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Republic of Singapore

CAPITAL: 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) enewsw and 22.5 km (14 mi) ssennw 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 200510 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 1822only three years after the establishment of a British colonial presence on the island1,575 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 6075% 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 majorityopposition 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 persecutionincluding lawsuits, freezing of bank accounts, and restrictions on travelwhich 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 precautionsclosing 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 poweronly 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 ReviewFEER, 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 1218 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 200102. 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 membershipalong with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Bruneiin 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 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 200607. GDP growth averaged 3.1% over the 200105 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 200105 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 postWorld War II Singapore. (World War II was fought 193945.) Many of the rubber and coconut plantations that dominated Singapore's landscape before the war have disappeared altogether. Housing for a growing populationand factories for its employmentstand 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 196274 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-1960srubber, coffee, pepper, and palm oilwere 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

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 144,194.7 127,935.4 16,259.3
Malaysia 22,782.3 21,547.9 1,234.4
United States 20,559.5 17,982.7 2,576.8
China, Hong Kong SAR 14,423.3 3,089.1 11,334.2
China 10,129.0 11,068.2 -939.2
Japan 9,690.9 15,393.0 -5,702.1
Other Asia nes 6,897.9 6,467.1 430.8
Thailand 6,150.8 5,504.8 646.0
Korea, Republic of 6,058.6 4,959.5 1,099.1
Australia 4,679.1 2,184.8 2,494.3
Netherlands 4,618.6 1,089.8 3,528.8
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account 28,187.0
     Balance on goods 29,319.0
         Imports -128,490.0
         Exports 157,809.0
     Balance on services 1,137.0
     Balance on income -1,125.0
     Current transfers -1,144.0
Capital Account -168.0
Financial Account -25,110.0
     Direct investment abroad -5,536.0
     Direct investment in Singapore 11,409.0
     Portfolio investment assets -11,265.0
     Portfolio investment liabilities 363.0
     Financial derivatives
     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 groupprincipally Malaysiathe 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 200105 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 depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $20.1 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $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 banksDBS 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%
     Tax revenue 21,025 59.9%
     Social contributions
     Other revenue 14,075 40.1%
Expenditures 29,741 100.0%
     General public services 2,618 8.8%
     Defense 8,485 28.5%
     Public order and safety 1,767 5.9%
     Economic affairs 3,656 12.3%
     Environmental protection
     Housing and community amenities 3,199 10.8%
     Health 1,662 5.6%
     Recreational, culture, and religion 1,090 3.7%
     Education 6,952 23.4%
     Social protection 1,242 4.2%
() 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 545%. 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 postWorld War II periodnot least of all the nationalism that accompanied the quest for independence among the region's European colonieshave 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 industrializeand to do so rapidlywas 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 Malaysiaand 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 198586, 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 bubble in 2001 presented a more serious challenge, particularly as subsequent eventsthe 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and global uncertainties attending the war with Iraqresulted 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 199495. 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 34% 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 (196065), 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 (196670), 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 (197175), and over 130,000 in the fourth building program (197680). Another 100,000 units were constructed in the fifth building program (198185), and 160,000 were planned for the sixth building program (198690). In 1985, as a result of these government-sponsored efforts, 2,148,720 personsor 84% of the total population of Singaporelived 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 (17811826) 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 (190993), 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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Republic of Singapore

Major City:

Other City:


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report for Singapore. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Since the dynamic, modern metropolis of SINGAPORE attained its independence in August 1965, its capable leadership has been molding it into a model of social and economic progress and multi-racial harmony. A former British colony, and later a self-governing member of the British Commonwealth and (for two years) of the Federation of Malaysia, the Republic of Singapore remains a major port of the East, and one of the world's great commercial centers.

Singapore ranks with Japan and Brunei as one of the most prosperous countries in Asia. One of the busiest and cleanest ports in the world, it throbs with activity. It is a melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Western cultures, each endeavoring to maintain its own identity and rich heritage.



Singapore is both a city and a republic. The entire country is almost entirely urban and suburban in nature and, because of this, the distinction between Singapore and Singapore City is disappearing. Therefore, all national information applies to the city as well.

The modern city was established in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles of the British East India Company. Centuries earlier, it had been known as Temasek, or "Sea Town." According to legend, its current name was given by a prince of the Srivijaya (Hindu-Malayan) empire who, upon landing at Temasek, saw an animal resembling a lion; hence, Singa Pura, or Lion City.

The settlement begun here by Raffles attracted enterprising merchants and industrious immigrants from throughout the Malay peninsula and the islands of the Indonesian archipelago. Soon came the Chinese, Indians, British, Arabs, and Ceylonese whose descendants comprise today's Singaporean population.

Separate areas were designated for the many and varied ethnic groups who came to seek new and better lives and, although there has been considerable assimilation and resettlement, Singapore retains areas where traditions of the past continue. Narrow roads, vibrant street activity, mosques and temples, and unique sights and sounds all add to the color and fascination of this exotic city. The harbor, the parks and gardens, and the colonial heart of Singapore create still another, but equally interesting, aspect of this Southeast Asian melange.

Singapore, which became part of the Straits Settlements (British crown colony) in 1826, was made a separate British colony in 1946. It was a Malaysian state from 1963 to 1965, when it established its independence as a republic. During World War II, Singapore was under Japanese occupation for three-and-a-half years.


Lightweight trousers, shirt (long-or short-sleeved) and tie are appropriate office wear. Many men keep a jacket and tie on hand only for more formal events. Suitable fabrics for trousers and suits are lightweight dacron, cotton blends, or other washable fabrics.

Ready-to-wear shorts, worn for sports, and trousers are available in Singapore. Some men have their clothing tailor-made at about the same cost as a better quality ready-to-wear suit in the U.S. Workmanship is generally good.

A variety of British and U.S. men's items, such as shirts, socks, underwear, handkerchiefs, ties, and accessories, are sold in Singapore. U.S. items are usually more expensive heresize 34 waist and above are not easily obtained. U.S.-made shoes, however, are not available. Some men, especially those with small feet, have found locally acquired shoes comfortable and well fitting; lasts tend to be wider than U.S. styles. European shoes also are available, but costlier. American sizes nine and above are scarce and at times difficult to find.

Cool and washable cottons and cotton blends are the best fabric choices for women in Singapore's heat and humidity. Frequent laundering is necessary, and clothes fade and wear more rapidly here than in the U.S. Clothing that requires dry cleaning is not recommended, as few facilities meet U.S. standards. Light colors are cooler for day, although both dark and light colors are worn. Short-or long-sleeved and sleeveless dresses can be worn, depending on air conditioning and personal preference.

In the office, women wear dresses or pantsuits; a sweater is useful because of the air conditioning. Casual, summer daytime wear is appropriate for other everyday activities. Singaporeans dress conservatively but stylishly and are not usually seen in bare-shoulder or bare-midriff dresses during the day. Shorts and pants are worn for most sports; shorts are considered inappropriate on the street or for shopping, but culottes, knee-length shorts, or slacks are popular. Skirts and blouses are comfortable for golf; tennis outfits for tennis and squash are available or can be made.

Leather, patent leather, linen, and silk shoes are worn as in the U.S. Low-heeled sandals are most comfortable, as closed shoes may be warm. Ready-made shoes are available, but sizes eight or larger and narrow widths are available only in expensive European imports. Shoes can be made, but often with disappointing results. If proper fit is a problem for you, bring a good supply. Remember, feet might swell in tropical heat.

All schools, including the American School, require locally made uniforms for children. Play clothes for outside activities and some dress clothes for parties and church should be brought from home.

Generally, available ready-to-wear clothing includes some U.S. brands, but parents usually rely on local ready-made play clothes. Children's dress clothes can be made here inexpensively.


Several major supermarkets in Singapore are comparable to small U.S. supermarkets. Most families also have a grocer who takes daily telephone orders and delivers goods to the home. These items cost more than in the supermarket but, for many, the service is timesaving and convenient.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant. Local, tropical varieties, as well as those imported from either the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, depending on the season, are available. Oranges and apples shipped from the U.S. and elsewhere are of high quality. Orange juice is expensive. Canned goods are imported from Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, the People's Republic of China, the U.S., and Europe. A limited variety of frozen foods can be purchased. Baby foods and formulas, both U.S. and Australian brands, are available but more expensive than in the U.S.

Fresh milk and other dairy products are imported from Australia and are expensive. Most resident Americans buy reconstituted, canned, or powdered milk at considerable savings.

Good meat is imported from Australia and New Zealand. Australian beef has a slightly different taste and texture, as the cattle are grass-fed rather than corn-fed. Domestic chickens are less expensive than other meats and are of good quality.

Food spoils quickly in this hot, humid climate. Airtight containers (which are available here) prolong freshness and keep ants and weevils out of flour, sugar, crackers, and cookies.

Supplies & Services

Singapore offers many types of repair services. Local craftsmanship ranks higher in quality and considerably lower in cost than that in the U.S. In the Eastern tradition, china, furniture, shoes, etc., are repaired time and again; nothing that can be salvaged is discarded.

Quality dry cleaning varies, and even a firm one has come to trust may eventually prove undependable. Prices are high.

Singapore has commercial laundries, but an amah (a domestic) will probably do the washing at home. Amahs are thorough, but not always gentle; they are among the reasons that clothes fade and wear out quickly.

Many beauty shops offer services comparable with those of an average quality U.S. shop. Some stylists and services are excellent, and most women eventually make satisfactory arrangements.

Most electronic equipment can be repaired locally; workmanship is reliable. U.S. equipment is more expensive to repair than Japanese and European brands.

One of the few genuine bargains in Singaporepicture framingis of good quality and inexpensive. Non-reflecting glass and acid free matting are available.

Religious Activities

Most major Christian religions are represented here. English services are held at Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Anglican, Mormon, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Christian Scientist, or Seventh Day Adventist churches. One Sephardic synagogue conducts "Baghdad-tradition" services, which is not easily understood by most American Jews.

It is the custom for those visiting mosques and temples to remove their shoes before entering. Modest dress is expected.

Domestic Help

Household domestics are difficult to find. Increasingly, both Americans and Singaporeans are employing foreignersFilipinos, Indonesians, Thais, Sri Lankans, Indians, Bangladeshis, and Malaysianswhich often means cumbersome and expensive hiring arrangements, as they must be approved by the government before they are permitted to work or enter the country.

Americans here often employ at least one general domestic called an amah, whose duties usually include cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing and, sometimes, baby-sitting.

Singles or those without children need only a part-time amah who works a few days a week.

Some families employ more than one domestic, in varying combinations of cook, amah, cook/ amah, gardener, etc. These may be live-in or live-out, and either full-or part-time.

Monthly wages vary from S$300 for a part-time amah to S$600 for a full-time live-in cook/ amah. A foreign maid is paid less than a Singaporean maid. In addition to basic salary, a food allowance is usually paid. For a Singaporean or foreign amah, the employer makes a monthly payment based on salary to the Central Provident Fund (CPF), a form of social security. No CPF payment is required for a domestic who is employed less than 14 hours per week. The employer usually gives an annual bonus of one month's salary to Chinese employees at Chinese New Year, to Malay employees at Hari Raya Puasa, and to Christian employees at Christmas.


Since 1956, the Singapore American School has provided an U.S.-style education to the international community. The aim of the school is to educate and equip children of any race, religion, or nationality with academic, social and interpersonal skills to help insure success in adult life. A wide range of electives and extracurricular activities are offered.

Nonprofit and community supported, the Singapore American School has children from over 40 nationalities in attendance, although more than 60 percent of the student body are U.S. citizens. The current total enrollment is over 2,000. Classes for preschool (three year olds), pre-kindergarten through grade eight are at the Ulu Pandan Campus, grades nine through 12 use the King's Road Campus.

The school year consists of two semesters, with vacations at Christmas and spring break. Full accreditation is given by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

In addition to the intramural program, the school is the venue for many Singapore American Community Action Council (SACAC) programs, which include American football, gymnastics, baseball, and T-ball.

Through grade eight, the classrooms are designed for multi-age groupings with a continuous educational progress program. The high school compares to a comprehensive U.S. high school, but does not offer an extensive vocational education program. The program of study is mainly, though not exclusively, college preparatory.

The address of Singapore American School is 60 King's Road, Singapore 1026, Republic of Singapore, (high school); 201 Ulu Pandan Road, Singapore 2159, Republic of Singapore (elementary school).

The International School of Singapore opened in September 1981 and is committed to a complete academic program stressing the basics of education. A standardized testing program, using both American and British materials, insures that students are progressing at a rate that compares to that of their peers in their homeland. English is the dominant language but, for the large number of non-English speaking students, a separate programEnglish as a Second Languageis offered. This program enables students of any nationality to participate in class with little difficulty. The school's educational program helps students successfully complete O-and A-level examinations as well as the Scholastic Achievement Test, which prepares them to enter American colleges and universities.

International School is located 15 minutes from downtown Singapore. Facilities include two campuses, 54 classrooms, cafeteria, playing fields, science laboratories, computer room, and a 6,000-volume library. The school is completely air-conditioned. International's mailing address is Preston Road, Singapore 0410.

Two excellent schools, the United World College of Southeast Asia and the Dover Court Preparatory School, offer a British curriculum and are highly accredited.

The United World College of South East Asia is an international day and boarding school for students in grades six through 12. It seeks to foster international understanding through education and also to provide schooling adapted to today's special needs. Its pupils represent some 40 different nationalities, but share a common academic and activities curriculum. Equivalence agreements exist with most countries represented at the school, so that departing pupils may obtain admission to universities of their choice in their own countries. Some 1,350 students are generally enrolled; about 50 are American.

United World College was designed as the first of a number of international schools that offer students of different nationalities a two-year course of study before entering a university or starting a career. Course work is geared to the British school system, but a record of study credits is maintained for all American students and for others who may require it during grades nine through 12. Arrangements are made for students considering application to U.S. universities to take the Scholastic Aptitude and Achievement Tests set by the College Entrance Examination Board.

The school year, beginning in September, comprises three terms. An eight-week vacation begins in early July, and two shorter vacations of about two weeks each are taken in December and late March.

Queries should be directed to the school at Pasir Panjang, P.O. Box 15, Singapore 9111, Republic of Singapore.

Dover Court Preparatory School is an international boarding and day preparatory school for children in pre-kindergarten through grade nine. Current enrollment numbers some 900 students; Americans represent a small percentage.

Classrooms are large, light, airy, and well equipped. The buildings are set in 12 acres of park land, and the school has ample playing areas. A tennis court and facilities for swimming, athletics, and football are available.

The school year, comprised of three terms, begins in September and ends in July. A limited number of boarding facilities are offered to children of all nationalities from ages six through 13.

A Child Guidance Center at the Dover Court site provides individual therapy. The center offers a full psycho-educational testing program and individual therapy for children who have learning disabilities or emotional and behavioral problems. There are some boarding facilities.

Further information is available from the school at Dover Road, Singapore 0513, Republic of Singapore.

Another institution with a British curriculum is the Tanglin Trust Schools located six miles from the city center, near the National University of Singapore. The coeducational, day school for children ages three to 11 has a definite British focus; no Americans attend. The address is Portsdown Road, Singapore 0513, Republic of Singapore.

Singapore universities enroll some foreign students. The Chinese Language and Research Center, located on the Nanyang Campus of the National University of Singapore (NUS), is popular with Chinese language specialists. American students cannot enroll in degree programs.

The National University of Singapore has a non-credit, evening lecture series on a variety of subjects. The Vocational Industrial Training Board offers a number of practical courses such as boat handling, interior decorating, Japanese flower arranging, silk screen printing, photography, and woodworking; these are open to Americans upon application.

Courses in Chinese cooking, yoga, painting, mah-jongg, etc., are available through the YWCA. The American Women's Association, the Pan Pacific South-East Asian Women's Association, the Chinese Women's Association, and other groups offer similar programs.

Language-study programs are available. The Alliance Française offers a complete range of courses in French. Both the NUS and the Vocational Industrial Training Board teach several languages in evening classes. NUS offers full-time Mandarin instruction. A commercial language center features up-to-date language equipment.


Opportunities for touring and sight-seeing in the Singapore area are nearly limitless. Some of the most interesting places are:

The Botanical Gardens. Singapore is famous for these gardens, where the first rubber saplings of Southeast Asia were brought from South America and planted. Today, thousands of exotic tropical plants flourish, including rare orchid hybrids. Black swans float on a tranquil lake. It is a gorgeous park and well worth a Sunday afternoon's stroll.

The Mandai Orchid Gardens, truly a land of orchids. In these gardens alone are thousands of colorful hybrids, many of which have won acclaim in international flower shows, but commercial shipments often strip the gardens of their flowers.

Jurong Bird Park, the world's largest and most colorful aviary, inhabited by thousands of feathered creatures, including dozens of rare species. Electric tram cars take visitors around the park, and to the world's tallest man-made waterfall as well.

Singapore Zoological Gardens, one of the most modern zoos in existence. Here, most animals live in a natural settinga promontory with lawns, trees, and shrubs. An electric train takes visitors around the gardens.

Mount FaberSentosa Island. If one wishes to escape from Singapore proper, the cable car at Mount Faber can be taken to the Island of Sentosa. Mount Faber is 385 feet above sea level, the perfect spot to watch the sun go down and lights come up in the city. Telescopes are provided for an excellent view of the harbor, the Southern Islands and, on a clear day, the Indonesian Archipelago. Sentosa is a lush unspoiled island with a natural forest and a quiet village. Features include a superb 18-hole golf course on the sea, the world's first coralarium, and a swimming lagoon and picnic area. The Surrender Chamber is also located on this island; this is a replica of the site of the original surrendering of Singapore by the Japanese Occupation Forces to the Allied Forces after World War II.

The range of sight-seeing in Singapore also includes Tiger Balm Gardens, which features grotesque plaster and stone figures representing demons, grottos, and scenes from Chinese myth and legend. Chinatown lies in and around New Bridge Road and, although many of the old shop houses are being demolished, visitors can still see medicine men and fortune tellers on the sidewalk. There are more than 500 Chinese and Indian temples in Singapore, notable among them the exotic Sri Mariamman Hindu temple on South Bridge Road, the Sultan Mosque, and the Buddhist Temple of One Thousand Lights. Other interesting places to visit are Chinese and Japanese Gardens, Van Kleef Aquarium and the Kranji War Memorial. A small National Museum features a limited study of the natural history of the region and houses an impressive jade collection. The National University of Singapore maintains a small but excellent collection of Oriental ceramics which presently is on long-term loan to the National Museum. The National Art Gallery presents exhibits by local and international artists.

As a duty free port, Singapore offers many imported items below European prices. Movie cameras, calculators, watches, household appliances, sporting equipment, and leather goods are some products which may be purchased at discount, although prices can vary widely between establishments. Good, but expensive, jade and antiques from Burma, China, and Thailand may be purchased in some of the elegant shops in the Tanglin Road area. In the North Bridge Road, Arab Street, and Serangoon Road districts, crafts such as Chinese figurines, rattan and cane furniture, batik, and silk are available. The best places for casual shopping are the large shopping centers on Orchard and Tanglin Roads and People's Park on New Bridge Road.

In general, Americans in Singapore rely on Malaysia for weekend excursions or more extended trips. The Malaysian macadam, two-lane roads are good, although narrow, and frequent congestion often results in extended delays on the causeway into Malaysia. Rest houses, run by the government, are inexpensive, usually clean and comfortable (if unglamorous), and are found throughout Malaysia. Dining facilities provide Chinese, Indian, and Malay food, as well as simple Western dishes.

The Safari Park, north of Singapore in Johore State, Malaysia, features wild animals roaming freely in an enclosed area. Visitors drive through the park in cars to observe the animals in their natural habitat.

Malaysia's east coast, up to the northern border, has roads that are passable during dry months. However, in the rainy season, allowances must be made for flooded road conditions. A few streams and rivers still have unreliable ferry systems, although modern bridges are presently being constructed. A three-hour drive up the east coast will lead to Mersing, where visitors can stay at the rest house, rent boats, and visit the uninhabited paradise-type islands with clear blue water, palm trees, and white beaches.

Instruction or participation in most sports is available, but may require membership in a club. Golf, bowling, tennis, squash, rugby, soccer, softball, swimming, sailing, horseback riding, scuba diving, judo, yoga, and ice skating are among those available here.

The Singapore Swimming Club has a large saltwater pool, and badminton is also available. The American Club is noted for its bowling lanes, and offers opportunities to join leagues; the pool here is small, but excellent for children. Tennis, squash, and racquetball facilities are available. The Cricket Club features tennis (eight grass courts), squash, and cricket.

Golf is popular. The Singapore Island Country Club has four excellent courses at two separate locations, but membership is expensive and the waiting period is usually several years. Other golf clubs are the Warren, Changi, Seletar, Keppel, Sembawang, Jurong, and Tengah. These are nine-hole courses, less expensive, and with shorter waiting periods for membership. Non-members can play on weekdays by paying greens fees.

The Singapore Tennis Center, with nine outdoor and three indoor courts operating on the principle of U.S. tennis centers, is open to the public for hourly and seasonal rental.

The Singapore Sports Council operates several swimming pools, a dozen or so squash courts, more than 30 tennis courts, and a short seven-hole golf course. All are open to the public for a nominal fee. The YMCA and YWCA offer tennis, squash, martial arts such as karate and Tai Kwon Do, yoga, and other sports and recreational activities for a nominal charge.

