 2003, there were an estimated 450 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 852 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.
Virtually all broadcasting services are operated by the government-linked MediaCorp. Radio and television broadcasts are available in Mandarin, Malay, Chinese, and English. In 2004, the only independent radio station was sponsored by British Broadcasting Corporation World Service. As of 2003, there were nine FM radio stations and seven television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 672 radios and 303 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 622 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 509 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 981 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.
Singapore Press Holdings, a corporation linked to the ruling party, controls most of the press. There are English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil daily newspapers. Foreign publications reporting on Southeast Asian political and social affairs must obtain an annual permit to distribute more than 300 copies of each edition in Singapore. Singapore has 10 daily newspapers, with at least one printed in each of the four official languages. The oldest and most widely circulated daily is the English-language Straits Times, founded in 1845.
In 2002, Singapore's largest newspapers, with their language of publication and estimated daily circulations, were as follows: Straits Times, Chinese/Malay/English, 392,600; Lianhe Zaobao, Chinese, 205,160; The New Paper, English, 121,000; Shin Min Daily News, Chinese, 120,130; Lianhe Wanbao, Chinese/English, 85,500; Berita Harian, Malay/English, 60,000; Business Times, Chinese/English, 36,000; and Tamil Murasu, Tamil, 14,000. The Sunday Times, published in all four of the major languages, had a weekly circulation of 387,000 in 2002.
Although freedom of the press is guaranteed by law, the International Press Institute has on various occasions cited Singapore for interference with press freedom. Magazines, motion pictures, and plays are censored for sexual content and presentation of ethnically sensitive matters.
There are Chinese, Indian, and Malay chambers of commerce and a multicommunal Singapore chamber of commerce. There is also an active National Trades Union Congress. The Consumers' Association of Singapore was founded in 1971. There are several professional associations covering a variety of fields.
In 1960, the government established the People's Association to organize and promote mass participation in social, cultural, educational, and recreational activities. In Singapore, there is a comprehensive network of about 133 community centers throughout the country set up by the People's Association. Management, women's, youth, and senior citizen subcommittees exist as active units of the association.
National youth organizations include the Singapore Scout Association, Singapore Girl Guides, Youth for Christ, Student Christian Movement of Singapore, the Association of Singapore Students in Economics and Commerce, YMCA/YWCA, Junior Chamber, and the Singapore Boy's Brigade and Girl's Brigade. Women's organizations include the Association of Women for Action and Research, Singapore Council of Women's Organizations, and the Singapore International Foundation.
Culture and arts organizations are represented by the Indian Fine Arts Society and the Singapore Art Society. There are several sports associations and clubs available, as well as clubs for hobbyists and games enthusiasts, such as the Photo Art Association of Singapore and the Othello Association Singapore.
The Academy of Medicine, the Singapore National Academy of Science, and the Institute of Physics serve to promote public interest and education as well as professional advancement in various branches of science. There are several other associations dedicated to research and education for specific fields of medicine and particular diseases and conditions.
The National Council of Social Service assists in coordinating volunteer services through member service organizations, professional associations, retirement homes, and children's homes. There are service clubs belonging to international associations, such as national chapters of Lions Clubs, Kiwanis International, the Red Cross, and Habitat for Humanity.
The tradition of bargaining makes shopping in Singapore a major tourist attraction. Points of interest include the Van Kleef Aquarium at Fort Canning Park, the Singapore Zoological and Botanical Gardens, and the resort island of Sentosa. Singapore has a number of other attractions, including an amusement park at Haw Par Village, site of historic Chinese statues, and the restoration of the Alkaff Mansion.
Singapore has many sports clubs and associations, notably in the areas of badminton (in which Singaporeans have distinguished themselves internationally), basketball, boxing, cricket, cycling, golf, hockey, horse racing, motoring, polo, swimming, tennis, and yachting.
All visitors to Singapore must carry a passport valid for at least six months upon entry. Proof of sufficient funds and an onward/return ticket are also necessary and checked by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA). Visas are required for nationals of 32 countries, including Russia, Egypt, and Iraq. A vaccination against yellow fever is required if traveling from an infected country.
In 2003, about 6.1 million visitors arrived in Singapore, mostly from East Asia and the Pacific. There were a total of 35,930 hotel rooms, filled to 76% of capacity. The average visit was three nights.
According to 2005 US Department of State estimates, the cost of staying in Singapore was approximately us$210 per day.
Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffl es (1781–1826) played a major role in the establishment of a British presence on Singapore Island in 1819; he introduced policies that greatly enhanced Singapore's wealth, and he suppressed the slave trade. Raffl es also distinguished himself as a collector of historical and scientific information. The English writer and educator Cyril Northcote Parkinson (1909–93), formerly a professor at the University of Singapore, became internationally known as the originator of Parkinson's Law. Singapore's dominant contemporary figure is Lee Kuan Yew (b.1923), prime minister of the Republic of Singapore from 1965 to 1990. His son, Lee Hsien Loong (b.1952), became the nation's third prime minister and second from the same family in 2004.
Singapore has no territories or colonies.
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