Boating is popular; sailboats and motor-boats are available, as are opportunities for water-skiing and scuba diving. Surprisingly, beaches are poor and scarce; the best are located offshore and in Malaysia, and can be reached only by boat. Singapore has several yacht clubs, including the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club, the Singapore Sailing Club in Changi, and the Singapore Armed Forces Yacht Club. Dinghies and motor-boats are available for daily and monthly charter at most clubs for nominal fee.

Malaysia is no longer good hunting country, and game conservation efforts are being made. Wild pig is about the only game bagged, despite occasional reports in the press of tigers and rogue elephants. Import and licensing of firearms is strictly controlled, and a permit for possession is obtained only after considerable delay.

Some surf fishing is done off the Malaysian coast. Taman Negara National Park, north of Kuala Lumpur, is well stocked for stream and river fishing. The park is accessible only by river.

Because of the heat and the beating sun, hiking is not an enjoyable sport here; however, a men's cross-country running club meets in the evening. Jungle hiking is quite pleasant in the cool hill country of Malaysia.

Farther up the east coast are beaches and good accommodations. From May to September, one can see the sea turtles which come up at night to lay their eggs on most of the beaches along the east coast. However, in Malaysia, as elsewhere in the world today, some of the beaches are polluted.

Two popular spots on the west coast are Malacca, the old Dutch and Portuguese trading center, once the hub of trade before Singapore was founded in 1819; and Port Dickson, a beach resort which has fishing, swimming, sailing, and water-skiing facilities. Both are five to six hours by car from Singapore and have good accommodations.

Trips to Kuala Lumpur and Penang take more than two days, except by air. Also, a longer journey is required to visit one of the hill stations in Malaysia. Fraser's Hill (about two hours' drive from Kuala Lumpur) and Cameron Highlands (five hours' drive), have a definite colonial atmosphere. A resort with high-rise hotel and gambling facilities is located at Genting Highlands (one hour). A visit to any of these places provides a refreshing climatic change, since they are 10 to 15 degrees cooler than Singapore. They offer golf and hiking.


Several air-conditioned, first-run movie theaters show most recent American, British, and Chinese films. High quality but less popular art films are shown at the Goethe Institut. Some private clubs and film societies offer members a wide spectrum of classic, popular films. A number of commercial video-tape rental shops exist (PAL system). All films and videos are censored.

The government-sponsored Singapore Symphony Orchestra made its debut in early 1979 and features both guest conductors and soloists. Instrumental and choral groups, and solo musicians also give public recitals. Popular artists and groups frequently appear at various hotels and in large outdoor concerts. Musical programs are contributed by Singapore's various ethnic groups, ranging from Western ensemble to traditional Malay kronchong (orchestra) music. Those who wish to participate in musical activities have many opportunities to do so.

A number of capable amateur groups present plays. Impresarios sponsor an occasional one-man show or small theatre troupe. Traditional Chinese opera and Indian and Malay dances are popular in Singapore.

The Singapore National Library, considered one of the best in the area, has more than 400,000 English-language books, plus a smaller number in the other official languages. The National University of Singapore's extensive library facilities may be used with permission granted on individual application. Small libraries are maintained in the American Club and the Tanglin Club for members' use, as well as a number of small specialized collections scattered throughout the city.

Singapore has many well-stocked bookstores. A good selection of both American and British paperbacks are available at prices somewhat higher than in the U.S. Selection is good at Singapore's many record and tape stores, but new releases are not always available.

Dining is a pleasure here. Singapore has a variety of inexpensive restaurants and, with concerted attempts to lure tourists and the resultant hotel boom, the number of good eating places has multiplied. Variety in style, quality, and price is infinitefrom outdoor stalls to elegant continental dining.

Every type of Chinese, Indian, Malay, and Indonesian food is available in Singapore. The food at outdoor night markets and also at daytime food stalls near Telok Ayer Market is excellent, and visitors need not worry about unhygienic preparation. Curries and Indian vegetarian food can be found, and there also are establishments where Nonya fooda unique mixture of Chinese ingredients and Malay cookingis served. Western food is also available. The local Tiger beer is excellent, and Singapore is one of only a few places in Asia where water can be consumed safely.

Opportunities abound to devote time to charity. Many institutions for orphans and for the handicapped welcome volunteers.

The Singapore American Community Action Council (SACAC), created in 1973, works with the American schools here to combat drug abuse and promote a healthy home environment by providing counseling and sponsoring activities for singles, families and young people.

The American Women's Association (AWA) is a large and active organization whose monthly meetings usually feature a speaker. The AWA sponsors many trips, courses, and activities, and provides outreach opportunities for volunteers.

The American Business Council, a large group of resident Americans representing most of the U.S. companies in Singapore, discusses business matters through specialized committees.

Singapore offers an interesting and varied social life; an individual's work and personal wishes determine the degree of involvement. Singaporeans are friendly and sociable; opportunities to meet members of the large and growing multi-national business community are numerous.

The Singapore Tourist Promotion Board is located at Raffles City Tower 36-04, 250 North Bridge Road, Singapore 0617.


JURONG , in the western section of Singapore, is one of the largest industrial sites in Southeast Asia. Jurong is not a separate city, but is known as an "industrial town." Over 3,000 companies are situated in 20 industrial estates, employing almost 70 percent of the country's work force. Industries include shipbuilding yards, a steel pipe factory, and an oil refinery. The National Iron and Steel Mill is the city's industrial center. Jurong has a short history, dating only to the early 1960s. Singapore's secession from the Malaysia federation in 1965 slowed the suburb's growth. Jurong Bird Park, with the world's largest walk-in aviary, and the Chinese and Japanese Gardensthe Japanese being one of the largest such gardens outside of Japanare among tourist spots. The Singapore Science Center, located here, covers physical and life sciences, specifically for younger visitors. Jurong Town has a university, and all social amenities.


Geography and Climate

Singapore is a small and almost entirely urbanized island (225 square miles at high tide). It lies 85 miles north of the equator, off the tip of the Malay Peninsula, from which it is separated by the Straits of Johore. A causeway, with both a road and a railway, crosses the three-quarters of a mile to the Malay mainland. Relatively flat (highest elevation 581 feet), the maximum distance from east to west is 26 miles and from north to south, 14 miles. The Republic of Singapore consists of Singapore Island and 54 smaller islands.

Vegetation is lush and tropical. Seasons are nonexistent. Here in the "Land of Eternal Summer," the mean high is 82°F and the mean low, 77°F. For its location, however, Singapore is not as hot as might be expected and, at times, it is surprisingly cool because of sea breezes.

Humidity is high (average 70%) and annual rainfall is 96 inches. Wet and dry seasons are somewhat indistinct, but November through February are wetter than the other months and tend to be cooler. Over a period of time, the climate can be oppressive. Depending on the length of one's stay, the lack of climatic variation coupled with the difficulty of leaving the island may cause psychological weariness. For this reason regular exercise and frequent vacations are important here.

Even in a clean city like Singapore, the tropical climate seems to foster diseases; germs and viruses thrive here. Many people who have scant history of illness complain of recurring colds and other infections. Enthusiastic air conditioning probably contributes to respiratory problems. Many restaurants and shops are uncomfortably overcooled.

Humidity makes mildew a problembooks, records, leather items, or anything that is not used or aired regularly or stored in air conditioning is vulnerable. Closets and bureau drawers take on a musty odor that is difficult to eliminate. Rust is also a problem; metal items that are not painted or tropicalized begin to rust in a short time.

Singapore, like every other tropical area, has its share of cockroaches, water bugs, small pesky ants, and termites. Flies are almost nonexistent. Mosquitoes can be annoying despite strenuous efforts to control them, but malaria is not a problem.


Singapore's population is almost 4.3 million (2001 est.). The average annual growth rate is 3.5%. Most of the population (77%) is ethnically Chinese; Malays comprise 14% of the population; and Indians 7.9%

A fascinating melange of cultures fulfills the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board promise of "Instant Asia." Because of the multi-racial character of the society, there are many sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the East.

Chinese, English, Malay, and Tamil (the language of southeastern India) are official languages. Most Chinese are descendants of immigrants from China's southern provinces, and their main dialects are Hokkien, Teochew, and Cantonese. The government is stressing the learning of Mandarin by all Singaporeans, particularly the Chinese. English is used for administration; about 75 percent of Singapore's citizens speak and understand at least rudimentary English. A knowledge of one of the other tongues is not necessary, but Chinese and Malay can be usefulthe latter, especially, for traveling in Malaysia.

Singapore is a secular state with considerable religious tolerance. The main religions are Taoism, Islam, Buddhism (mostly Mahayana), Christianity (almost equally divided between Catholic and Protestant), and Hinduism. Two holidays of each of the major groups in Singapore are set aside for national observance. Sikhs, Jews, Zoroastrians, and Jains are also represented.

The cultural patterns are equally rich in variety. In a multi-racial society, each ethnic group stresses its traditions to preserve its individuality. For example, Thaipusam, a Hindu religious observance, is dying out in India, but is celebrated with fervor in Singapore. Chinese New Year, in January or February, is a two-week festival marked by feasting and home celebration. Muslims celebrate Hari Raya Puasa and Hari Raya Haji with equal enthusiasm.

Multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-culturalherein lies some of the fascination of Singapore. Except for Muslim or Hindu dietary restrictions, which generally must be honored when entertaining Malays or Indians, few taboos differ markedly from those in America.


Singapore's parliamentary democracy government is based on full adult suffrage. Voting is compulsory.

Parliament's 83 members are elected for a maximum of five years. Members usually speak English but may speak in any of the four official languages, and simultaneous translation is provided.

Before the constitution was amended in 1991, Singapore's largely ceremonial president was elected to a four-year term by the Parliament. The amended constitution retains the term length, but the president is now elected by the people. In addition, the president gained control over the spending of the country's significant monetary reserves and over certain civil service appointments. In 1996, however, the Parliament enacted governmental reforms that curtailed the president's veto power. Ong Teng Cheong was elected in 1993 in Singapore's first popular presidential election. The current president is Sellapan Ramanathan (1999).

The president appoints as new prime minister the member of Parliament with the most support. The cabinet is also chosen by the president, but with the advice of the prime minister. Most governmental affairs are handled by the prime minister and cabinet. Lee Kuan Yew had been the only prime minister in the country's history when he left office (1959-1990). Goh Chok Tong succeeded him.

The three major political parties are the People's Action Party (authoritarian), the Workers' Party of Singapore (social-democratic) and the Singapore Democratic Alliance.

Singapore's government has long been known as restrictive, with social stability often taking precedence over individual liberty. Examples of this government authoritarianism include: the management and control of all television and radio broadcasting, control over news publications, and maintaining the power to interfere with the activities of opposition political parties. The government's policy of flogging criminals received international attention in 1993 when an American was sentenced for vandalism and receiving stolen goods.

Singapore is a land of the entrepreneur, a free port, and a significant importer of food and agricultural products. However, as the major trading center for Southeast Asia, it trades or transships 75 percent of its imports to neighboring markets. The government is committed to a mixed policy allowing a high degree of free enterprise, but also is heavily involved in commerce and industry. In addition, an extensive social development program of education, housing, medical care, and social welfare has been instituted. One of the most impressive achievements is low-cost public housing. Some 86 percent of Singapore's population live in high-rise apartments built by the government.

The flag of Singapore consists of red and white horizontal divisions; in the upper left canton are a white crescent and five white stars.

Arts, Science, Education

Education is not compulsory, but primary education is free for the children of Singapore citizens, and is universally available. The government endeavors to provide at least 10 years of education for each child. Literacy is at 93.5% (1999).

In line with the government policy on bilingualism, each child must learn two languages, English and a choice of one of the other official languagesChinese, Malay, or Tamil. Thus, the multi-lingual aspect of Singapore is being preserved.

The cost of secondary education is nominal. The government promotes technical and vocational education at the secondary level to enhance employment opportunities for the younger generation. The Vocational and Industrial Training Board (VITB) was established in 1979 to provide vocational training and to conduct continuing education and training. It offers about 50 courses to approximately 20,000 students in applied arts, commercial, industrial, and service skills at its 15 training institutes.

Singapore has six institutions of higher learning: the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological Institute, Singapore Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, the Institute of Education, and the College of Physical Education.

The NUS offers courses leading to bachelor degrees in eight faculties; namely, arts and social sciences, law, science, medicine, dentistry, engineering, architecture and building, accounting and business administration. Graduate degrees are available in most faculties. The Nanyang Technological Institute conducts practice-oriented engineering courses at university level. The Institute of Education, in conjunction with the NUS, offers graduate-degree programs in education.

Singapore Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic are two institutions that provide courses mainly at technician level. These institutions offer courses comparable to those at U.S. junior colleges.

Each year, a large number of Singaporean students go abroad to the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Great Britain for higher studies.

Government policy is to preserve and nurture the traditions of the various ethnic communities. Hence, the arts in Singapore are as varied as its cultural heritage. Amateur organizations regularly use dance, drama, and musical performances to reflect the diverse cultures of various ethnic groups. In addition, foreign troupes and companies and popular recording artists have performed to full houses and appreciative audiences. The Cultural Affairs Unit of the Ministry of Community Development, and, to a lesser extent, the National Theater Trust, are the principal impresarios, with sponsorship from the government, diplomatic missions, the business community, and foundations.

The premier cultural event is the Festival of Arts, held biennially since 1977. The month-long festival features outstanding local, regional, and international productions, representing all facets of the performing arts. The Houston Ballet, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Magic Theater of San Francisco, and jazz greats Ellis Marsalis, Billy Taylor, and Herbie Mann are some of the American groups that have participated in previous festivals. The Ministry organizes annual jazz, drama, and choral festivals.

The Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), a full-time professional orchestra, performs regularly at the Victoria Concert Hall and occasionally gives outdoor performances at parks and community centers. The Symphony's season is divided into four quarterly series, each consisting of six to eight pairs of concerts. The SSO also performs familiar favorites concerts, featuring lighter music. The Orchestra often features renowned conductors and soloists as guest performers.

The National Museum offers handsome displays of Singapore's social and culture history, and an audiovisual show to bring it all up to date. The National Museum Art Gallery, which houses a permanent collection of contemporary works by local and Malaysian artists, regularly organizes short-term exhibitions by Singaporean artists, and hosts quality exhibitions from abroad. The Young People's Gallery displays students' arts and crafts and holds workshops for schoolchildren.

The Singapore Science Centre, established in 1970, is rated as one of the most outstanding institutions of its kind in the world. Its five exhibition galleries contain over 500 exhibits, many of them "participatory," which are regularly updated. The center has research facilities and hosts public lectures and scientific conferences. Its Omni-Theater, opened in 1987, houses a 274-seat omniplanetarium where images are projected onto a curved viewing area, extending over the audience's heads and beyond their peripheral vision, giving the illusion of a ride through space.

Commerce and Industry

Singapore is one of the world's smallest nations and also one of the most prosperous. Factors responsible for this prosperity include: a strategic location; availability of skilled, well-paid labor; tax and other financial incentives; and upto-date telecommunications.

Singapore is a free trading country and a significant importer of food and agricultural products. The government is committed to a policy of free enterprise but is involved in commerce and industry.

During the past 20 years, Singapore's economic growth has been rapid. Per capita gross domestic product (GDP) was $26,500 in 2000, one of the highest in Asia. The commercial and industrial structure has diversified from a primarily entrepôt trading base to include a wide range of manufacturing services and financial activities. Today, Singapore ranks as a significant oil refining center, one of the world's busiest ports, and a major financial, communications, transportation, and medical services center.

The government is making a concerted effort to move the economy away from labor-intensive manufacturing to a more high tech and service orientation. The service sector accounts for 70% of the GDP, with 35% of the workforce involved; industry is 30% of the GDP with over 20% of the workforce involved. Singapore's economic policies are attractive to foreign investors and have led to a significant multinational business presence here. The U.S. is the largest foreign investor in Singapore, accounting for about 54% of investment commitments. U.S. interests are primarily in petroleum refining, offshore oil exploration, diversified manufacturing, and electronics. The activities of U.S. firms also include shipping, banking, hotels, insurance, importing, and exporting. The resident American community numbers over 7,000.

The European Union and Japan are next in line in terms foreign investors. The U.S., Japan and Malaysia are Singapore's major trading partners. Trade with Indonesia is also substantial. Entrepôt trade, Singapore's traditional role in the region, now provides a smaller percentage of the Gross National Product (GNP), but has continued to increase in value.

Singapore imports mainly capital goods and raw materials for industry, and exports a variety of locally manufactured products, crude rubber, electrical machinery, and finished textile goods.

The American Business Council of Singapore is located at 354 Orchard Road, #10-12 Shaw House, Singapore 0923; the telephone number is (65) 235-0077. The Singapore Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry is at 03-01 Chinese Chamber of Commerce Building, 47 Hill Street, Singapore 0617; telephone: (65) 338-9761.


Singapore, a hub of air and sea transportation, is served by more than 40 airlines and about 250 shipping lines. Air flights link neighboring countries, and distances are thought of in terms of air miles (e.g., Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 204; Jakarta, Indonesia, 557; Bangkok, Thailand, 897; Manila, Philippines, 1,481; Hong Kong, 1,607). Air travel between Singapore and other cities in the region is expensive by U.S. standards. United and Northwest have connecting flights from the U.S. via either Hong Kong or Tokyo. Singapore's Changi International Airport is one of the best airports in the world.

The Singapore terminus of the Malayan National Railroad has service to Kuala Lumpur and Penang, and connections through to Bangkok and other points in Thailand. Service is good, and cars are clean and sometimes air-conditioned. Second-and third-class travel is recommended to only the hardiest of souls. The trip from Singapore to Penang takes 20 to 22 hours.

Taxis are plentiful, except during rush hour and when it rains. Taxis are affordable, clean, and safe. Bus service is frequent and cheap; however, many buses are not air conditioned.

MRT, the underground rapid transit system, is one of the world's best. Recently completed, the central city is well served by this inexpensive, fast transportation.

Singapore's major roads and streets are, by Asian standards, excellent. They are continually being widened to accommodate increasing traffic. A causeway connects Singapore with western Malaysia, which also has a good road system and many interesting places to visit. However, extended delays are encountered on weekends and holidays, and driving in Malaysia is frequently hazardous.

As a result of increasing traffic congestion on the island, several restrictive measures have been imposed in an effort to control private ownership of automobiles. Road taxes have been raised, an Area License Scheme placed into effect, and a surcharge imposed on cars over 10 years old. These road taxes are levied on motor cubic-centimeter capacity.

Driving is on the left, and right-hand-drive cars are used universally. A Singapore driver's license may be obtained on presentation of a valid license and a passport. Third party liability insurance is mandatory.

Small cars are easier to maneuver in Singapore's traffic and on Malaysia's narrow roads. European, Japanese, and Australian models are available. U.S. made cars are practically nonexistent in Singapore. The used car market is substantial.

Auto repairs generally cost about the same as in the U.S. Spare parts for U.S. manufactured cars are not available.

Cars may be rented daily, weekly, or monthly.


Telephone service is better in Singapore than in other major Southeast Asian cities. Direct dialing is available to most major cities. It is easy to call the U.S. from Singapore; connections are usually excellent and rates are relatively inexpensive. Commercial telegraph service to the U.S. is available and reliable.

International mail service is efficient. Airmail between Singapore and the U.S. is less than a week in transit. Mail within Southeast Asia is sometimes less dependable.

The state-owned Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) operates nine radio channels and broadcasts daily on AM and FM from 6 a.m. to midnight, with programs in English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil on separate frequencies. Programs are varied and news is reported on the hour. A 24-hour FM (stereo) popular music station broadcasts in English. Voice of America (VOA) morning and evening newscasts can be heard on shortwave; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) "World Service" broadcasts are relayed on FM 24 hours a day. Listeners can also receive a 24-hour FM (stereo) popular music station from a nearby Indonesian island that broadcasts in English and Indonesian.

Three Singaporean (government controlled) and three Malaysian color television channels are received here. Weekday telecasts begin in late afternoon and end about midnight. Sunday and holiday telecasts begin at 9 a.m.; Saturday telecasts start at 1 p.m. Programming is in English, Mandarin, Tamil, and Malay. Many American programs are shown, including popular series and documentaries, although they are generally a year or so old. Channel 12, which shows cultural, educational, and informational programs (mainly in English), begins transmission at 7:30 p.m. daily for four hours.

The TV system is 625 PAL; American sets will not operate in Singapore without expensive, and sometimes unsuccessful, alterations. TV rentals are available. TV's, video players, and all types of radios can be purchased locally at reasonable prices.

Three English-language daily newspapers are published in Singapore: the Straits Times, the Business Times, and the New Paper, an afternoon tabloid. International news coverage in the Straits Times is excellent. The International Herald Tribune and USA Today are printed in Singapore via satellite and are available on newsstands the same day of U.S. distribution. The Asian Wall Street Journal and the Far Eastern Economic Review are not sold in Singapore. In 1987, the government accused both of interfering in local politics and sales were curbed. Later, the publications ceased distribution altogether. International editions of Time and Newsweek are on the stands every Thursday, and the Asian edition of Reader's Digest is also available.

American magazines are available on newsstands, but are a month or so late and cost two or three times their U.S. price; highly specialized and most general interest magazines are not available. Often U.K. or Australian magazines are more readily available.

Health and Medicine

Facilities are adequate for most health problems. For outpatient care, Americans usually go to doctors at commercial clinics. Competent specialists in almost every field can be found in Singapore. Most doctors have been trained in Singapore, England, Australia, the U.S., or Canada. Adequate pediatric and obstetric services also are available.

Most Americans use Mt. Elizabeth, Gleneagles, Mt. Alvernia, American Hospital, Thomson Medical Center, Youngberg Memorial Adventist, or Jurong Hospitals. All are well managed and efficient. Excellent dental and ophthalmologic care is available. Prescriptions can be filled locally.

Singapore is probably the cleanest city in Asia. Sewage and garbage disposal is never a problem. Daily trash collection is efficient. Water is potable and normally in good supply, although rationing may be imposed during prolonged drought.

The government keeps up a constant battle against mosquitoes and other insects. Flies have been all but eradicated. Ants and cockroaches are more of a problem here than in temperate climates.

Americans have found the typical overseas precautions in food preparation unnecessary in Singapore. Locally packaged food causes no ill effects. Most local restaurants, including hawker stalls, are safe.

Singapore has few health hazards. Malaria has been eradicated, although it may be picked up in Malaysia or Indonesia. Dengue fever is more of a problem. It, too, is transmitted by mosquitoes and is enervating, lasting two or three months. Occasionally, there is a case of cholera, but such cases are few and are immediately isolated.

Children sometimes contract tropical fevers of unknown origin which may last from one to three days but, in general, Singapore provides a good environment for young children. Serious dysentery is rare. Respiratory ailments, however, are quite common. The heat and humidity increase the incidence of skin problems; treatment should be sought at the first sign of trouble, since infections spread quickly.

The yellow fever shot is the only vaccination required for entry into Singapore, and only for those arriving from infected areas. Cholera and smallpox immunizations are not necessary.


Passage, Customs & Duties

Singapore is about halfway around the world from Washington, DC, and is served by numerous air and shipping lines. Two American carriers, Northwest and United, provide service between the U.S. and Singapore.

A valid passport is required. U.S. citizens do not need a visa if their visit is for business or pleasure and their stay is for 90 days or less. The Government of Singapore generally allows Americans to enter with less than six months of validity remaining on their passport, but some neighboring countries, particularly Indonesia, do not. Specific information about entry requirements for Singapore may be sought from the Embassy of the Republic of Singapore at 3501 International Place, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 537-3100. Please see also the Singapore Government home page on the Internet at

Singapore customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Singapore of items such as firearms, illegal drugs, certain religious materials, chewing gum, videotapes, CD's, and software (for censorship or pirating reasons). It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Singapore in Washington, D.C. for specific information regarding customs requirements. Singapore customs officials encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA carnet headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA carnet in the United States. For additional information, please call (212) 354-4480, or send e-mail to [email protected] or visit for details.

Visitors should be aware of Singapore's strict laws and penalties for a variety of actions that might not be illegal or might be considered minor offenses in the United States, including jaywalking, littering and spitting, failure to flush at public toilets, and the importation, sale or personal use of chewing gum. Singapore has a mandatory caning sentence for vandalism offenses. Caning may also be imposed for immigration violations and other offenses. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines. Singapore has a mandatory death penalty for many narcotics offenses. Commercial disputes that may be handled as civil suits in the United States can escalate to criminal cases in Singapore and result in heavy fines and prison sentences. There are no jury trials in Singapore. Judges hear cases and decide sentencing. The Government of Singapore does not provide legal assistance except in capital cases.


The Immigration Department of the Government of Singapore requests six weeks' notice of intent to import a cat or dog. Dogs and cats are quarantined for a minimum of 30 days from the date of arrival and regardless of certificate of rabies immunization will be given a rabies vaccination upon arrival. Other animals are classified differently. Quarantine facilities are modern and adequate. Visiting hours are liberal, and pet owners may see their animals at the Animal Quarantine Station, 51 Jalan Buroh, Jurong Town, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The station is closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Firearms & Ammunition

Stringent controls are imposed on the importation of firearms. Licenses are issued only to members of the Singapore Gun Club or the Singapore Rifle Association.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

The Singapore dollar currency is based on the decimal system.

Singapore uses the metric system of weights and measures.

The time in Singapore is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) plus eight.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Feb. Chinese New Year*

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

May 1Labor Day

May Wesak*

Aug. 9Singapore National Day

Oct/Nov. Diwali*

Dec. 25 Christmas Day


Hari Raya Puasa/Id al-Fitr*

Hari Raya Haji/Id al-Adah*



The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:

Barber, Noel. Sinister Twilight: The Fall and Rise Again of Singapore. London: W. Collins, 1968.

. Tanamera. New York: Macmillan, 1981.

Bedlington, Stanley S. Malaysia and Singapore: The Building of New States. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978.

Bloodworth, Dennis. The Tiger and the Trojan Horse. Singapore: Times Books International, 1986.

Chen, Peter S.J., ed. Singapore Development Policies and Trends. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Chew, Ernest C.T., and Edwin Lee, eds. A History of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Clutterbuck, R. Riot and Revolution in Singapore. London: Faber, 1973.

Collis, Maurice. Raffles. New York:J. Day, 1968.

Drysdale, John. Singapore: The Struggle for Success. Singapore: Times Books International, 1984.

George, Thayil Jacob Sony. Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore. London: A. Deutsch, 1973.

Kirby, S.W. Singapore: The Chain of Disaster. London: Cassell, 1971.

Lim Chong Yah. Economic Restructuring in Singapore. Singapore: Federal Publications, 1984.

Moore, Donald, and Joanna Moore. The First 150 Years of Singapore. Singapore: Donald Moore Press, 1969.

Saw, Swee-hock, and R.S. Bathal, eds. Singapore Towards the Year 2000. Singapore: Singapore University Press for Singapore Association for the Advancement of Science, 1981.

The Singapore Economy: The New Direction; Reports of the Economics Committee. Singapore: Ministry of Trade & Industry, 1986.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Singapore
Region: Southeast Asia
Population: 4,151,264
Language(s): Chinese, Malay, Tamil, English
Literacy Rate: 91.1%
Number of Primary Schools: 198
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 3.0%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 269,668
  Secondary: 205,683
  Higher: 92,140
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 94%
  Secondary: 74%
Teachers: Primary: 10,618
  Higher: 6,689
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 25:1
  Secondary: 20:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 93%

History & Background

Singapore has a total area of about 224.5 square miles. It includes one principal island and 58 islets. It is located at the tip of the Malay Peninsula at the end of the Straits of Malacca. A substantial amount of shipping passes through the Straits, which serves as a passage between the Indian and the Pacific oceans. Singapore is connected to Johore, a province of the Federation of Malaysia, by a half-mile long causeway. Its historic connections with Malaya account for a large part of its ethnic Malay population, its partial Malay culture, its investments in Malaya's tin, its service to Malaysia as a principal port for the latter's exports and imports in its (Singapore's) corporate sector, and its dependence on water and food supplies from Johore. Singapore's port facilities are crucial for the economic well-being of many nearby countries, notably Japan. Singapore is well connected by sea and air to most countries of the world.

Singapore is a modern, industrial nation that emerged from a century and a half of British colonial rule in 1965. Singapore decided to change from a free port marketing economy to a manufacturing and service industry economy. It soon advanced to become the regional hub of Southeast Asia in a number of fields, including economy, communications, and education. Since the 1980s, Singapore has aspired to be a global leader in specific areas, particularly in information technology. Its leadership has, since the 1960s, focused on education as a way of reaching their goals. Its citizens have placed a high priority on education and have demonstrated their readiness to invest heavily in education.

The Republic of Singapore's ambition to be the regional leader in education has been realized by the location of several prestigious institutions and organizations in the island nation. The Regional Language Center (RELC) offers education in many languages to students from the member countries of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO). In 1970, the governments and universities in the region established the Regional Institute of Higher Education and Development (RIHED) in Singapore. The country also houses the Colombo Plan Staff College for Technical Education (CPSC), which offers technical training to 27 Colombo Plan countries.

Singapore's first census was taken in 1871. The 1990 census was the third since Singapore's independence. In 1995, Singapore conducted a mid-decade census, based on annual projections. In 1996, the total population was 3,044,300 people, of which 1,531,100 were males and an almost equal number (1,513,200) were females. The population belonged principally to three ethnic communities: Chinese about 78 percent, Malays about 14 percent, and Indians about 7 percent. The predominant Chinese population comes from almost all parts of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Although other Chinese languages are spoken, Mandarin Chinese has emerged as a common Chinese language for instructional and official purposes. The Malays, though predominantly from the Malay Peninsula, also include immigrants from the numerous Indonesian islands. The largest group of Indians is the Tamilspeaking peoples from South India. The official languages of Singapore for education are Chinese, Bahasa Malaysia, Tamil, and English. The language most used for official and business purposes is English. The census figures included only regular citizens and those granted permanent residence in Singapore. The transient population of ships' crew and passengers, tourists, and those in transit is enormous, almost twice the number of its regular inhabitants.

Singapore's struggle since its independence has been to establish a balance between national integration with a common identity and the opportunity for the different ethnic groups to maintain their individual heritage. Education, particularly at the primary and secondary levels, is regarded in this context as an essential vehicle to achieve harmony and separate ethnic identities.

Before the founding of Singapore in 1819 as a free port by Sir Stamford Raffles, it was a fishing village with a population of barely 500. Within a year of its establishment as a free port, the population jumped to 5,000. Its growth continued exponentially and, in the process, attracted people from everywhere, particularly China, Malaya, and South India. Noting the potential strategic significance of Singapore in the region for East-West trade and shipping, Raffles reported to his superiors in England:

Our object is not territory but trade: a great commercial emporium and a fulcrum whence we may extend our influence politically as circumstances may hereafter require....One free port in these seas must eventually destroy the spell of Dutch monopoly; and what Malta is in the West, that may Singapore be in the East.

Following the liberal economic philosophy of Adam Smith, the free port status of Singapore offered facilities to shipping of all nations; this tradition has been maintained by Singapore. The status of a free port became the foundation of Singapore's prosperity. In 1826, Singapore became part of the Straits Settlements, along with two other British port acquisitions on the Malay Peninsula (Melaka [Malacca] and Penang) with Singapore as its capital. In 1867, the Straits Settlements were turned, like Hong Kong, into a "crown colony," which meant that it served special imperial interests and its progress towards self-government would be slower than in the colonies.

Known for his excellent administrative acumen, Raffles opened the first school, the Singapore Free School, in 1823, with its goal being to train clerks for the commercial houses of Singapore. The liberal Raffles wanted the school to admit students from the different ethnic communities on a basis of equality. The opening of the Free School was, however, delayed until 1834, because Raffles was recalled to England. When it opened, the school fulfilled Raffles' dream of providing education to everyone, without regard to religion or ethnic origins. However, the Chinese community stayed away from it, preferring to educate their children in the Chinese-language schools funded and managed by Chinese philanthropists. Such schools were patterned on the traditional schools in China, where the curriculum included the writing of Chinese characters, the use of the abacus in mathematics, and the study of Confucian literature. In 1840, the Singapore Free School was renamed the Singapore Institution Free School. In the year following its takeover by the Colonial Office in 1868, it was renamed the Raffles Institution.

Between 1819 and 1867, the brunt of the responsibility for primary and secondary education was assumed by missionaries: the London Missionary Society, the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, and the French Society of Foreign Missions. Its graduates found ready employment in the growing city where commercial houses and government bureaucracy needed personnel with knowledge of English, local language, and mathematics for clerical and other subordinate positions. Although these were private schools, the government gave them financial support through a grants-in-aid program.

In 1867, when the Straits Settlements (including Singapore) were transferred from the jurisdiction of the India Office in London to that of the Colonial Office with the status of a "Crown Colony," Singapore received more attention. The government opened a number of "branch schools" in the three Straits Settlements of Singapore, Melaka, and Penang, offering a special three-year training in English language through Malay, Chinese, and Tamil. In 1885, special incentives were offered in the form of Queen's Scholarships to gifted students who had the potential for higher-level education in Britain. Following the decision to hold the Cambridge examinations in Singapore from 1891, some of the government schools switched to English as the language of instruction to improve the chances of its candidates who wanted to take these examinations.

From 1874, British interests in the Malay states increased because of the development of the tin mining industry. Labor for the tin mining was almost exclusively Chinese, which contributed to the growth of Singapore's "China town." After the introduction of the resident system in some Malay states and the establishment of the Federated Malay States (FMS) in 1895, Singapore governors doubled as Resident-General for the FMS, and Singapore emerged as the capital of the British interests in the Malay region.

Except for three and a half years of Japanese occupation during World War II, Singapore was, until 1965, under British rule. With the British decision to give Malaya independence in 1957, an internal self-government was also granted to Singapore two years later. In 1963, Singapore was included in the Federation of Malaysia. Friction developed between two ambitious leaders, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Lee Kuan Yew, respectively Malaysia and Singapore, which led to Singapore quitting the Federation and establishing itself in August 1965 as a separate sovereign state. In the same year, Singapore joined the United Nations and was admitted as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. In the following year, Singapore became a founding member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Thanks to the dynamic leadership of Lee Kuan Yew as Prime Minister, Singapore has developed into a viable, stable, and prosperous nation. Lee was a brilliant barrister with socialist leanings whose party, the People's Action Party (PAP), claimed in the late 1950s to be socialist. Lee, nonetheless, favored entrepreneurship and international investment, which led to the phenomenal growth of Singapore's economy. At the same time, the government assumed responsibility in many social areas, including education and housing. Singapore has, since the 1970s, boasted the largest government-sponsored housing projects for its citizens. It also offers them, over a reasonable period of time, ownership of their tenements; more than 88 percent of the tenants in these housing colonies own their homes.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Singapore's constitution provides for a parliamentary democracy on the British pattern. Theoretically, any political party winning a majority in the nation's parliament is entitled to form the government. In reality, Singapore is a single party "democracy," with the PAP in power consistently since 1959. Until 1981 the PAP held all seats in the parliament. During the election in 1981, J.B. Jeyaratnam of the Workers Party shook the government; he was charged him with fraud because of his failure to account for a few hundred dollars in contributions to his party. By the end of the decade, however, the government itself felt the need for healthy opposition. The PAP obtained the parliament's approval to such a measure that the first six parliamentary elections' losers were seated as members of the parliament. This makes Singapore's electoral system unique, since no other electoral system rewards "losers."

Lee Kuan Yew stepped down as Prime Minister in 1984 but has since held the specially-created position of "Senior Minister" of the Cabinet. His advice is regarded as indispensable by the government. In 1985 his son, Brigadier General Lee Hsien Loong, became a cabinet member, and in 1991 he became deputy Prime Minister. Lee's influence in Singapore's politics, both domestic and international and in political and economic matters, has been great since 1959.

Under Singapore's constitution, the responsibility for education lies with the Minister of Education, a member of the Cabinet. The Cabinet makes policy education and submits it to the parliament for approval. The annual budget for education is prepared by the Ministry of Education and included in the overall budget.

Several ordinances and acts have provided the legal basis for certain major initiatives and for the founding of institutions of higher learning. They are the Singapore Polytechnic Ordinance (1954), the Nanyang University Ordinance (1959), the University of Singapore Ordinance (1961), and the Ngee Ann College Act (1967). Also, transferring university education from private to public management are the Ngee Ann Technical College Act (1968), the Institute of Education Act (1973), and the National University of Singapore Act (1980), while the Edu-Save Account Act (1993) and the Open University Act (1994) merged Nanyang University and the University of Singapore.

Educational SystemOverview

Singapore provides a 10-year education at the primary and secondary levels. Two major revampings of these levels took place in 1979 and 1991. In 1991, the Ministry of Education issued "The Next Lap: Singapore 1991," which outlined the basic goals of education. These were:

  • to educate each individual to his/her "maximum potential"
  • to develop thinking individuals with "creative and flexible skills"
  • to nurture leadership qualities and good work ethics
  • to cultivate civic and moral values.

Primary education covers the first six years of education, at the end of which there is an examination. At this stage, the aim is to give a good proficiency in English, the mother tongue, and mathematics. Those who pass the examination become eligible to enter the secondary level of education, which lasts four years. Those who fail the primary school examination and have reached the age of 14 may leave school and take a two-year course provided by the Adult Education Board.

Primary education is organized into two stagesthe Foundation Stage and the Orientation Stage. The Foundation Stage extends over the first four years. At this stage, the emphasis is on basic literacy and arithmetic. Eighty percent of the classroom time is given to acquiring a working knowledge of English and a good grounding in the mother tongue. The study of English includes general information on health education and social studies. Instruction is provided in the mother tongue in civics and moral education. Some time is devoted to teaching music, arts and crafts, science, physical education, and extracurricular activities. Science is taught beginning in year three and social studies in year four. At the end of the third year, parents are informed of their children's performance in languagesmother tongue and Englishand mathematics, and are given recommendations made for channeling the students at the end of year four to go along appropriate "streams." At the end of four years of primary schooling, students take the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). This determines a student's ability and places him/her in the appropriate secondary school courses to suit his/her "learning pace and aptitude."

The secondary education may take four to five years depending on a student's ability. Those in the Special and Express courses take the General Certificate of Education "Ordinary" Level (GCE "O" Level) Examination at the end of their fourth year. Students in the "Normal Course" may take the Normal (Academic) or Normal (Technical) course, both of them leading to the GCE "N" Level examination at the end of their fourth year. Those who do well at the "N" Level may take a fifth year in preparation for the GCE "O" Level.

In 1996, for postsecondary and pre-university education, there were seven "Pre-U Centres and Centralized Institutes" with an enrollment of 2,193 of whom 796 were males and 1,397 were females. There were 149 teachers of whom 54 were males and 95 females. In the 14 junior colleges, there were 20,202 students, with 9,580 males and 10,622 females. Of the 1,426 teachers, 566 were males and 860 were females.

The general literacy rate in Singapore was fairly high and had been improving. In 1986, it was 86.3 percent for residents aged 15 years and older. It climbed to 92.2 for the same age group in 1996. The primary school enrollment ratio of children aged 6 to 17 years in 1996 was 92.5 percent.

Preprimary & Primary Education

The preschool education provided in kindergarten classes, daytime nurseries, and children's centers, falls outside the regular system of education and, therefore, does not come under the purview of the Ministry of Education. However, that ministry provides strict and clear "guidelines" for the curriculum and management of the kindergartens.

Another wing of the government, namely, the Ministry of Community Development (MCD) is responsible for the administration of the child-care centers. Given an annual birthrate of about 50,000, the total number of children below six requiring childcare facilities and/or preschool education may be estimated at about 300,000. In 2000, there were childcare facilities under the MCD, some of them conveniently located close to the industrial plants or major workplaces making it possible for young mothers to work on a full-time basis.

Compared to childcare centers, kindergartens are run mostly by private agencies charging fairly high fees. Singaporean parents, though, are aware of the importance of such regular preschool education and almost all the children in Singapore go through one to three years of preschool education in either private kindergartens or the MCD's childcare centers. The part-time and full-time childcare centers are subsidized by the state.

Over the years, notably in the 1990s, there have been efforts to "streamline" preschool education and bring it under increased supervision by the Ministry of Education (MOE). In collaboration with the National Institute of Education (NIE), MOE, and MCD have instituted programs at the NIE for the training of teachers and supervisors for the childcare centers and kindergartens. NIE offers the Basic or Intermediate Certificates for teachers and the Advanced Certificate in Early Childhood Education for administrators. Besides this, the NIE trains senior teachers who, in turn, train junior teachers on site at the childcare centers.

The primary aim of preschool education is to prepare children for the formal education of primary school. The other goals include development of social skills and easier transition of infants from the sheltered home environment to a semiformal setting. The childcare centers teach children in two languages, the mother tongue and English. Parents, therefore, choose a pre-education facility that offers their home language, whether Chinese, Malay, or Tamil. Besides languages, the centers have multiple activities including story telling, music, physical education, and outdoor games.

In 1996, there were 198 primary schools with a total enrollment of 269,688 students and 10,163 teachers. Of these, 151 schools (with 196,438 students and 7,790 teachers) were run by the government. Forty-six were government-aided, with an enrollment of 73,152 students and 2,373 teachers. There was 1 private school with 98 students. The teacher-student ratio at the primary level stood at 1:27 in 1996.

Secondary Education

The first two years of the secondary school level are common to all secondary school students and have the same curriculum. Those who want to quit the regular secondary education after the first two years may join the industrial training centers or vocational institutes for job training and become part of the labor market. The third and fourth year secondary level provide specialization in different "streams"academic, technical, or business education.

On completing the GCE, students may attend a junior college for a two-year, pre-university course or a centralized institute for a three-year course in arts, science, commerce, or technology. At the end of the preuniversity course, students may take the GCE "Advanced" or "A" Level examination. The outcome determines eligibility for admission to an institution for higher learning.

In 1996, there were 151 secondary schools with 185,324 students of which 96,860 were males and 88,464 females. There were 8,779 teachers of whom 3,174 were males and 5,605 females. Of the 151 secondary schools, 97 were government-run with 118,687 students and 5,368 teachers; 26 were government-aided with an enrollment of 29,744 students and 1,579 teachers; and 18 schools were "Autonomous," with an enrollment of 25,038 and 1,092 teachers. Begun in 1994, "autonomous" schools tripled from six in 1994 to 18 in 1996. Enrollment rose from 8,833 to 25,038 and the number of teachers from 403 in 1986 to 1,092 in 1996. There were eight "Independent" schools in 1996 with a student enrollment of 11,257 and 684 teachers. Additionally, there were two private schools with an enrollment of 598 and 56 teachers. The teacher-student ratio in government schools in 1996 was 1:21.

Besides the Ngee Ann and the Singapore Polytechnics, a large part of responsibility for the technical and vocational education is assumed by the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). The ITE has assumed some of the functions previously carried out by the Vocational and Industrial Training Board. As a postsecondary institution, the ITE's primary goal is to create a pool of skilled manpower for the economic development of the country. According to the Ministry of Education, the ITE gives equal emphasis on postsecondary training to equip teenagers with the skills to enter the labor market as well as to provide continuing education and training for those who are already a part of the labor force and who would like to upgrade or acquire new skills.

There are three programs for upgrading skills of existing workers who take evening courses on a part time basis. The Certificate of Competency (COC) and national Technical Certificate (NTC) are awarded to those existing workers who acquire a new skill or upgrade an old one. Special programs address specific kinds of workers. The Modular Skills Training (MOST) is meant for workers with a Primary School Leaving Examination. Training Initiative for Mature Employees (TIME) is meant for workers of the age of 40 and above, while its counterpart for 20 to 40 years old is called Adult Cooperative Training Scheme (ACTS).

The ITE provides fulltime training to those who hold a GCE "O" and "N" level qualifications. It provides technical training, leading to the Industrial Technician Certificate (ITC) and the National Technical Certificate Grade 2 (NTC-2). Those who take business courses get the Certificate in Business Studies (CBS) and the Certificate in Office Skills (COS).

Students who leave school with fewer than 10 years of education or who do not pass the examination at the end of 10 years of schooling still are rewarded. The ITE awards the National Technical Certificate-3 (NTC-3) to those who complete their training at the Vocational Training Center. These students may also join an apprenticeship scheme that allows them to learn while they earn. Such on-and off-the-job training is provided either in ITE's centers or in those managed by private companies approved by the ITE. Most apprenticeship courses lead to the National Technical Certificate examinations. The holders of the certificates are absorbed by industry at the appropriate level of skilled work.

Besides industrial apprenticeships, there are also those leading to a Certificate in Health Care, Certificate in Travel Services, and Certificate in Retailing (Sales and Customer service), all awarded by the Institute of Technical Education. In 1996, the ITE had 11 centers with a combined full-time enrollment of 8,233, of which 5,968 were males and 2,265 were females. There were 1,212 on the teaching staff of whom 891 were males and 321 were females.

Higher Education

When Singapore became independent in 1965 there was only one university, the University of Singapore. Its predecessor was the University of Malaya which was established in 1949 with the merger of two institutionsThe King Edward VII College of Medicine and the Raffles College: which had been established in 1928 for the study of arts and science. In 1958, in anticipation of the grant of full internal self-government to Singapore, two joint committees were appointed to examine the possibility of creating two autonomous organizations respectively for Malaya and Singapore. Accordingly, in 1959, the university was restructured into two autonomous divisions located in Malaya's capital, Kuala Lumpur, and in Singapore. Two years later, the division was formalized. On the New Year's Day in 1962, the University of Singapore was formally launched.

In response to the demands of the Chinese community to retain their culture and tradition, the Nanyang University was established as a private university in 1956. Although a government ordinance of 1959 gave the university a statutory status, its diplomas and degrees fell short of full recognition by the governments of the Federation of Malaya and Singapore for its civil service recruitment. Consequently, the generally success-oriented Singaporeans did not encourage their children to attend Nanyang University. By 1962, however, the government of Singapore, which was then controlled by the People's Action Party (PAP), decided to restore government grants to Nanyang University as a political measure. In the 1960s, the government used the Nanyang University for technological education, and in 1980 it was merged with the University of Singapore. The new entity was called the National University of Singapore.

Since 1965 education at all levels, including higher education, has grown exponentially. In 2000, Singapore had six Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). First, is the National University of Singapore (NUS) regarded as the flag ship of Singapore's educational system. It has 8 faculties, 50 departments, 4 graduate schools (medicine, dentistry, business management, and engineering), and 7 "specialist research institutes" for advanced study and research in areas of "strategic importance to the nation's development." They are:

  • Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Institute of Micro-Electronics
  • Institute of Systems Science
  • National University Medical Institute
  • Institute of Molecular Agro-Biology
  • Data Storage Institute and the Institute for Materials Engineering and Research

The NUS has also established several centers of excellence and institutes where its faculty is involved in research and development for "specific applications to industry and business." It also runs the National Super-computing Centre for the advancement of Information Technology and computer and computational technology in Singapore. In these endeavors, the university gives a high priority to multi-disciplinary R&D projects, often in collaboration with industry.

The eight faculties are Architecture and Building, Arts and Social Sciences, Business Administration, Dentistry, Engineering, Law, Medicine, and Science. All faculties offer courses leading to a bachelor's degree and some have graduate (post-graduate) courses leading to a master's and a doctorate degree. In 1996, the NUS had 37,791 students, of whom 20,507 were males and 17,284 were females, with a teaching faculty of 3,059, of which 2,290 were males and 769 were females.

A large majority of the faculty is highly qualified, holding doctorates from some of the best universities in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States. Most of them feel frustrated over the lack of research environment at the NUS, though most of them are happy that academic rewards and remuneration are not necessarily linked to research and publication. The faculty is also frustrated because, with a few exceptions, the NUS does not provide graduate education, which reduces the NUS faculty to the level of undergraduate teachers.

Some departments have begun to grant master's degrees, but student enrollment is small. Without the challenge of graduate students the faculty feels they are being under-utilized in terms of skills they acquired while working on their doctorates. The NUS does provide financial support for research during the faculty's sabbatical year if it is spent overseas at a major university or research institution. Compared to similarly trained faculty in HEIs in the United States, the research output of the NUS faculty is far from impressive.

Most of the Singapore graduates pursue their graduate work in major universities, notably in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada. The Singapore government and people prefer to send students overseas for several reasons. First, they feel the graduates need exposure outside the confines of their small state, which they regard as essential for Singapore's leadership role, regionally and globally. Secondly, there is some justification in their fear that the pursuit of graduate education under the same faculty may promote inbreeding. Thirdly, education abroad offers an opportunity for students to develop contacts in business and industry, which may be found useful later in their careers.

Formerly called the Nanyang Technological Institute (NTI), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) was formally granted the status of an independent university on July 1, 1991. The NTI itself was established in 1981 as an engineering institution, which was to have a more practical orientation than the NUS. Located in Yunnan Garden, it has six schools: civil and structural engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, mechanical and production engineering, communications studies, applied science, and accountancy and business.

The NTI and NUS have a common curriculum for first-year engineering students followed by a three-year course at either institutiondepending on the academic standing of the student. NUS gets the superior students. The degree in engineering was, however, awarded to both the NTI and NUS students by the National University of Singapore. During the decade following its establishment, the NTI determined its policies in regards to admission, curriculum, and examination requirements in close consultation with the NUS departments.

The NTI developed collaborative links for research and teaching with local industry as well as with corporations, research institutes, and universities overseas. Regular internship programs were established with several local firms involved in civil, structural, and electronic fields for final year students.

In 1991 the NTI had about 3,000 students and a fairly well qualified faculty. The government decided to transform it into a full-fledged university. The NTU has exchange and collaborative arrangements with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Sloan School of Management and the Mechanical Engineering Laboratory (MEL) in Japan.

The National Institute of Education (NIE) was established in 1973. At that time, the Teachers' Training College (TTC), founded in 1950, was the only institution providing teacher-training facilities in Singapore. NIE trained primary school teachers and non graduate secondary school teachers. After 1973, the NIE became a comprehensive teacher-training institution, providing facilities for training preprimary, primary, secondary, and junior college teachers. The institute is located in Bukit Timah. The NIE attracts students from Singapore and the entire Southeast Asian region. The NIE merged with the Institute of Education and the College of Physical Education in 1991. It has four schools: science, arts, education, and physical education.

Since 1991, NIE has offered four-year courses leading either to a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree with a Diploma in Education. It also offers the Postgraduate Diploma in Education programs for university graduates and the two-year Diploma in Education and Diploma in Physical Education programs for holders of GCE "A" level. Additionally, the NIE offers a number of in-service training programs. The postgraduate work in education at the master's and doctorate levels at NIE is rewarded with degrees by the NUS. The high quality and range of research conducted by the NIE is reflected in Research and Evaluation Abstracts for Classroom Teachers (REACT), and numerous other reports. In 1996, NIE had 3,095 students, of whom 857 were males and 2,238 were females. The faculty numbered 420, of whom 204 were males and 216 were females.

There are four major polytechnics in Singapore: Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic, and Nanyang Polytechnic. Ngee Ann was established in 1963. It gives diploma courses in electrical and electronic engineering, mechanical engineering, shipbuilding and repair technology, building construction and maintenance, business and computer studies.

Although the Singapore Legislative Council approved Singapore Polytechnic Ordinance in 1954, Singapore Polytechnic did not begin to function until four years later in 1958. It offers two types of technician diplomas awarded after either a three-year or a five-year course. It also has a two-year certificate course. The fields covered are: civil, structural, mechanical and marine engineering, land surveying, architectural draftsmanship, nautical technology, aeronautical maintenance, and many other specialties of practical value to industry. Its students are linked with industrial plants, construction companies, and other businesses for practical training. The Singapore Polytechnic also provides graduate education in land surveying, process plant engineering design, plastics design, industrial management, and maritime studies. Of note is the Polytechnic's Department of Continuing Education, which offers evening classes for full-time workers who would like to obtain higher technical and management skills.

The Temasek Polytechnic was established in April 1990, and the Nanyang Polytechnic in April 1992 to meet the rising demands of industry and students. In 1996, the four polytechnics had a combined enrollment of 51,254 students of whom 29,736 were males and 21,518 were females. The combined strength of the teaching staff was 3,410 of whom 2,272 were males and 1,138 were females.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Except for preschool education, the entire system of education from the primary to the university levels comes under the administrative control of the Ministry of Education. This includes government, government-aided, and even nonassisted private schools. Education is regarded as one of the most important areas of general concern to the society and of tremendous value to the economy. Therefore, the government has from the inception of Singapore as a free state and, more so since 1973, melded education with the industrial development of the country. It is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education to implement the government's educational policy as approved by the parliament from time to time.

The Minister of Education is aided by a minister of state (who is not a member of the Cabinet), a parliamentary secretary, and a Permanent Secretary (Education), who is a high-level member of the civil service. There is a Director of Education although the Permanent Secretary carries out most of those functions. The Director of Education coordinates all the academic and professional aspects of primary and secondary level education. Assisting the Permanent Secretary are five directors each in charge of a division. The five divisions are administration, education services, planning research and testing, schools, and personnel.

The administration division has five branches. Finance and accounts are in charge of preparation of the annual budget and administration of funds to the schools. The planning and development branch prepares plans for the physical and other infrastructure needs of the schools, and monitors supplies of equipment and other material. The office services branch handles legal matters, the international and statutory organization branch deals with international bodies assisting education in Singapore or which seek statistical or other data, and the public relations branch deals with the members of parliament and the public.

The Educational Services Division has three branches. The pupils service branch deals with scholarships, counseling, and advisement on career. The extracurricular activities branch handles activities outside the classroom. The textbooks and libraries branch selects textbooks for class use and supplies books and materials for school libraries.

The Planning and Review Division has four branches. Planning and systems evaluates the educational system and suggests reforms. The central testing branch reviews current tests, devises new ones, and monitors statewide examinations. A research and monitoring branch reviews and conducts research on educational matters. There is also a computer service branch.

The Schools Division is the largest. It is responsible for developing curriculum, keeping in touch with new teaching methodologies abroad, and suggesting changes throughout Singapore's school system. It works closely with the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore. An inspection branch in the Schools Division organizes inspection of schools in order to ensure the standards set down by the Ministry are met.

The Personnel Division deals with appointment and promotion of the teachers and other staff. It has four branches, each dealing with a staffing issue: the Appointment Branch, the Service Conditions Branch, the Staff Development Branch, and the Training Branch. The Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)the universities, polytechnics, the Singapore Science Center and the National Institute of Educationeach with a governing council or board of governors come under the overall responsibility of the Statutory Board of Higher Education. Though the Statutory Board of Higher Education and the HEIs function with relative autonomy and independence, the final responsibility still rests with the Minister of Education who is responsible to the people through the parliament. There have been numerous instances when the Minister has intervened, in particular instances of administrative decisions.

Public education in Singapore is almost entirely financed by the government from the general revenues, although schools and universities are encouraged to raise funds particularly for capital expenditure for construction of buildings or major facilities. The importance of education in government and public expenditure is illustrated by the annual allocations to education which are nearly 25 percent (23.7 percent in 1996) of the entire budget. Besides the annual allocation, the parliament approves a developmental expenditure on the capital account. Education also accounts for the highest number of employees under the governmentnearly two out of five public employees in 2000. Teachers and administrative staff are paid salaries and allowances at government rates applicable to all public employees and are entitled to all programs and benefits, including housing. Universities and other HEIs prepare their own budgets, submit them to the Ministry of Education, and receive block grants annually for their expenditures.

Primary education is free. There is a nominal fee for secondary and junior college level education of less than US$5.00 per month. The preschool education is subsidized by the state to the extent of about 50 percent of the cost. The government-aided schools receive a subsidy up to 50 percent of the costs of development and a portion of their operating budgets depending on the number of students enrolled.

As for higher education, there are a number of scholarships and "bursaries" provided by the Ministry of Education to those who cannot afford the cost. A major initiative in educational finance involving planning and cooperation by parents has been the EduSave Account introduced in 1993. Under the scheme, the Ministry of Education deposited a certain amount of subsidy, approved by the parliament from year to year in the child's Edu-Save Account, which could be used by the child's parents to pay for enrichment and remedial classes or saved for the child's higher education. Children covered by the scheme range from 6 to 16 years of age.

Nonformal Education

A program called the Basic Education for Skills Training (BEST) formerly run jointly by The National Trades Union Congress and the Vocational and Industrial training Board was taken over by the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). Additionally, the ITE offers the Worker Improvement through Secondary Education (WISE) program. Both programs help workers who have far less than the ten-year primary and secondary education to achieve functional competence in English and mathematics. The ITE also offers continuing education for mature workers to upgrade their general education on a part time basis to the three GCE levels.

In 1994, Ministry of Education appointed the Singapore Institute of Management to run the Open University Degree Programme (OUDP). It offered courses leading to the Bachelor of Arts degree in English, English Literature, English with Economics, English with Management, and Bachelor of Science degrees in Mathematics, Mathematics with Economics, Mathematics with Management, Computer Science, Computer Science with Economics, and Computer Science with Management. In 1997, OUDP began offering courses leading to a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree in Technology with Electronics.

The OUDP's undergraduate programs are accredited and examined to match the standards established by the Open University in the United Kingdom. In Singapore, the degrees are accepted by the Singapore Public Service Commission for government employment while the private sector recognizes them "on par with the British degrees."

Teaching Profession

Until 1973, the only teachers' training facility in Singapore was the Teachers' Training College established in 1950. Thereafter, Singapore legislated that all teachers had to be registered with the Ministry of Education, which formalized certification requirements. The Institute of Education (IE), which was established in 1973, assumed the functions previously carried out by the Teachers' Training College and the Department of Education of the University of Singapore. The IE soon became a comprehensive teacher-training facility for training of preprimary, primary, secondary, and junior college teachers. In 1982, the IE opened the Department of Education for Children with Special Needs to train teachers for slow learners as well as for the unusually gifted children. In 1991, the College of Physical Education was merged into the IE and was renamed the National Institute of Education (NIE). Its scope of activities widened to include more research and evaluation functions. The NIE provides in-service training and a wide range of refresher courses to keep trained teachers abreast of new initiatives in education in the advanced countries of the world.

The NIE provides training in all four language streams of education: Chinese, Malay, Tamil, and English. It provides facilities for a one-year diploma in education for those who already have a bachelor's degree and a two-year certificate in education for those who do not have a degree. Its in-service programs enable primary school teachers to obtain a one-year Professional Certificate in Education (FPCE). Those of the primary and secondary teachers who hold a bachelor's degree and a diploma in education may enroll for in-service courses leading to the master's degree in education.


Singapore's educational system deserves recognition for its educational achievements. The society and the government are supremely aware of the small size of the state and what needs to be done particularly in education to establish and maintain a position of importance in a fast-developing world. The island nation has also attempted and succeeded to a large extent in making itself the "hub" of the Southeast Asian region in the fields of economy and education. In this, Singapore has made the use of computer technology almost universal in all its business establishments, government, and academic institutions at all levels: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

Singapore has a strong priority to business and industry. The academic institutions, particularly in the tertiary sector: universities, polytechnics, institutes of education and technical education, and the few research institutes are all aware of their need to cater to industry's needs in trained human resources as well as in R&D. Most of the educational facilities in Singapore have a highly trained faculty expertise reinforced periodically by visits and training programs abroad and through the establishment of academic ties with well-known institutions in Japan and the West, notably in the United Kingdom and the United States. The inadequacies of Singapore's educational system are a lack of sufficient incentive to its faculty in the form of advanced graduate programs and rewards to those who publish their research. The teaching and research staff at all levels is well paid and the infrastructure is well provided for efficient performance.

Singapore's immense success is based on an understanding of the needs and aspirations of its government, people, industry, and businesses. Its good fortune has been the consistently dynamic leadership provided by Lee Kuan Yew and the fairly smooth transition of power sharing since he stepped down from his position as Prime Minister.

A problem that remains to be solved is the political future of a system that has, so far, been based on the domination by a single party, the People's Action Party (PAP). It must be conceded, however, that there are more supporters than detractors of the system. The second area of concern has been the deterioration of Confucianism, particularly the relationship between generations from the impact of Westernization, which, in the eyes of the establishment, has been progressively weakening the moral fiber of the young. Even discounting the usual criticisms of the younger generation by the older generation, there is validity to this area of concern. The progression of Western influence could seriously affect Singapore's self-identity. The question is what the education system can do to reverse the trend of Westernization.


Chong, Sylvia. "Policies Affecting Arts Education: The Heart of the Matter." Arts Education Policy Review, IC, 3 (January-February 1998), 22-25.

Doraiswamy, T.R., ed. 150 Years of Education in Singapore. Singapore: TTC Publications Board, Teachers Training College, 1969.

Kuo, Eddie C.Y. A Quantitative Approach to the Study of Socio-linguistic Situations in Multilingual Societies. Singapore: SEAMEO Regional Language Centre, 1985.

Ministry of Education. Education Statistics Digest. Singapore: Ministry of Education, 2000.

National Arts Council. Catalogue of Arts-in-Education Programs. Singapore: National Arts Council, 1996.

Tham, Seong Chee. Multi-lingualism in Singapore: Two Decades of Development. Singapore: Department of Statistics, 1996.

Wilson, Harold E. Social Engineering in Singapore: Educational Policies and Social Change, 1819-1972. Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1978.

D. R. SarDesai

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Republic of Singapore



Singapore is a city-state in Southeast Asia, located about 137 kilometers (85 miles) north of the Equator. It consists of 1 major island and 59 small islands. Singapore lies at the center of a major sea route connecting the Far East to Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, which gives the country its strategic importance. It is separated from Malaysia to the north by the narrow Johore Strait and from Indonesia to the south by the wider Singapore Strait. The country has a land area of 637.5 square kilometers (247 square miles), but no land boundaries, and its total coastline is 193 kilometers (120 miles). The territory of Singapore covers a slightly smaller area than that of New York City.


The population of Singapore, which is entirely urban, was estimated at 4,151,264 in July 2000. In 2000, the birth rate stood at 12.79 per 1000 people, a low level attributed to urbanization and birth control policies, and the death rate stood at 4.21 per 1000. The estimated population growth rate is 3.54 percent. Such a high rate is due to the high net immigration rate, which stood at 26.8 immigrants per 1000 people. These immigrants form a large community of foreign temporary workers estimated at about 10 percent of the total population. Singapore has one of the highest population densities in the world, with about 6,500 people per square kilometer (or 16,800 per square mile).

The Singaporean population is diverse and represents 3 major ethnic groups. Ethnic Chinese make up almost 77 percent of the population, Malays make up 14 percent, Indians 7.6 percent, and other ethnic groups 1.4 percent. Around 18 percent of the population is below the age of 14, and just 7 percent is older than 65. The current ethnic distribution was formed in the 19th century when the British administration encouraged people to migrate to Singapore from neighboring Malacca, the Indonesian islands, India and especially China.

In 1957, Singapore's population was approximately 1.45 million, and there was a relatively high birth rate. Aware of the country's extremely limited natural resources and small territory, the government introduced birth control policies in the late 1960s. In the late 1990s, the population was aging, with fewer people entering the labor market and a shortage of skilled workers. In a dramatic reversal of policy, the Singapore government now plans to introduce a "baby bonus" scheme in 2001 that will encourage couples to have more children.

Singapore wants to limit the inflow of illegal immigrants. The effect of drugs and drug trafficking is another important issue, since Singapore lies near the "Golden Triangle," an area between Burma, Laos, and Thailand that is the world's largest producer of illicit drugs such as opium. Singapore is among the few countries in the world to have adopted the death penalty for possession and sale of drugs. New chronic diseases like AIDS are also of great concern to the Singaporean government, since the country is a busy tourist destination.


Manufacturing and services are the 2 main features of the modern Singaporean economy, but the economy's main economic engine is its seaport, one of the world's busiest. Singapore also has one of the largest commercial shipping registers in the world.

In 1819, when the British East India Company leased this territory from the Sultan of Johore to establish a trade and communication post, it was a small settlement in a swampy area. However, the British administration quickly cleared jungles, reclaimed marshes, and established a merchant seaport. This port expanded into a major regional trading post due to its strategic and convenient location along the main sea route connecting the Far East to British India and to Europe. The rise of Singapore as a communication hub would prove a foundation for its future prosperity.

As a free port and a major British naval base in East Asia, Singapore enjoyed a special status within the British protectorate for a long time. In 1959, Singapore achieved full self-governance, and in 1963, it joined the Federation of Malaysia. However, sharp political disagreements arose with the federal government, and in 1965, Singapore left the Federation and became an independent state. Having a small territory and no natural resources, the government staked everything on the transformation of the country's economic base from a trade mediator and regional transport hub to a manufacturing center, specializing in capital-intensive industries, high technologies, and financial services. Singapore's government promoted a free-market economy and export oriented industrialization (EOI), combined with a measure of state intervention, subsidized credits to selected industries, and high public investment in applied research and certain export targets. Export to the international market promoted efficient use of resources and generated hard currency , which was necessary for catching up with further development of technologies and industrial innovation. This policy brought unprecedented economic expansion, with an annual average growth rate of 6.4 percent from the 1960s through the 1980s. This development transformed Singapore into one of the "economic tigers" of Asia.

There are different interpretations about the causes of this high performance. A World Bank report argued that this success was because of a mix of private investors and available human resources. Others argue that state initiatives and government economic policies were important. In Singapore's transformation, the Economic Development Board, which is the government agency responsible for the formulation and implementation of economic and industrial development strategies established in 1961, played a crucial role.

The country's major export products are electronic goods, machinery, and equipment produced by major multinational corporations . Tourism is important. In 1996, Singapore hosted 4,795 international and regional conventions and received more than 7 million tourists, providing revenues of about 9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Finance and business services are other important sectors of the economy, accounting for almost 30 percent of GDP in 1996. Transport and communications contributed an estimated 10 percent of GDP in 1996.

The Singapore government is persistent in the promotion of initiatives to keep the country competitive in the international arena. One of these initiatives is IT2000, which depends on a vision of Singapore as an "Intellectual Island" where information technologies penetrate all aspects of life. Another initiative is Jurong Town Corporation, which offers ready-built factories and manages 33 industrial parks housing 7,000 companies. The government supported the selected sectors in manufacturing and other industries through different means. It owns the Government-Linked Companies (GLCs) that operate as commercial entities. Singapore has the second highest number of state-controlled firms (45 percent) in the world, higher than Korea or Japan.

One of the important features of the Singaporean economy is that the financial sector has been guided by conservative fiscal policies . In 1998, in response to the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the Singapore government announced financial reforms to improve the country's international competitiveness, which included further liberalization of the financial sector and tax initiatives.

High economic performance and development kept unemployment at a low level during the last decades of the 20th century in all sectors of the economy including manufacturing, tourism, and finance. In 1999 unemployment was just 3.2 percent (by comparison, unemployment in the United States was 4.2 percent in the same year). Because of the speed of its economic expansion, Singapore began to experience shortages of skilled labor in the late 1990s and early 2000s.


Singapore is a parliamentary democracy with a president as the constitutional head of state. The president plays a ceremonial role in the political life of the country and until 1991 was elected by the parliament. In 1991, the constitution was amended, allowing citizens to vote for their president in direct popular elections. Current president S. R. Nathan took office for a 6-year term in 1999. Singapore's unicameral (one house) parliament has 83 members elected by popular vote. Executive power rests with the cabinet, led by the prime minister who is responsible to the parliament.

Several political parties have been active since Singapore's independence in 1965. Five of these parties have a high profile and influence in the country. These are: People's Action Party (PAP); National Solidarity Party (NSP); Singapore Democratic Party (SDP); Singapore People's Party (SPP); and Worker's Party (WP). Unlike many neighboring countries, the Communist Party does not have mass support in Singapore, and there has been no violent confrontation with communists. The military has never been an influential force in the political arena of the country. Politically, Singapore has remained remarkably stable and nearly untouched by political violence since independence.

Since the end of World War II, the major issues shaping political competition in Singapore have been the promotion of political stability, economic growth, and maintaining a balance among the 3 main ethnic groups. The PAP came to power spreading an ideal of national consolidation, economic growth, and state paternalism. It has remained the country's dominant political force for the past 40 years, controlling parliament in every election since independence. The PAP's strong man, Lee Kuan Yew, became prime minister in 1959 when Singapore acquired self-governance, and retained this position until 1990. After his resignation, Goh Chok Tong, Lee's chosen successor, became the new prime minister. One of the unique features of Singaporean political development is the governing by a single party since gaining independence in 1965. This has led prominent human rights groups to criticize the Singaporean government over its failure to promote and protect the political and civil rights of its citizens.

Since the early 1960s, under the leadership of both Lee Kuan Yew and then Goh Chok Tong, the Singapore government has promoted a free-market and export-oriented economy. This policy has been successful and the country has experienced unprecedented economic growth and prosperity. Leading technocrats were able to capture major trends in technological change in the modern world and utilize the benefits of globalization. In 1992, as a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Singapore created a regional free trade zone , to be known as the ASEAN Free Trade Zone (AFTA). Singapore managed to minimize the negative effects of the oil crisis of 1979 and the Asian financial meltdown in 1997.

The country has continually attracted foreign direct investment and technological transfers from developed countries such as Japan and the United States. One of the important tools in the hands of the government has been its taxation policy and its initiatives. With few exceptions, capital gains are not taxed in Singapore. Both resident and non-resident companies are taxed at the same rate as the corporate tax rate, which stays at 25.5 percent. The typical withholding tax rate on interest payable to non-residents stays at 15 percent, but this could be reduced or even exempted by tax treaties in the future. A Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced in April 1994 at 3 percent, but was accompanied by compensatory reductions in direct taxation . Qualified employees may enjoy tax exemptions of 50 percent for up to S$10 million of stock option gains arising over a period of 10 years for stock options granted after June 2000.


Singapore inherited from the colonial era a superior infrastructure and well-developed transport network. After independence, the Singaporean government made many efforts and sizable investments to improve these even further. This small city-state is served by a network of 3,122 kilometers (1,940 miles) of highways, 99 percent of which are paved. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a steep increase in private car ownership, which led to traffic congestion and rising air pollution. The government reacted swiftly, investing significant sums in public transport, especially the mass transit system. It also restricted private car usage on Singaporean roads, using different measures, including taxes and Certificates of Entitlement. By the 1990s, 83 kilometers (51 miles)

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Singapore 360 822 348 49.5 346 31.6 458.4 322.30 950
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
China N/A 333 272 40.0 19 1.6 8.9 0.50 8,900
Japan 578 955 707 114.8 374 126.8 237.2 163.75 27,060
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

of mass rapid transit system, and 11 kilometers (6 miles) of light rapid transit system had been built, and the country could boast of an excellent public transport system, praised for its safety, quality of service, and punctuality. In 1998, the government launched a S$1.7 billion project to build a new transit line. There were at that time 681,924 registered motor vehicles, including 378,090 cars, 11,410 buses, 133,382 motorcycles and scooters, and other vehicles.

Throughout the colonial era, the port of Singapore was an important military base and commercial seaport. After gaining independence, Singapore maintained its status as an important regional transport hub. Its seaport is believed to be one of the world's busiest ports in tonnage terms, with 140,922 vessels making up a shipping weight of 858 gross tons calling at the port and total container traffic of 15.14 million 20-foot equivalent units. It also has one of the largest commercial shipping registers in the world. Its merchant marine included 891 ships (1,000 gross registered tonnage and over) in 1998. Singapore also houses the third-largest oil refinery in the world with a capacity of 1 million barrels a day (1998). Major petroleum companies, including Shell, ESSO, Caltex, British Petroleum, and Mobil, operate there.

The government has invested heavily in the development of aviation, signing air service agreements with 90 countries, including "open skies" agreements with the United States, New Zealand, and Brunei Darussalam. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) oversees and regulates development in this sector. There were 9 airports in Singapore in 1999. The largest is Changi airport (a subsidiary of CAAS), which hosted 61 airlines and handled 23.8 million passengers in 1998 alone, making Singapore one of the major airports in the region. The 47-hectare (116-acre) Changi Airfreight Center handled 1.43 million tons of air freight movement in 1998. The government planned to invest a further S$1.5 billion in upgrading the airport facilities in the first decade of the 21st century. Singapore Airline (SIA) was created in 1972 after the split of Malaysia-Singapore Airline. SIA and its subsidiary, SilkAir, operated 87 aircraft, employed 18,800 people, and carried 12 million passengers a year in 1998. In 1998, SIA was ranked fourth in terms of international freight measured in ton-kilometers, and eighth in international passenger-kilometers.

Singapore is fully reliant on imports of mineral fuel for domestic consumption, and these imports accounted for 9.3 percent of merchandise imports in 1996. This makes the country vulnerable to unfavorable fluctuations in world oil prices. Electric power is produced from fossil fuel at 3 power stations. Electricity production was recorded at 28.586 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 1998.

Telecommunication services in Singapore remain under state control. Telephone service is provided by the state-controlled Singapore Telecom (ST). The country had 54.6 million telephone lines and 1.02 million mobile cellular telephones in 1998. The government has attempted to end ST's monopoly . In 1993, it sold about 7 percent of its share to private companies and, in 1997, ST's monopoly on mobile and pager services came to an end. In 1998, there were 8 Internet service providers in the country and 458.4 computers per 1,000 people, which is more than in the United States. In 2000, the Singapore government announced a S$1.5 billion investment over 3 years into the e-Government Action Plan, which should enable Singaporeans to access a wide range of online services.


Singapore's separation from the Federation of Malaysia in 1965 had advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, its economic development has been constrained by its small territory, small population, and extremely limited natural resources, and the country has always been fully reliant on the importation of foodstuffs. Yet Singapore has a huge advantage in its location in a major sea route connecting the Far East to South Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The country has a well-trained, well-educated, disciplined labor force and has attracted major multinational corporations from Europe, Japan, and the United States. Many of them, such as Sony, NEC, Matsushita, Texas Instruments, and others, have established their manufacturing and assembly plants or distribution centers there.

Singapore has fully used the advantage of its superior location, reinventing itself as a major communication hub in Southeast Asia. The policy of encouraging private entrepreneurship, giving priority to the development of an export-oriented economy, and encouraging capital intensive industries combined with selective state intervention, brought Singapore unprecedented economic growth from the 1960s through the 1990s. By 2000, industry and services had become the 2 largest sectors of the modern Singaporean economy, contributing 30 percent and 70 percent of GDP, respectively, in 2000. (Agriculture's contribution was negligible.) Although there was a substantial slowing down in economic growth in all sectors of the economy after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Singapore managed to avoid economic decline like neighboring Indonesia or Thailand.


Agriculture, including fishery, is an insignificant part of Singapore's economy, accounting for just 0.2 percent of GDP and employing 0.2 percent of the workforce. Since the 19th century Singapore has been fully reliant on the import of foodstuffs, obtained from its neighbors. The country has a small fishing industry consisting of a small fleet and marine fish farms. There has been some interest in the greenhouse production of certain fruits and vegetables for domestic consumption, but it has not developed and remains small. Singapore does cultivate orchids for domestic and export markets.

In the late 1990s, Singapore businessmen expressed interest in biotechnology and genetically modified food production. The public outcry in Europe and the United States over genetically modified food has cooled this interest for the time being. Some private entrepreneurs invested in the agricultural sector in neighboring Malaysia and Thailand, aiming to export the products back to Singapore.


Singapore belongs to the "New Industrialized States" (NIS), the countries that underwent rapid industrialization from the 1960s to the 1980s. During these 2 decades, Singapore managed to attract technology transfers from the developed world as well as sizable foreign direct investment (FDI). The island has a small mining industry that is of no importance in the national economy.


Singapore has a diverse, well-established, and economically important manufacturing sector, which contributed 28 percent to GDP and provided employment for 417,300 people, or 21.6 percent of the workforce, in 1999. Since the early 1990s, the manufacturing sector's share in GDP has been slowly declining due to the steady rise in competition from neighboring countries and the expansion of its own service sector. The United States remains the single largest investor in Singapore's economy. In 1999, about 57 percent of FDI commitments came from the United States.

Singapore began its industrial sector in the 1960s, using its superior location and well-trained and educated labor force. The industrial sector initially consisted of electrical assembly, oil refining, and shipping facilities. The electronic sector became the country's most important manufacturing element. This sector underwent a rapid expansion in the late 1960s when Texas Instruments and other multinational corporations established assembly plants in Singapore.

In the 1990s, there was further growth in the manufacturing of different electronic products and computer components. In the late 1990s, Singapore became the world's largest producer of computer disk drives. In 1999, electronics accounted for 43.4 percent of value-added manufacturing in the country, making Singapore vulnerable to downturns in the international market. Most of these goods are produced in foreign-owned plants for export to the United States, Europe, and East Asia. Electronics manufacture was affected by the 1997 Asian financial crisis, although the Singaporean government supported the sector by tax breaks and other initiatives. After 1997, several multinational corporations such as Seagate, Western Digital of the United States, and others laid off staff and began restructuring their production capacity. Some considered moving their manufacturing operations to neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, where wages are lower than in Singapore.

Chemical production, petroleum production, and printing are also important contributors to the country's economy. Singapore has a well-developed chemical and chemical production sector. This sector experienced steady growth in the 1980s and 1990s by attracting substantial FDI. Chemical production contributed 18.1 percent of valued-added manufacturing in 1999.

Petroleum production underwent rapid expansion in the 1960s and 1970s, benefiting from the country's large and efficient seaport and modern oil refining facilities. This sector produces 18.8 million metric tons (20.68 million tons) of distillate fuel oils and 15.7 million metric tons (17.27 million tons) of residual fuel oil, and other petroleum-based products. Singapore has the world's third largest oil-refining industry. Petroleum production contributes 4.4 percent of valued-added manufacturing.

Singapore has developed high-quality color printing processes, producing several publications for major clients from the United States and Europe. Printing and publishing contributes 4.0 percent of value-added manufacturing (1999). The other manufacturing sectors produce transport equipment, machinery, and fabricated metal products.



Tourism is an important sector of Singapore's economy, providing employment for 118,900 people. Although Singapore was long known as a tourist destination for sailors, business people, and adventurers, mass tourism began in earnest in the 1970s and 1980s with the increase in international air travel. The number of tourists visiting the country rose steadily throughout the 1980s and 1990s, reaching 7.29 million in 1996. There was a decline of about 1.3 percent in 1997 and 13.3 percent in 1998, due to economic turmoil in the region. In response to this decline, the Singapore Tourism Board started "Tourism Unlimited," a program promoting regional tourism and developing tourist projects near Singapore. In 1999, about 6.96 million tourists visited the country, contributing S$11.2 billion dollars to the national economy.

Singapore promotes itself as a "dream destination," offering excellent service, a multicultural environment, local hospitality, exotic festivals, and tax-free shopping. To boost its competitiveness it has also signed visa-free agreements with most countries in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. According to the national authorities, in 1998 Singapore had 108 hotels with total room capacity of 32,000. Most visitors come from the ASEAN countries, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In the 1990s, Singapore reinvented itself as Asia's convention city. In 1996, the capital hosted 4,795 international and regional conventions with 426,000 foreign participants. According to the Union des Associations Internationales, Singapore ranks seventh among the world's major convention cities.


The financial and business services sector is one of the most important sectors to the Singapore economy and provides employment for 266,000 people. Finance rests on the traditional foundations of the banking system, investments, insurance, and foreign exchange. There were 154 commercial banks in 1997, although banking was dominated by the "Big Four": the DBS Bank, the United Overseas Bank (UOB), the Overseas Union Bank (OUB), and the Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBS). According to the IMF, Singapore is the world's fourth-largest global exchange center. The financial sector, particularly its banking component, has been tightly regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), prompting sharp criticism from the United States and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Although the 1997 Asian financial crisis affected the financial sector, there were no major bank collapses or bankruptcies. In 1997, Singapore's benchmark Strait Times Industrial Index (STII) fell 30 percent, leading to the STII being replaced by the simplified Straits Times Index (STI) in August of 1997. In 1999, the STI experienced some recovery due to an upturn in the manufacturing sector. The MAS reinforced its strict policy against internationalizing the Singapore dollar by limiting overseas lending and borrowing by non-residents. This policy restricts use of the currency outside the country for activities unrelated to the domestic economic development. However, economic recovery has improved the Singapore government's fiscal position, and it intends to deregulate and gradually liberalize the financial sector.

The business services sector (including property services, accountancy, and information technology), the fourth-most important economic sector in 1999, experienced difficult times in the late 1990s. During this period, economic recession and declining investments in neighboring countries led to less demand for financial and business services and brought a sharp decline in spending in the property market.


Singapore's well-developed retail sector provides excellent service to the local population and to foreign tourists. Large, state-of-the-art supermarkets are complemented by thousands of small retail shops where tourists and local consumers can buy different products. Singapore has long been recognized as a major tourist shopping destination offering, among other things, the latest electronic products free of tax. In 1998, there were 281,200 people employed in the wholesale and retail trades. After the decline of 1997 and 1998 this sector recovered, with the value of retail sales up by 12.1 percent and their volume up by 14.1 percent.


Since the 1960s, Singapore has adopted a policy of export-oriented industrialization, promoting the export of goods and services in the international markets. It has few barriers against the import of goods and services, although the government's well-known interventionist policy in the regulation and ownership of many Singapore companies has been widely criticized. Singapore more than doubled its exports, from US$52.752 billion in 1990 to US$118.268 billion, in 1995. Exports dipped after 1997, but recovered to reach US$137 billion in 2000. The United States is Singapore's single largest trading partner, accounting for 19 percent of all exports in 1999, primarily from the sale of manufactured electronics and computer peripherals. A large part of these exports originates from U.S.-owned companies, which are traditionally the largest investors in the Singapore economy. Neighboring Malaysia is the second largest export market, accounting for 17 percent of total exports. Hong Kong and Japan are also important export destinations, accounting for 8 percent and 7 percent of exports respectively. Other important partners include Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, China, South Korea, and Germany.

The United States and Japan are the largest suppliers of imports to Singapore, with both countries supplying 17 percent of imports. Malaysia remained one of the traditional sources of imports, accounting for 16 percent

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Singapore
Exports Imports
1975 5.375 8.133
1980 19.376 24.007
1985 22.812 26.285
1990 52.752 60.899
1995 118.268 124.507
1998 109.895 104.719
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

of the total. Major imports from Malaysia include consumer goods like foodstuffs and raw materials. China (5 percent), Thailand (5 percent), Taiwan (4.0 percent), Saudi Arabia (3 percent), and Germany (3 percent) are other major sources of imports. In 2000, the value of imports totaled US$127 billion.

Singapore's government considers the development of free trade as an important factor for the country's future economic growth. Singapore strongly supported free trade negotiations between the members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation organization (APEC), which tried to remove trade barriers between member countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, and others. Singapore also strongly supported the creation of a regional free trade zone for the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), to be known as the ASEAN Free Trade Zone (AFTA). In 2001, Singapore announced its intention to discuss bilateral free-trade arrangements with Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States.

Singapore's international trade rose during the last 3 decades of the 20th century, when the country managed its trade balance to achieve a trade surplus of US$10 billion by 2000. Singapore demonstrated its immunity to the sharp oil price rises in 2000 and 2001; however, it faces increasing competition from neighboring countries and has become vulnerable to changes in global market demands for electronic products. Nevertheless, political and economic uncertainty in neighboring Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand have strengthened Singapore's position, confirming its image as one of the most stable and business-friendly countries in the region.


Over the last 2 decades, the value of the Singapore dollar showed remarkable stability because of the country's steady economic growth. During this period of unprecedented growth, Singapore managed to avoid high inflation or economic recession. The Asian financial crisis

Exchange rates: Singapore
Singapore dollars (S$) per US$1
Jan 2001 1.7365
2000 1.7240
1999 1.6950
1998 1.6736
1997 1.4848
1996 1.4100
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

of 1997 did affect Singapore's economy, but the country was able to avoid the political and economic calamities that brought high inflation and sizable recession to neighboring Indonesia and Thailand. There was slowdown of the Singapore economy in 1997 and 1998, affecting all sectors and bringing a small rise in inflation. In 1999 and 2000, the country overcame the difficulties and produced significant growth. Inflation stabilized at about 0.4 percent and GDP growth at about 5.5 percent in 1999.

According to the IMF classification, the Singapore dollar is a freely floating currency determined by the foreign exchange market. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), which acts as the central bank, closely monitors the exchange rate and ensures the stability of the currency against international currency speculators. Due to the regional economic downturn, the value of the Singapore dollar declined slightly against the U.S. dollar, from 1.4174 in 1995 to 1.6733 in January 2000. This stability was supported by Singapore's huge stocks of foreign reserves, the world's largest in per capita terms (US$23,864 per head against US$14,070 per head in Hong Kong). These foreign reserves are even larger than those of the United States. Singapore is also the world's fourth-largest global exchange center after London, New York, and Tokyo, with Chase Manhattan Bank, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Guaranty, and others, operating in this market.

Singapore has a single stock market, which until 1997 was known as the Strait Times Industrial Index (STII). In August 1997, it was replaced by the Straits Times Index (STI). In 1997 and 1998 the STI was affected by the regional recession, recovering in 1999 and 2000. According to the Singapore Exchange (SGX) statistics, 388 companies, representing total capitalization of S$389.5 billion (US$236 billion), were listed in the SGX main board in December 2000.


Extraordinary economic growth during the past 3 decades brought wealth and prosperity to Singapore. This

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Singapore 8,722 11,709 14,532 19,967 31,139
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
China 138 168 261 349 727
Japan 23,296 27,672 31,588 38,713 42,081
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

growth was impressive during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1959, when Singapore gained self-governance, its per capita GDP was just US$400. In 2000, Singapore was ranked fifth in the world in terms of per capita GDP, ahead of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. In 2000, the per capita GDP, figured at purchasing power parity , was US$26,500. A Central Provident Fund, to which employers and employees pay compulsory contributions, provides benefits in case of work injury, old age, and disability. Most people live in small apartments in high-rise buildings.

Social polarization is visible in education. The social prestige of a good education is traditionally very high in Singapore society. Private schools are very expensive and those who can spend a considerable part of their income on providing the best education for their children. Although the government is trying to encourage the development of a "knowledge society," education is not compulsory, and the poorer members of Singaporean society are disadvantaged, while the wealthy send their children to leading British, Australian, and North American universities.

In Singapore's society, as elsewhere, some people acquire wealth while others need to work hard merely to maintain a decent life. There are no statistics on the distribution of income, and therefore it is difficult to assess socio-economic and social division in the country. Traditionally, recent immigrants, both legal and illegal, have been the most disadvantaged members of the society. There is evidence, too, that social polarization exists along ethnic lines, with the ethnic Chinese community considered better off than the Malay community. In formulating social policy, the government has to take the importance of ethnic issues into consideration. The Singapore government supports such traditional values as a strong work ethic and the importance of family, promoting them as "Asian values" in opposition to the perceived "individualism" of Western societies. The National Council of Social Services, with the help of 150 voluntary bodies, provides most of the welfare services to individuals and families in need. The government also provides services for families in distress, with mandatory

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Singapore 15 7 5 3 14 7 48
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
China N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Japan 12 7 7 2 22 13 37
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

counseling in cases of family violence, monthly subsidies for working mothers with children in child-care centers, and financial assistance to low-income families. All residents, regardless of social status, are eligible for low-cost medical care.


In 1998, Singapore's labor force was 1.932 million people, with the unemployment rate about 3.2 percent, or 61,700 people. Over the last 3 decades of the 20th century, unemployment has never been high, thanks to the country's robust economic performance across almost all sectors of the economy. Singapore's economy experienced 2 difficult years in 1997 and 1998, when unemployment rose, but since the beginning of economic recovery in 1999 and 2000 there has been strong demand in the labor market. The Employment Act established a 44-hour working week, although there is no official minimum wage or unemployment compensation.

Singapore's economy demands a highly trained and flexible workforce. The government strongly promotes the acquisition of different skills, supporting several higher education centers, and vocational and technical institutes. Facing shortages in the workforce, the government encourages women to work by providing different initiatives and support for working mothers. Women made up about 40 percent of the workforce in 1999. Due to the nature of the labor market and the nation's growing prosperity, there is no child labor problem. The law prohibits employment of children under age 12. Due to labor shortages, there is a growing number of foreign workers in Singapore, unskilled and concentrated in the service and construction sectors.

The activities of trade unions are allowed in the country within the framework of the Societies Act, labor laws, and other regulations. According to the U.S. State Department, in the late 1990s there were 255,020 union members, organized into 83 unions. Most of them are affiliated with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), which is closely associated with the ruling People's Action Party. Strikes, slow-downs, and other workers' protests are rare in Singapore. Collective bargaining is common in management-labor relations, but most disagreements are solved through informal consultations and, in disputed cases, through the Industrial Arbitration Court.

The rise of the "new economy" caused a surge in demand for information technology (IT) workers. It is expected that, with annual growth of 10 percent in the IT sector, manpower in this area will need to more than double from 95,000 in 2000 to 220,000 in 2008. The government intends to develop the existing workforce rather than rely on immigration for the acquisition of skilled personnel in the sector. To facilitate retraining, in April 2000 the Ministry of Manpower and the Infocomm Development Authority jointly launched the Strategic Manpower Conversion Program, emphasizing information technologies and "technopreneurship."


1819. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles of the British East India Company leases a small territory from the Sultan of Johore and founds Singapore.

1821. First large group of Chinese migrants arrive from Xiamen.

1826. Singapore is incorporated into the Straits Settlements, a British colony.

1860. First census indicates a population of 80,792 in Singapore.

1858. Straits Settlements become a British Crown colony under the jurisdiction of the Colonial Office in London.

1914. Indentured labor system abolished.

1921. Singapore becomes a principal naval base for the British Navy in East Asia.

1942. The country is occupied by Japan during World War II.

1945. Allied forces liberate Singapore from Japanese occupation.

1946. Singapore becomes a Crown colony separate from Malaysia.

1955. A new constitution is adopted, introducing a measure of self-government.

1959. Singapore gains full self-governance under Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

1961. Establishment of the Economic Development Board, a government agency responsible for the formulation and implementation of economic and industrial development strategies.

1963. Singapore joins the Federation of Malaysia.

1965. Singapore withdraws from the Federation of Malaysia and becomes independent.

1965. Singapore joins the United Nations.

1967. Singapore becomes a founding member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

1970. Independent Monetary Authority of Singapore is established.

1971. Final withdrawal of British troops from Singapore.

1973. Last major ties with Malaysia renounced.

1979. Government begins a program of economic restructuring in response to the shock of the oil crisis.

1987. English is made the language of instruction in schools.

1990. Lee Kuan Yew resigns.

1991. The constitution is amended to allow Singapore citizens to directly elect their president.

1995. Huge losses made by a Singapore-based derivatives trader causes the collapse of Barings, the oldest British banking group.

1997. The ruling People's Action Party wins parliamentary elections, capturing 81 of 83 parliamentary seats.

1998. In response to the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the government announces financial reforms to improve the country's international competitiveness.

1999. The "Industry 21" Program, a new economic blueprint for the development of Singapore in the 21st century, is launched.


Singapore has benefited from the globalization of the world economy and experienced 3 decades of extraordinary economic growth, which has brought prosperity and confidence to the people of this small city-state. Able to withstand economic turmoil such as the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the surge in world oil prices at the beginning of the 21st century, Singapore has proved that its economy has grown on a sustainable and strong basis. Inflation remains under control and the Singaporean exchange rate is stable. The quality of life has improved steadily and society has benefited from rising prosperity. The government's policies aim to maintain political and social stability by promoting economic growth from capital-and skill-intensive technologies, although it has been criticized for restricting freedom of press and associations, and for its interventionist economic policies.

In the long term, Singapore needs to maintain its international edge against growing competition from neighboring countries. It is also exposed to economic, political, and environmental developments in the neighboring countries of Indonesia and Malaysia. Continuous political turmoil and social unrest in Indonesia might threaten Singapore by causing an influx of refugees and regional instability. Recent forest fires in the Indonesian part of Borneo brought air pollution to dangerous levels, affecting tourism and the health of the Singapore population.


Singapore has no territories or colonies.


The East Asian Miracle: Economic Growth and Public Policy. Washington, DC: The World Bank, 1993.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Singapore. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Singapore. London: Economist Intelligent Unit, January 2001.

Eliot, Joshua, and Jane Bickersteth. Singapore Handbook. NTCPublishing Group, 1999.

Kuan Yew, Lee. From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000.

Monetary Authority of Singapore. <>.Accessed October 2001.

Peebles, Gavin, and Peter Wilson. The Singapore Economy. NewYork: Edward Elgar, 1996.

Singapore Exchange. <>. AccessedOctober 2001.

Singapore Government Web Site. <>. AccessedOctober 2001.

Singapore: Selected Issues. IMF Staff Country Report No. 00/83. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, July 2000.

Singapore: Your Compelling Global Hub for Business and Investment. <>. Accessed October 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <http://>. Accessed September 2001.

Rafis Abazov




Singapore dollar (S$). One dollar equals 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 cents, and 1 dollar. There are notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 10,000 dollars.


Machinery and equipment (including electronics), chemicals, and mineral fuels.


Machinery and equipment, mineral fuel, chemicals, and foodstuffs.


US$109.8 billion (2000 est.).


Exports: US$137 billion (2000 est.). Imports: US$127 billion (2000 est.).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Singapore
Region (Map name): Southeast Asia
Population: 4,300,419
Language(s): Chinese (official), Malay (official and national), Tamil, English
Literacy rate: 93.5%
Area: 647.5 sq km
GDP: 92,252 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 9
Total Circulation: 1,096,000
Circulation per 1,000: 366
Number of Nondaily Newspapers: 3
Total Circulation: 115,000
Circulation per 1,000: 38
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 731 (Singapore $ millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 49.90
Number of Television Stations: 6
Number of Television Sets: 1,330,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 309.3
Number of Cable Subscribers: 254,000
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 63.5
Number of Radio Stations: 18
Number of Radio Receivers: 2,600,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 604.6
Number of Individuals with Computers: 1,941,000
Computers per 1,000: 451.4
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 1,200,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 279.0

Background & General Characteristics

The Republic of Singapore consists of a 240-square-mile island and several other surrounding smaller ones located in Southeast Asia. The main island (whose territory also includes some land reclaimed from the sea) is connected to Johor, the southernmost state of peninsular Malaysia, by a causeway. Close by and directly south are the many islands that make up the Republic of Indonesia. Singapore is a multiethnic, cosmopolitan state with a population consisting overwhelmingly of Chinese (77 percent), followed by Malays (15 percent) and Indians (6 percent); Eurasians and others constitute the rest. Singapore is city-state with a highly concentrated urbanized population and no rural areas or peasant population to speak of. Most Singaporeans live in government controlled, though individually owned, apartments (through the Housing and Development Board, a statutory agency) in multi-story high rise buildings that dot the urban landscape.

Singapore originated as a small Malay fishing village that belonged to the Sultan of Johor. A British colonialist, Stamford Raffles, purchased it on behalf of the East India Company and began the course of its contemporary development. Raffles saw potential for setting up a trading post on the island given Singapore's deep, natural harbor. Following increased immigration (primarily from China, and India) and the expansion of trade, Singapore became a Crown Colony, administered directly by the British government. It was occupied briefly by the Japanese following the surrender of British forces in Southeast Asia during World War II. After the British returned there were increasing calls for local self-government. In 1959, an elected government led by the People's Action Party (PAP) and its leader, Lee Kuan Yew, achieved internal power, although external affairs and defense continued to rest with the British Government. Singapore joined the newly formed Federation of Malaysia in 1963 along with former British colonies Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo. After a brief and rocky association it left the Federation in 1965 through a mutual agreement to become an independent country.

The emergence of Singapore from an obscure Southeast Asian island dependent on entrepot trade derived from its neighbors (primarily, Malaysia and Indonesia) to an internationally known hub for the global economy in the short span of three decades has been nothing short of spectacular. Geoffrey Murray and Audrey Perera in their book, Singapore: The Global City-State trace what is often described as Singapore's economic miracle to "a five pronged policyfree trade, high savings, full employment and an equitable wage policy, a foreign-investment friendly environment and a development-oriented government." Beginning with rapid industrialization in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Singapore successfully moved its infrastructure and population into various highly skilled business and financial services, the high technology, as well as information technology sectors of the international economy; the hallmarks, arguably, of a flourishing post-industrial economy. Its major trading partners range from all over the world and are led by the United States, followed by Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia and Germany. Singapore is therefore almost always classified in international economic and human development rankings as having achieved the status of an affluent developed country (e.g., per capita gross national product for the year 2000 is estimated at US$21,828).

Singapore has four official languages, namely English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay and Tamil. These principal languages are used in all governmental communication with members of the public, imprinted on national currency, taught in government-run or recognized primary and secondary schools, and allowed to be used in radio and television broadcasts. However, English is predominant in all legislative, bureaucratic and judicial matters, tertiary education institutions, and major commercial transactions. It is considered the language of national integration. English is spoken by 20.3 percent of the population and even more widely understood; Mandarin is spoken by 26 percent while 36.7 percent are conversant in other Chinese dialects (e.g., Hokkien, Cantonese etc). The linguistic minorities consist of 13.4 percent of the population who speak Malay and 2.9 percent who speak Tamil. In school, following an official policy of bilingualism, all students are required to study and take public examinations that include tests in English and their respective mother tongues. Although the Chinese speak many dialects, and Indians different languages, it is assumed that the "mother tongues" they will be learning in school are Mandarin Chinese and Tamil, respectively. This policy which effectively ensures that all Singaporeans (regardless of ethnic background) will learn English, along with the nation's increasing participation in the international economy, accounts for the continued predominance of English on the island.

Modern Press

Given its high rates of affluence and literacy, it is no surprise that Singapore has had and continues to enjoy equally high rates of newspaper readership for its technically well laid out and attractive newspapers. It is estimated that in 1998, total newspaper circulation stood at 1,056,000. The press in Singapore publishes in all four of its official languages. The English press has captured almost half (49.1 percent) of the total circulation, with Chinese newspapers (43.9 percent) following closely behind. Malay (6.2 percent) and Tamil (0.8 percent) newspapers rank far below. The most important players in the Singapore press scene are therefore, the English and Chinese newspapers. The major newspapers and their 1998 circulations in rank order are as follows: The Straits Times, an English daily morning newspaper that was founded in 1845, had a circulation of 369,773. The Lianhe Zaobao (United Morning News), a Chinese morning daily with a circulation of 202,063 and its afternoon counterpart the Lianhe Wamboa (United Evening News) with a circulation of 129,715, are next in rank order. Both of these newspapers were established in 1983 as a result of the government-influenced merger of two other competing older Chinese newspapers (the Nanyang Siang Pau and the Sin Chew Jit Poh ). In fourth place is a slightly older (established in 1967) Chinese newspaper, the Shin Min Daily, an afternoon newspaper with a circulation of 112,497. Fifth is an afternoon English daily established in 1988, The New Paper, with a circulation of 107,080. Other smaller published newspapers include a Malay morning daily, Berita Harian (1957; Daily News), a trade and commerce-oriented English daily, Business Times, and a Tamil morning daily, Tamil Murasu (1935; Tamil Herald). A recent entrant is the English morning newspaper Today, which is said to be distributed to nearly 100,000 homes and offices, and as far as can be determined, free of charge. It provides shorter and pithier articles for individual readers whose busy schedules presumably make it difficult for them to peruse weightier newspapers leisurely.

As may be expected, the Sunday editions of all of the newspapers mentioned above generally enjoy somewhat higher circulation numbers than their daily counterparts.

In general, the morning newspapers are thought to constitute the elite or quality press. Newspapers published in the afternoon are more popular or sensation-oriented, catering less to long-term subscribers and more to those buying on a whim. However, in the Singaporean context, sensationalism (primarily using large, bold headlines and photographs combined with news and features that focus on sports, movies, personalities, "human interest," and sex) has a much tamer and more restrictive definition in comparison to similarly oriented publications in Japan, India or the West.

Economic Framework

Until the early 2000s all of the local daily newspapers that circulated on the island of Singapore were owned and operated by one entity, the publicly owned Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). While the company's stocks are publicly traded, there are two types of shares whose monetary value is similar: ordinary and management shares. SPH monopolizes the daily newspaper market with a combined circulation of more than one million copies in the various languages, morning and afternoon. SPH also publishes several periodicals such as Home and Decor (English; focuses on home design and interior decoration), Her World (English; intended for women) and You Weekly (Chinese; entertainment, lifestyle and television). In addition, it has diversified and become involved in other businesses: these include other communication-related areas such as cable television, cellular phone and Internet services, as well as in other sectors such as commercial real estate property investments. Eddie Kuo and Peng Hwa Ang declare that SPH is a highly profitable company that employs 3,000 workers. If SPH's publication patterns are examined closely, it will be noticed that with minor exceptions, newspapers in their stable do not necessarily compete with each other in terms of language of publication and time of day. The sole exception to this is the competition in the afternoon for Chinese readers between the Lianhe Wambao and the Shin Min.

In an effort to provide a modicum of competition to various publications belonging to the SPH, the government has licensed the entry of a newspaper (Today ) from the newly formed Media Corporation of Singapore (MCS). This corporation is the result of the conversion of Singapore's previously government-owned organization (originally formed as a government department) that runs all of its television channels and radio stations into a private corporation. Both groups will continue to retain their near monopoly over their core businesses (print publications for SPH and broadcast outlets in the case of MCS). However, in return for facing the new competition in the newspaper sector, SPH is being allowed to own and operate two direct to air television channels and two radio stations. Both companies were also expected to expand their presence on the Internet and into multimedia content delivery. It is assumed that the resulting competition between the two groups in the various forms of mass communication will be beneficial in two ways. First, it would help raise the overall quality of locally produced content and second, ensure that Singaporeans continue to retain their preference for news, features and other content that focuses on their immediate environment as delivered to them by locally owned organizations.

In 2002, the Minister of Information, Communications and the Arts announced that a new agency, the Media Development Authority (MDA) would supervise all forms of media operating in Singapore, including newspapers. In addition to helping develop local media content and encouraging investment, the MDA would ensure that communication outlets pay attention to the twin national goals of maintaining social harmony and furthering economic growth. Further, this agency will help enhance competition between, and the maintenance of quality by, the two major media groups, the SPH and the MCS.

Similar to newspapers in other countries, the bulk of newspaper earnings in Singapore come from advertising and not from the sale of papers either individually or by subscription. Unlike other countries, however, newspapers in the republic continue to dominate other media in terms of advertising revenue earnings. This can be contrasted to the experience of countries such as the US, where over time, television in its various forms surged to become the main forum by which advertisers reach consumers. It is estimated that half the total advertising dollars (US $689 million in 1998) spent in Singapore are for advertising in newspapers, as opposed to slightly more than a third for television advertising. Until recently advertising in The Straits Times, the English newspaper of record, was so popular that it found itself in the enviable position of turning away advertisers for lack of space in its daily and Sunday editions. Other forms of media (radio, magazines, and movies) typically score percentages of advertising dollars in the single digits.

The distribution of newspapers in Singapore is carried out by both traditional and contemporary means. Traditional means include the extensive use of vendors (these are usually contractors, although attempts are being made to convert them to employee status) who distribute newspapers to home subscribers in specified territories. Reputedly, some of these areas were demarcated in the past with the help of criminal gangs or secret societies. Typically, a vendor would distribute around 1,000 copies of all newspapers belonging to SPH to homes in the multistory apartment buildings of a given area. This is complemented by sales at newsstands, mainly for impulse buyers (there is overlap between these two methods, i.e., vendors may be associated with running a particular newsstand). This existing network has been supplemented by more contemporary means of distributing newspapers that include selling them at gasoline filling stations, neighborhood convenience stores, supermarkets, and pharmacies. Interestingly, SPH has also experimented with selling newspapers using solar powered vending machines in the busier parts of Singapore.

Press Laws

The press in Singapore, in addition to functioning on the basis of the expectation that it help foster national interests as defined by the government, is also under the latter's strict supervision, as it has to operate within a number of legal constraints. The principal and most comprehensive piece of legislation that affects print publications is the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act (1974) or NPPA. This legislation (derived from the colonial Printing Presses Act of 1920) allows the Singapore government to wield a three-pronged strategy in controlling the press, its ownership, personnel and ultimately, published content. First, it requires that all publications (local and foreign), printers, and the primary personnel associated with those publications, to be registered with and licensed by the government and to have those permits renewed every year. Thus, it would not be difficult for the government to deny licenses to particular individuals or groups, or to refuse to renew permits for those publications that were deemed to have overstepped their bounds in terms of critical or offensive content. Second, any given individual or group can only own three percent or less of the total stock of a newspaper company. This was a way of breaking up the family-owned newspapers that had existed earlier and ensuring that such concentrations of ownership does not return. Third, the NPPA envisages two types of shareholders. Only persons approved by the government are allowed to buy what are referred to as "management shares" while others may buy ordinary shares. The difference between the two is in terms of voting power, specifically on editorial policy and personnel decisions. Each "management share" vote is worth two hundred times the vote of an ordinary share. By possessing the power of approval over who may own or buy these "management shares" the Singapore government indirectly exercises control and direction over those allowed to have a say in the editorial governance of all local newspapers and magazines.

A 1986 amendment to the NPPA allows the government's Ministry of Communication to reduce the number of copies circulated in Singapore of any foreign publication that was labeled as engaging in domestic politics. This gives the government broad latitude in terms of reducing the availability of a particular publication within the republic without seeming to suppress or eliminate it completely. It is also an effective mechanism for hitting a publication where it hurts, its circulation figures and consequently, its advertising revenues. Over the years several international and regional newsweeklies such as Time, Asian Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Far Eastern Economic Review, and the now defunct Asiaweek, have fallen victim to this provision of the NPPA. Typically, the charge of interfering in domestic politics followed that publication's critical coverage of the government's political actions (e.g., alleged unfair treatment of the miniscule opposition parties or its members) or business news defined as negative. This usually went along with the refusal or reluctance of the concerned publication to publish letters on the disputed matter from government officials in their entirety and without editing. In some instances, following conciliatory actions, the circulations of some affected publications were partially or completely restored. Although not enforced in every case, foreign publications are also required to post a bond of nearly $500,000 (Singapore) "in case of future journalistic indiscretions."

In addition to specific laws that deal with libel and defamation (over the years, many Singapore leaders have gone to court on these grounds and won several judgments and large financial damages against publications and journalists) and copyright infringement, there are a few other important laws that affects press operations. One is the Undesirable Publications Act that prohibits the sale, importation or dissemination of foreign publications defined as contrary to the public interest. Although broadly defined, the specific targets of this law have often been publications construed as publishing obscene, pornographic material or seen as advocating alternative sexual lifestyles. An earlier piece of legislation from before Singapore's independence, the Internal Security Act, has rarely been used against the press in recent times; however, it allows the government to detain journalists without judicial review in the interests of national security, broadly defined. In contrast and rather unexpectedly, the Official Secrets Act that generally targets espionage has been used against financial journalists belonging to the Business Times who reported on economic growth figures before the numbers were officially released by the government.

In addition to these legal weapons, it should be understood that the likelihood of winning cases in court in which the government is the opposing party is generally slim in Singapore. As a result, it is fair to say that local newspapers have adapted themselves to their specified functions of providing education and information within the existing setup in Singapore. They are therefore, not likely to challenge continuing restrictions on the basis of the need for greater freedom of the press. Foreign publications that may do so face consequences such as suffering circulation cuts that that are almost equivalent to an outright ban and strictures on the entry and work of their correspondents. Consequently, some foreign publications have withdrawn from active, continuous coverage of Singapore.


It is important to note that censorship in its most blatant form, prior screening of the content of publications by a designated government or statutory agency, does not exist in Singapore, although radio, television and movies have historically been subject to such censorship. However, as noted earlier, the government exerts a variety of means of control over newspaper personnel, functioning and distribution. These include, among others, official criticism (hectoring and scolding newspapers for the nature, style and tone of certain content along with the insistence of an automatic right of reply) as well as administrative and managerial (e.g., a senior and long standing government intelligence official was placed in charge of a major newspaper), commercial (management shares can only be owned by government approved individuals) and legal (licensing; the threat of libel lawsuits) weapons. Both former Prime Minister Lee and current Prime Minister Goh Chok Thong, many ministries and ministers, government departments, statutory bodies and their senior officials have not hesitated to comment and criticize newspapers for various "lapses." Given the range of powers that these government entities and representatives command, newspapers and journalists on their own do not generally engage in published criticism of national leaders or their actions.

Two additional factors need to be taken into account. First, surveys of Singaporeans have shown repeatedly that a large majority is happy with the current content and coverage of their country by the local press, and do not necessarily want aggressive, combative or crusading journalism. Next, the government alone is seen (by both journalists and ruling politicians alike) as having the right to set the national agenda and priorities, by virtue of having won elections and repeatedly received a mandate for its policies from the people.

A relatively new, though important, anti-censorship force is the rise of the Internet and electronic communication. Singapore became the second country (after Malaysia) in Asia to provide Internet service access to its citizens in mid-1994 and subscriptions are said to have grown to around 670,000 users in mid-1999. The major newspapers belonging to SPH have developed their own separate news-oriented websites, partly in response to reports that newspaper readership among those below 30 is declining. Singapore's officially expressed desire to move forward to become a wired, knowledge-based economy or what is often called an "intelligent island" drives the dilemma faced by those who may wish to restrict the flow of "undesirable" information and content from elsewhere. This means that unlike earlier times and with other media, given the global structure, libertarian culture and democratic ethos of the Internet, censorship would be difficult, if not impossible. While official guidelines and filtering systems are in place, Singapore's leaders have begun to acknowledge that education of, and self-regulation by, the individual subscriber may be the only answer to this dilemma. Already, government officials have begun discussing the difficulties of formulating and deploying top down, stringent controls over the far-flung and variegated information and education sources that characterize the information age. For example, they have decided to review the ban on satellite dishes which are currently available only to foreign embassies, financial institutions and other selected agencies and not to the public. This ban is particularly ironic in that several regional satellite television companies have located themselves in Singapore, but can only broadcast to other countries. They have also made suggestions that, unlike the past, attempting to block the publication of what it does not like by targeting a particular newspaper or magazine may not be productive. Instead, government may be better served by insisting strenuously to the newspaper or other content provider that the former's views and versions of events be also carried and given equal weight. Under this scenario, the newspaper subscriber reads and learns the facts and arguments from both viewpoints and decides on his or her own what to believe.

State-Press Relations

Politically, the government continues to be dominated by the People's Action Party (PAP), which has won every election since independence, and which generally espouses highly interventionist governmental policies and an iron grip over various spheres of Singapore's social and cultural life (including mass communication media). In its earlier days, the party campaigned as a socialist entity. However, in the 1970s and later, it generally abandoned socialism in order to embrace "free trade" and to spur investments by foreign multinational corporations. Although the PAP's proportionate share of total votes cast in regularly held elections has declined somewhat (the high point being 76 percent in 1980) it has generally enjoyed supermajorities in Parliament, usually holding 90 to 100 percent of the seats. During election campaigns, it is not uncommon for the PAP to suggest or state that given the impossibility of the small opposition coming to power, constituencies that elected members of the latter would not be allotted government funded improvements. Critics have also decried the PAP and its leaders for their authoritarian and paternalistic tendencies. However, unlike many other developing countries dominated or controlled by a single party, the PAP's governance of Singapore has also earned kudos and respect for its stability, farsightedness, efficiency, competence, and the general absence of corruption.

For more than three decades, the PAP-led government of Singapore has played an active role in controlling and directing the mass communication media of the country by making sure that they did not become focal points for criticism and opposition. Radio and television in the early years of Singapore's independence were already under direct government control, although newspapers were privately owned (often by families). Two English language daily newspapers, Eastern Sun (accused of being backed by Communists) and Singapore Herald (accused of being overly critical of various government policies such as compulsory national service) were closed down. Personnel associated with the Chinese language daily Nanyang Siang Pau were detained for stirring up racial prejudice. Later, pressure was brought to bear on local newspapers against covering or publicizing the tiny opposition parties and their leaders. Some newspapers were required to merge, and some to cease publication while new ones were created. Foreign publications regarded as meddling in local politics were targeted for reductions in circulation, sued for libel and their correspondents not given work visas. The general approach to the press by the Singapore government can be seen to embody features of what many observers characterize as its customary and unapologetic "soft authoritarianism" on all sectors of, and matters pertaining to, the republic. To justify such an approach, Singaporeans are often reminded of riots and disturbances that took place in the past as a result of alleged adverse or chauvinistic newspaper coverage and interpretation of inter-ethnic matters.

In recent times, several Singaporean leaders and intellectuals have attempted to articulate a formal rationale for the continued existence of strict political control and legal constraints over constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of association, assembly, speech and expression. Allowing members of the public and the press the unfettered exercise of these rights, they have argued, is inimical to the interests of maintaining order in a highly sensitive multiethnic Singaporean society that possesses only a fragile and recently acquired sense of nationhood. In particular, they have proposed that in contrast to the highly individualistic Western democracies that are the source of these "individualistic" ideas, Singapore needs to be guided by "Asian values," defined by Michael Haas as: "(1) community before self, (2) the family as the basic unit of society, (3) consensus rather than competition to resolve conflicts, (4) racial and religious tolerance and harmony, and (5) community support for the individual." Members of Singapore's ruling elite often use these identified values (said to be derived from Confucianism and also shared by other Asian cultures) to distance Singaporean society from the "decadence" of, and to proclaim its superiority to, the West, where these values do not hold sway. Thus, open and forceful criticism of the government as well as any portrayal of its members in a negative light are seen as luxuries that Singapore (and, by implication, other Asian societies) cannot afford to indulge in. This not only because these pursuits fritter away energies better spent fostering government-led economic development, but also because such criticism violates the important values of consensus, harmony, and communitarianism. However, critics are quick to point out that these arguments are clearly self-serving for those in power and serve more to reinforce the existing status quo. The constant harping on Asian values and the denigration of individual rights and freedoms is used, according to Haas, to "persuade the public that any deviation from PAP rule would bring economic disaster to Singapore," and for "telling the people what to think."

Singapore media are regularly placed by Freedom House's annual international rankings of press freedom in the category "not free." For the republic's media, the concept of Asian values, as promoted by the government translates as follows. The press and other communication outlets are expected to function as responsible team players putting national and governmental interests over the freedom to disseminate anything and everything that they may wish to publish or broadcast. In contrast to the Western notion of the press as an active watchdog over the government and its officials, in Singapore its pro-government role is to faithfully communicate national plans, priorities and pronouncements to the public and "to promote numerous campaigns, initiated and managed by the government." Thus, casual visitors to the country are likely to be struck by the notable absence of political controversy, criticism and bickering in the pages of Singapore's newspapers, and their uniform toeing of the governmental line in terms of viewpoints on almost all national and international issues.

Broadcast Media

For a variety of reasons, the broadcast media (radio and television) have historically been under government control in Singapore. In 1994, the government's broadcast holdings were spun off as a corporation, Singapore International Media, whose name was changed in 1999 to Media Corporation of Singapore (MCS). As noted previously, MCS has recently entered the newspaper market to compete with SPH, which previously monopolized this sector. MCS currently runs four core direct-to-air television stations (broadcasting programs in the four official languages), a regional news channel (Channel News Asia), a teletext service, an outdoor television channel for commuters and public areas, and is in the process of introducing digital broadcasting. In terms of its radio holdings, it controls 11 core stations (programming in all official languages), another that broadcasts specifically to certain groups within Singapore's expatriate population (Japanese, German, and French programming) and a foreign service, Radio Singapore International. Further, it is expanding into digital audio broadcasting. The earlier broadcasting monopoly of MCS is also being challenged by the entry of SPH into the television market in 2001 with two news channels in English and Chinese.


The press in Singapore has a history that is more than 150 years old. Similar to the republic's population, it is both modern and efficient in its setup, operations, and layout. At the same time, it continues to be subject to strict government policies and legal restraints that have served to constrain it in the interests of national development and communal harmony. Given the expansion of sources and options for Singaporeans to be informed, educated, and entertained, today, the press can be characterized accurately as being in the throes of transition and change. This change process encompasses both Singapore's media (e.g., managed competition between multimedia companies that were previously protected sectoral monopolies) and its government (e.g., rethinking of official policies designed historically to curb the flow of "undesirable" information).


Haas, Michael, ed. The Singapore Puzzle. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1999.

Kuo, Eddie C. Y. "The role of the media in the management of ethnic relations." In Goonasekera, Anura and Youichi Ito, eds., Mass Media and Cultural Identity: Ethnic Reporting in Asia. London: Pluto Press, 1999.

Kuo, Eddie C. Y., and Peng Hwa Ang. "Singapore" Pp. 402-428 In Gunaratne, Shelton A., ed. Handbook of the Media in Asia. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2000.

Murray, Geoffrey, and Audrey Perera. Singapore: The Global City-State. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.

N. Prabha Unnithan

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Singapore (sĬng´gəpôr, sĬng´ə–, sĬng´gəpôr´), officially Republic of Singapore, republic (2005 est. pop. 4,426,000), 299 sq mi (774 sq km). It consists of the island of Singapore and about 60 small adjacent islands at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, SE Asia. Singapore city, the capital, largest city, and chief port, is administratively coextensive with the republic. The distinction between Singapore and Singapore city has virtually disappeared, as the island is almost entirely urbanized.


Lying just north of the equator and located between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, Singapore is situated at the convergence of some of the world's major sea-lanes. It is separated from Indonesia to the south by the Singapore Strait and from Malaysia to the north by the Johore Strait. Singapore island is low-lying and is composed of a granitic core (rising to 580 ft/177 m at Bukit Timah, the country's highest point) surrounded by sedimentary lowlands. Singapore has a tropical rain-forest climate with uniformly high temperatures and rainfall throughout the year. The island was once covered by rain forest, which is now limited to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The coast is broken by many inlets. Keppel Harbor, the heart of the port of Singapore, is a natural deepwater anchorage between Singapore and the islands of Brani and Sentosa (Blakang Mati), off the S central coast of Singapore island.

The older urban areas of the city lie to the north and northeast of the port. Jurong Industrial Estate (c.20 sq mi/50 sq km), an industrial park built largely on reclaimed swampland, is in SW Singapore. The city-state's architecture is a mix of British colonial, traditional Malay and Chinese, and modern. Among Singapore's notable buildings are the city hall, the Raffles Hotel, the Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall, the bristly, aluminum-clad Esplanade performance complex and the nearby Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel, and Old St. Andrew's Cathedral. The National Univ. of Singapore, the Nanyang Technological Univ., the Ngee Ann Polytechnic, and the Singapore Polytechnic are the leading educational institutions, and there are art, history, and science museums. Singapore has a botanic garden, a zoo, and a bird park as well as many parks. Sentosa island has been developed as a recreation and amusement complex.


As a city-state, Singapore is one of the world's most densely populated countries with about 12,000 people per sq mi (about 4,600 people per sq km). A massive urban renewal program, begun in the 1960s, has replaced virtually all of Singapore's slums with modern housing units. As a result of family planning and a strict immigration policy, the annual rate of population increase has declined to just over 1%, down from 4.5% in the 1950s. The population is over 75% Chinese; the largest minorities are Malays (14%) and South Asians (8%). Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Hinduism, and Christianity are the main religions of Singapore. The country has four official languages: Mandarin, English, Malay, and Tamil.


Less than 5% of Singapore's land is used for agriculture. Tropical fruits, orchids, and vegetables are intensively cultivated; rubber and copra are produced; and poultry, hogs, and tropical fish are raised. There are no exploitable natural resources in the country. Its power is produced by thermoelectric plants, and water is supplied by a number of reservoirs. Singapore has a fine rapid transit system, good roads, a railroad that crosses the island, and a causeway carrying road and rail traffic to the mainland.

Singapore's workforce is employed primarily in manufacturing, in the service industries, and in commerce, with a negligible proportion engaged in agriculture. The country has become a major center of international finance in recent decades. The economy slowed as a result of the Asian financial crisis of 1997–98 and the 2001 recession, but unemployment and inflation remained low. The increasing importance of China in manufacturing and finance, however, is seen as a threat to Singapore's future economic growth, and the nation has sought to develop its tourism industry (including casino gambling).

Singapore is one of the world's greatest commercial centers, with a large, modern port. Commerce has historically been the chief source of income. For many years the largest importer in Southeast Asia, Singapore is a free port and an entrepôt that reexports more than half of what it imports, notably rubber, petroleum, textiles, timber, and tin. It also exports locally manufactured goods such as computers and telecommunications equipment, petroleum products, oil drilling equipment, plastics, rubber products, and processed food and beverages. The country imports most of its food.

Singapore's chief trading partners are Malaysia, the United States, China, Japan, and Indonesia. With more than 300 factories and deepwater wharves, the Jurong Industrial Estate is Southeast Asia's largest industrial complex. It and the Changi International Airport are built largely on infill of marsh and shallow waters of the straits. The country has a number of large petroleum storage and refining facilities, and Keppel Harbor is one of the world's largest container-handling facilities. Development of the former British naval base at Sembawang on the Johore Strait as a commercial shipyard helped to enhance Singapore's status as a major center for shipbuilding and repairs.


Singapore is governed under the constitution of 1959 as amended. The country has a parliamentary form of government. The president, who is head of state, is popularly elected for a six-year term. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president. The unicameral legislature consists of the 84-seat Parliament, whose members are popularly elected for five-year terms; additional members may be appointed. The supreme court, the nation's highest judicial body, has seven members. The People's Action party (PAP) is the most important of Singapore's numerous political parties; it has been in power since 1959.


The Development of Singapore

Singapore was a trading center in the Srivijaya empire before it was destroyed in the 14th cent. by the Majapahit empire. It later became part of Johore (see Johor) in the Malacca Sultanate. The sparsely populated island was ceded (1819) to the British East India Company through the efforts of Sir T. Stamford Raffles; he founded the modern city of Singapore there that same year. In 1824, Singapore came under the complete control of the British and, although containing only a small fishing and trading village, quickly attracted Chinese and Malay merchants. The port grew rapidly, soon overshadowing Penang (see Pinang) and Malacca (see Melaka) in importance. With them Singapore became part of the Straits Settlements in 1826.

The development of Malaya under British rule in the late 19th and early 20th cent. made Singapore one of the leading ports of the world for the export of tin and rubber. The construction of a railroad through the Malay Peninsula to Bangkok swelled Singapore's trade, and the building of airports made it more than ever a communication center. A naval base at Sembawang, begun in 1924, was completed in 1938; the island, sometimes called the Malta of the East, was reinforced in the early days of World War II. After the swift Japanese campaign in Malaya, however, Singapore was successfully attacked across the Johore Strait, and on Feb. 15, 1942, the British garrison surrendered; Singapore was reoccupied by the British in Sept., 1945. In 1946, Singapore, no longer a part of the Straits Settlements, was constituted a crown colony, with Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Following a decade of Communist terrorism, Singapore, separated from Christmas Island and the Cocos-Keeling islands, became (June, 1959) a self-governing state.

Modern Singapore

In the 1959 general elections the People's Action party (PAP) won control of the government and continued in power after winning the 1963 elections. Under the policies of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's economic base was strengthened and a greater degree of social and cultural homogeneity was achieved. With the establishment in the 1960s of the Economic Development Board, the Development Bank of Singapore, and the International Trading Company and the subsequent influx of foreign investment, Singapore's industrial base was diversified, expanded, and modernized. Following a referendum (1962), Singapore merged (Aug., 1963) with Malaya, Sarawak, and Sabah to form the Federation of Malaysia. Frictions soon arose, however, and Singapore was, by mutual agreement, separated from the federation in Aug., 1965, becoming an independent republic. The exclusion of Singapore was largely due to Malay fears of Singapore's Chinese majority and its potential economic domination in the federation.

Singapore has remained in the Commonwealth of Nations, and it joined the United Nations in 1965; it was one of the founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967. Close strategic ties to the United States are reflected in an agreement that provides access to Singapore's naval base by American warships. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was the dominant figure in Singapore's authoritarian political environment until his resignation in 1990 after 31 years in office. Singapore experienced steady economic growth and diversification during his tenure, but the country was criticized internationally during the 1980s and 1990s for severe treatment of political dissidents and a harsh system of justice.

In 1990, Goh Chok Tong became prime minister, but Lee retained considerable governmental influence, staying on as senior minister. In 1993, Ong Teng Cheong, former chairman of the PAP, became Singapore's first directly elected president. Despite the government party's overwhelming victory at the polls during the 1997 legislative elections, there were indications of growing popular opposition. Following an economic downturn in 1998, Singapore cut wages and allowed its currency to adjust downward, but it solidified its position as a world financial center. Sellapan Ramanathan (S. R. Nathan), running unopposed as the PAP's endorsed candidate, was elected president in 1999.

In legislative elections in 2001, the PAP again was swept into office, as a fragmented opposition failed to field candidates in 65% of the constituencies. Goh stepped down as prime minister in 2004 and was succeeded by Lee Hsien Loong, son of Lee Kuan Yew. The elder Lee remained in the government as minister mentor, and Goh succeeded him as senior minister. President Nathan was reelected in 2005. In the 2006 legislative elections more than 50% of the constituencies were contested, but the PAP again swept nearly all the seats.

By early 2009, Singapore's economy was severely affected by the global recession, which led to significant drop in exports, but the economy recovered as the year progressed. The 2011 elections saw nearly all the constiuencies contested, and the opposition garnered 40% of the vote, but PAP won more than 90% of the seats. The elder Lee and Goh stepped down after the elections. Later in the year Tony Tan, a former deputy prime minister, was elected president in a closely contested election.


See N. Barber, A Sinister Twilight: The Fall of Singapore, 1942 (1968); J. W. Salaff, State and Family in Singapore (1988); T. Li, Singapore Malay Society (1989); C. M. Turnbull, A History of Singapore, 1819–1985 (2d ed. 1989); J. Minchin, No Man Is an Island (2d ed. 1990); Lee Kuan Yew, From Third World to First: The Singapore Story, 1965–2000 (2000).

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Official name: Republic of Singapore

Area: 648 square kilometers (250 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Bukit Timah (166 meters/545 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 8 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 42 kilometers (26 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest; 23 kilometers (14 miles) from south-southeast to north-northwest

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 193 kilometers (120 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 5.6 kilometers (3 nautical miles)


The Republic of Singapore consists of a main island and sixty-three islets just south of the tip of the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia. Singapore, the second smallest country in Asia, is often described as a city-state. The diamond-shaped main island, which accounts for all but about 38 square kilometers (15 square miles) of the republic's area, is almost entirely urban. With a total area of 648 square kilometers (250 square miles), Singapore is nearly 3.5 times the size of Washington, D.C.


Singapore has no territories or dependencies.


Singapore has a humid, rainy, tropical climate, with temperatures moderated by the seas surrounding the islands. Temperatures are nearly uniform throughout the year, averaging 25°C (77°F) in January and 27°C (81°F) in June. Although the island lies between 1 and 2 degrees north of the equator, the maritime influences moderate the heat of the region. The highest temperature ever recorded in Singapore is only 36°C (97°F).

Singapore is very humid, with heavy rainfall all year. Annual rainfall averages 237 centimeters (93 inches). The northeast monsoon that occurs between November and March brings the heaviest rainfall of the year.


The main island has three major geographic divisions: an elevated, hilly area in the center; a section of lower, rolling land to the west; and flatlands to the east. Singapore's smaller islands are low-lying with coastal beaches.


Singapore is located between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

Seacoast and Undersea Features

The coastal waters surrounding Singapore are generally less than 30 meters (100 feet) deep.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Singapore is bordered on the north by the Johore Strait, which separates it from the Malay Peninsula, on the southeast by the Singapore Strait, and on the southwest by the Strait of Malacca.

Islands and Archipelagos

After Singapore Island, the next-largest island in the country is Pulau Tekong Besar to the northeast, with an area of only 18 square kilometers (7 square miles).

Coastal Features

The easternmost part of the coastline is smooth, but the rest has many indentations; the most important of these is the deep natural harbor at the mouth of the Singapore River on the southern coast.


Singapore has no significant natural lakes, but it has fourteen artificial bodies of water that were created by the construction of reservoirs.


Singapore's rivers are all short, including its main river, which has the same name as the island itself. The Singapore River flows into the wide harbor on the island's southeastern coast. Other rivers include the Seletar (at 14 Singapore's kilometers/9 miles, the longest on the island), Jurong, Kalang, Kranji, and Serangoon.


There are no deserts in Singapore.


Aside from Bukit Timah Hill, the main island's highest point, Singapore's central hills include Mandai and Panjang. Lower ridges extend northwest-to-southeast in the western and southern parts of the island.


The highest land on Singapore is a ridge of rugged hills in the center of the island. The highest is Bukit Timah Hill, at 165 meters (545 feet).


Singapore has no significant caves or canyons.


The eastern part of the main island is a low, eroded plateau.


The Johore Causeway, built in the 1920s, is fewer than 3 kilometers (1 mile) long. It bridges the Johore Strait, connecting Singapore to the Malaysian state of Johore. A second causeway opened in 1999. Land reclamation has added almost 15 square kilometers (6 square miles) to Singapore's total territory since 1966, mostly along the southeast coast, including reclamation on nearby islands.

Fourteen reservoirs have been built on Singapore's rivers for flood control as well as for private and industrial water use. Almost all the reservoirs are located in the center of the island or at the mouths of rivers on the northeastern or western coasts. Among the largest are Seretar and Upper Pierce, both of which are situated in the center of the island.



Fuller, Barbara. Berlitz: Discover Singapore. Oxford, England: Berlitz Publishing, 1993.

Rowthorn, Chris, et al. Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 1999.

Singapore and Malaysia. Knopf Guides. New York: Knopf, 1996.

Warren, William. Singapore, City of Gardens. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, 2000.

Web Sites

Lonely Planet: Destination Singapore. (accessed April 15, 2003).

Singapore Tourism Board: North America site. (accessed April 15, 2003).

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SINGAPORE ENGLISHInformally Singlish. The English language as used in Singapore, where it is co-official with Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. The English of Singapore serves as a means of uniting the country, an international medium, and a LINGUA FRANCA. In 1947, 31.6% of students in the colony were in English-medium schools; from 1987, English has been the sole medium of primary, secondary, and tertiary education in the republic. It is the main language of business and commerce, internally and externally, and has an influence extending well beyond the boundaries of the state. Educated Straits-born Chinese (locally known as the Baba Chinese) have traditionally used Baba Malay rather than a Chinese dialect, and currently tend to favour English over both Chinese and other languages. There are at least two forms of Singapore English: the standard variety, based on educated BrE spoken with an RP accent (used in textbooks and by the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation), and a colloquial variety whose forms range from a ‘low’ BASILECT strongly influenced by Chinese and Malay to a ‘high’ ACROLECT that blends with the standard.


(1) English in Singapore is non-RHOTIC and generally syllable-timed. It places more or less equal stress on all syllables, usually with the final syllable of a tone unit somewhat lengthened. (2) Its intonation, often described as ‘SINGSONG’, has many short tone groups; there is no contrastive stress. (3) Final consonants are often unreleased, resulting in glottal stops, as in /hɪ?/ for hit and /stɛ?/ for step. (4) Final consonant clusters are generally reduced to one spoken consonant, such as ‘juss’ for just and ‘toll’ for told. Often a Singaporean will say, for example, ‘slep’ or ‘sle?’, but write slept. Compare grammar point 1, below, on omission of -s and -ed. (5) The vowels in such words as take, so, and dare are often monophthongs: /tɛ?/, /so/, /dɛ/.


(1) There is a tendency to omit the following: articles (You have pen or not?; He went to office yesterday); the plural inflection -s (I got three sister and two brother); the present-tense inflection -s (This radio sound good; My mum, she come from China many year ago); the past-tense inflection -ed/-t (‘ask’ for asked, ‘slep’ for slept; He live there for ‘He lived there’); and the be before adjectives used predicatively (This coffee house cheap). (2) Already is used as a marker of completive aspect: Eight years she work here already She's been working here for eight years. (3) Use to occurs as a marker of habitual aspect: My mother, she use to go to the market My mother goes to the market. (4) Would is used for future events rather than will/shall or the present tense: We hope this would meet your requirements We hope this meets/will meet your requirements. (5) Direct and indirect objects are highlighted by being preposed: This book we don't have; Me you don't give it to. (6) The invariant tags is it?; and isn't it? are common: You check out today, is it?; They come here often, isn't it? (7) There is a preference for also over too and as well: But we are supposed to learn Chinese also. (8) There are various informal ways of checking that someone agrees or disagrees, or can or cannot do something. Yes or not? Like it or not? Can or not? Enough or not? Got or not? (9) Chinese particles, such as lah and aa, are a common means of conveying emphasis and emotion, in effect replacing the intonational features of mainstream English: for example, lah as a token of informal intimacy (Can you come tonight?–Can lah/Cannot lah); aa in yes–no questions (You wait me, aa? Will you wait for me?; I come tonight, aa? Should I come tonight?; You think I scared of you, aa?).


(1) Words borrowed from regional languages: (Malay) makan food, as in Let's have some makan; (Hokkien Chinese) ang pow a gift of money, traditionally in a red packet (the meaning of the Hokkien words). (2) Non-English interjections include: ay yaah! suggesting exasperation; ay yōr! suggesting pain, wonder, or both; ay yēr! indicating a reaction to something unpleasant and perhaps unexpected; che! expressing irritation or regret. (3) Words of English with adapted meanings: send in the sense of ‘take’ (I will send you home); open meaning ‘put on’ (Open the light); take suggesting ‘eat, drink, like’ (Do you take hot food? Do you like spicy food?); off and on as verbs (to off/on the light); off as a noun, for time off (We had our offs changed to Thursdays). (4) Reduplicating of a word so as to intensify or emphasize a point: I like hot-hot curries; Do you speak English?—Broken-broken. (5) Formal and informal registers are less marked off from one another than in BrE, with the result that the highly colloquial and highly formal may co-occur: her deceased hubby rather than her dead husband. See CHINA, MALAYSIAN ENGLISH, PHILIPPINE ENGLISH.

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618sq km (239 sq mi)



capital (population):

Singapore City (2,812,000)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Chinese 78%, Malay 14%, Indian 7%


Chinese, Malay, Tamil and English (all official)


Buddhism, Taoism and other traditional beliefs 54%, Islam 15%, Christianity 13%, Hinduism 4%


Singapore dollar = 100 cents

Island republic in se Asia. Singapore is a small republic at the s tip of the Malay Peninsula. It consists of the large Singapore Island and 59 small islets, of which 20 are inhabited. Singapore Island is c.42km (26mi) wide and 28km (14mi) across. It is linked to the peninsula by a 1056m (3465ft) -long causeway. The land is mostly low-lying; the highest point, Bukit Timah, is only 176m (577ft) above sea level. Its strategic position, at the convergence of some of the world's most vital shipping lanes, ensured its growth.


Singapore has a hot, humid equatorial climate, with temperatures averaging 301/4C (86°F). Total average annual rainfall, 2413mm (95in). Rain occurs (on average) 180 days each year.


Rainforest once covered Singapore, but forests now cover only 5% of the land. Today, most of Singapore is urban land. The distinction between island and city has all but disappeared. Farmland covers 4% of the land and plantations of permanent crops make up 7%.

History and Politics

According to legend, Singapore was founded in 1299. It was first called Temasak (sea town), but was renamed Singapura (city of the lion). Singapore soon became a busy trading centre within the Sumatran Srivijaya kingdom. Javanese raiders destroyed it in 1377. Subsumed into Johor, Singapore became part of the powerful Malacca sultanate. In 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles of the British East India Company leased the island from Johor, and the Company founded the city of Singapore. In 1826, Singapore, Pinang, and Malacca formed the Straits Settlement. Singapore soon became the most important British trading centre in Southeast Asia, and the Straits Settlement became a Crown Colony in 1867. Despite British defensive reinforcements in the early 20th century, Japanese forces seized the island in 1942. British rule returned in 1945. In 1946, the Straits Settlement dissolved and Singapore became a separate colony. In 1959, Singapore achieved self-government. Following a referendum, Singapore merged with Malaya, Sarawak, and Sabah to form the Federation of Malaysia (1963). In 1965, Singapore broke away from the Federation to become an independent republic within the Commonwealth of Nations.

The People's Action Party (PAP) has ruled Singapore since 1959. Its leader, Lee Kuan Yew, served as prime minister from 1959 until 1990, when he resigned Goh Chok Tong succeeded him. Under the PAP, the economy expanded rapidly. Human rights' groups claim that the PAP pursues authoritarian social policies and suppresses political dissent. Goh Chok Tong and the PAP were decisively re-elected in 1997 and 2001.


Singapore is a high-income economy (2000 GDP per capita, US$26,500). It is one of the world's fastest growing (tiger) economies. Historically, Singapore's economy has been based on transshipment, and this remains a vital component. It is one of the world's busiest ports, annually handling more than 290 million tonnes of cargo (1994). The post-1945 economy diversified. Singapore has a highly skilled and productive workforce. The service sector employs 65% of the workforce; banking and insurance provide many jobs. Manufacturing is the largest export sector. Industries include computers and electronics, telecommunications, chemicals, machinery, scientific instruments, ships, and textiles. It has a large oil refinery. Agriculture is relatively unimportant. Most farming is highly intensive, and farmers use the latest technology and scientific methods.

Political map

Physical map


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The Singaporeans are not an ethnic group, but simply citizens of the Republic of Singapore, which was established in 1959. Before that time Singapore was a part of Malaysia, one island at the southern tip of the peninsula. The term "Singaporean" was little-used in the literature before independence.

The name "Singapore" was adopted on 23 February 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles to designate the town he had founded. It was, however, a name of considerable antiquity, for in the form of "Simhapura," Sanskrit for "lion-city," it had been applied to a trading town of some importance in this locality since about the fourteenth century, when it had been established by Malay or Javanese settlers. (Other etymologies have been proposed.) Although Singapore was originally a name for both the island and Raffles's town on its southern coast, spreading urbanization in the twentieth century has now covered almost the entire island with the city, a total area of 544 square kilometers.

The climate, like that of Malaysia, is one that formerly supported a tropical rain forest. Ethnically, the population of 3,062,000 (1992) is about 76 percent immigrant Chinese, and it is these people who, settling there for trade purposes over the past 150 years, now dominate the population. Malays, who were the original inhabitants of the area, are today only a small minority in Singapore, and Islam is consequently a minority religion (16 percent of the population). Nearly a fifth of all Singaporeans (18.7 percent) are Christian, while the great bulk arelike Chinese elsewherefollowers of a mélange of Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucian philosophy. In addition to these faiths, 4.9 percent of Singaporeans are Hindus of Indian origin, and there are also small communities of Sikhs and Parsis.

The small country has four "official" languages, Chinese, Malay, English, and Tamil, and owing to excellent schools and universities it can boast one of the highest literacy rates in Asia. This achievement reflects the fact that good schooling is available in all four of the official languages. The standard of living is also one of the highest in Asia.

Although there is considerable unemployment, nearly all those who do work are employed in service industries, commerce, education, and administration, and very few in agriculture. Singapore is in fact one of the world's great commercial centers; the impending reversion of Hong Kong to China in 1997 has had the effect of moving many industrialists with their families and capital from there to a new home in Singapore. The republic's government has naturally been very supportive of all movement for further economic growth.

See also Chinese in Southeast Asia


Blaut, James M. (1953). "The Economic Geography of a One-Acre Farm on Singapore Island: A Study in Applied Micro-Geography." Journal of Tropical Geography 1:37-48.

Chan, Hong Chee (1971). Singapore: The Politics of Survival, 1965-1967. Singapore: Oxford University Press.

Maday, Bela C, et al. (1965). Area Handbook of Malaysia and Singapore. Washington, D.C.: American University, Foreign Studies Division.

Milne, R. S., and Diane K. Mauzy (1990). Singapore: The Legacy of Lee Kuan Yew. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.

Moore, Joanna (1960). Singapore: City of the Lion. Singapore: D. Moore, for Heinemann.


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Culture Name



Identification. The place name "Singapore" is derived from Singa-pura ("City of the Lion"), a commonly used term since the fourteenth century. The main cultural traditions are Malay, Indian, Chinese, and to some extent Western (British). The different communities do not regard themselves as sharing a culture; instead, they consider themselves parts of a whole. This is illustrated by reference to a popular local dish, Rojak, a salad in which the various ingredients are covered by the same peanut sauce, forming a distinct whole with each ingredient clearly discernible. The peanut sauce is Singaporeanness; the other ingredients are the different cultural traditions.

Location and Geography. Singapore lies at the tip of the Malay peninsula. It borders Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. Its area is 248 square miles (642 square kilometers), including the main island and some sixty islets. The main island is flat with a hilly region in the middle. The highest point is Bukit Timah, feet (206 meters) above sea level. The climate is tropical with high humidity and abundant rainfall, especially during the northeast monsoon in December to March. The period of the southwest monsoon (June to September) is usually the driest.

The main island is fully urbanized with a dense commercial city center to the south. Around the city center are new townships that house about 86 percent of the population. The townships are self-contained and have high-rise apartment blocks, shops, medical and social service buildings, religious buildings, and schools; they are well connected by the Mass Rapid Transport System (MRT), which circles the island.

Demography. Singapore has a population of about three million, 2.7 million of whom are citizens and permanent residents. The other three hundred thousand are mainly foreign workers. The Chinese constitute about 78 percent, the Malays 14 percent, the Indians 7 percent, and others 1 percent of the population. The ethnic composition of the population has been relatively stable.

Linguistic Affiliation. Singapore is a multilingual state. The national language is Malay, and the four official languages are Malay, English, Indian (Tamil), and Chinese (Mandarin). English is the administrative language and the medium of instruction in schools. Pupils also choose one of the "mother tongues": Malay, Tamil, and Chinese. There are various subdialects of the different languages.

Symbolism. Economic prosperity and political stability are associated with the national culture, as is the Singaporean concept kiasu. Kiasu means "afraid to lose" and refers to the wish to come in first in lines, competitions, negotiations, and so forth. Some say kiasu keeps standards high, but others claim it leads to a graceless society.

The flag is divided into equal red and white horizontal sections symbolizing unity and purity. A white crescent moon and five stars in a circle symbolize a growing nation and the ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice, and equality. The national anthem and national motto are in Malay. Other symbols draw on the distinct ethnic traditions. Chinese, Malays, and Indians draw on symbolic materials and ritual practices from their own traditions and for their own purposes.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Singapore emerged as a nation after 1965. For nearly one hundred fifty years it had been a British colony that was intimately linked to the whole Malay peninsula. Singapore came into being as a British trade port in 1819 and continued as one of the three British "Strait Settlements." In that period, Malays from nearby areas, large numbers of immigrants from China, and later Indian convict laborers moved into the island. The British did little to integrate the population, largely leaving each community to itself. Singapore gained independence in 1959 and joined the Union of Malaya in 1963 but was expelled in 1965. The next five years were marked by the "policy of survival." From 1945 until the early 1970s, the island had severe housing shortages and a poor infrastructure, high criminality and unemployment, racial riots, and communist uprisings. The "survival policy" was based on the attraction of foreign investment through low taxes, the development of an efficient infrastructure, a disciplined workforce, and strict political control. In thirty years Singapore changed from a rough trading port to a rich, orderly, industrialized society. The remembrance of social and economic difficulties influenced the development of a national culture with a focus on wealth and stability and the idea of multiculturalism.

National Identity. There is no single dominant national identity. Instead, there are complex identities that draw on a variety of sources and are relevant in different situations, although ethnic identity takes precedence in most situations.

Ethnic Relations. Cultural links to India, China, Malaysia, and Indonesia give Singaporeans orientations and loyalties that stretch far beyond the national borders. These differences are superseded by an identification with Singapore as a homeland with wealth and stability. Distance and distinction mark ethnic relations within the country.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Singapore is a green city, but it has a very groomed greenness. There are two small national parks. Only at the fringes of the island and on the islets is there rural life, and it is disappearing fast. Highways crisscrossing the island, the huge port on the southern tip, vast industrial areas to the west, and the airport to the east create an air of swift efficiency.

The most striking features of the landscape are the high-rise buildings. This is a distinctly modern architecture with roots in the functionalism of the 1960s. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was more diversity in building styles. The typical domicile is a small apartment off the ground. Ethnicity is not an issue in the public use of space; communal differences are clearly discernible in the layout of the interiors of homes and certain town areas.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Rice, fish, chicken, and vegetables are the staples. When these ingredients are mixed with a rich variety of spices, chilis, coconuts, lime, and tamarind, the variations are endless. Food is often eaten outside the home in food centers where food is cheap, tasty, and freshly made. There are many cafés, coffeehouses and teahouses, and formal restaurants. Forks and spoons are used, but Chinese food is eaten with chopsticks, and Indian and Malay food may be eaten with the hand. The three main meals are breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Most meals are eaten hot. Malays do not eat pork, Indians do not eat beef, and many Buddhist Chinese are part-time vegetarians. Many people do not drink alcohol.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Special dishes are eaten during the major ceremonial occasions of all three ethnic groups, but none are connected to national celebrations.

Basic Economy. Singapore has a fully developed industrial international economy. The country depends heavily on imports, as there are few natural resources on the island. There has been a consistent surplus in the overall balance of payments. There is a large degree of state control of the economy.

Land Tenure and Property. There is a large degree of private ownership of houses and apartments. Land tenure is firmly regulated by the government and there are government plans for the use of every inch of the island's territory. Foreigners usually are allowed only to lease land, but they may buy apartments.

Commercial Activities, Major Industries, and Trade. Manufacturing is the most important economic sector, followed by financial and business services, commerce, transportation, and communications. Production is mainly for export. The main exports are electronics, refined petroleum products, natural rubber, and palm oil. The main trading partners are Malaysia, the European Union (EU), the United States, Hong Kong, and Japan.

Division of Labor. About two-thirds of the resident population is employed. Only 0.2 percent of the members of the workforce are employed in the primary sector, and about 37 percent of employed persons work in commerce and finance and the business sector. Twenty-three percent work in manufacturing, 21 percent in other services, and 18 percent in transportation and communications and construction. The unemployment rate has long been below 3 percent but increased during the recent economic downturn. Chinese are over-represented in professional, technical, administrative, and managerial jobs, whereas Malays are the most underrepresented in highly skilled jobs, with Indians in the middle. The substantial numbers of foreign workers are overrepresented in production and related work.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. There are wide income and wealth differences, but the country is more differentiated by ethnicity than by class. All the ethnic groups have experienced upward occupational mobility. There is an intense focus on education. Good marks are a sure path to good positions with good wages. In this respect, Singapore is a meritocracy.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Singaporeans jokingly refer to their desire for the "five C's": car, condominium, credit card, club membership, and career. These are important symbols of wealth and status regardless of ethnicity. There is no national costume, but the orchid is used as a national symbol, and textiles with orchid patterns may be employed as a national symbol on formal occasions.

Political Life

Government. Singapore is a republic with a parliamentary system. The head of state is the president, who is elected for a fixed term of six years. The parliament is elected in a general compulsory election every five years. There are also six nominated members of the parliament. The cabinet is the executive organ of the state, and execution of government policies is carried out by ministries and statutory boards.

Leadership and Political Officials. The People's Action Party (PAP) has maintained a large majority in the parliament since 1965, with only a few seats held by politicians from opposition parties. The road to a political position through the cadre system of the PAP lies in educational and professional merit as well as loyalty. The other parties are led by politicians with strong personalities.

Social Problems and Control. The crime rate is low. The judiciary system is based on the British legal system. The death penalty is imposed for drug smuggling, and caning is still used as a punishment. In addition, there are fines or other penalties for a wide range of transgressions, such as throwing litter on the floor, urinating in the elevator, and engaging in politics outside registered political parties.

Military Activity. Both military and civil defense are well developed, and the armed forces are equipped. Two and a half years of compulsory military service are required for males.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Social welfare is financed through the Central Provident Fund (CPF), a public savings scheme. Employees under age 55 and their employers contribute a fixed amount of a worker's salary into an individual account administered by the CPF. This account provides financial security for old age and can be drawn on for housing and medical and educational costs. Charity is an important aspect of the financing of social welfare. Care of the old, sick, and disabled is in the hands of families and relatives. Three different agencies provide some social services for members of the three ethnic groups. Independent social work units also carry out some social work.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Many of the nearly five thousand registered societies are directly or indirectly linked to the government. Among the rest, very few can be defined as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in a strict sense, but they form the basis of the civil society. A pattern of division according to ethnic distinction exists, but there are many nonethnic associations and societies.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Nearly 80 percent of men and about 50 percent of women are employed. Women have joined the workforce in large numbers but are underrepresented in leadership positions in all areas and institutions.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Polygamy is allowed among Muslim Malays, but otherwise monogamy is the rule. Interethnic marriages are not common. Divorce is becoming more common. The average age at first marriage has increased, and it is customary for young people to live with their parents until they marry.

Domestic Unit. The basic household unit is the nuclear family, which constituted 85 percent of resident households in 1990. Close links with relatives on both the husband's and the wife's sides are usually maintained. The proportion of households without a family nucleus shrank from 26 percent in 1957 to 8 percent in 1980, reflecting the changes from an immigrant to a settled population. Males dominate as heads of households.

Inheritance. Traditionally, sons inherited family assets, while daughters were expected to marry out of the family. This pattern is less common today.

Kin Groups. Kin groups play a significant role in all ethnic groups, and people often move within wide networks of relatives. Privately, kin groups are important, but politically and economically, they play a marginal role.


Infant Care. Children are brought along in most situations except business and very formal events. Small children are showered with affection. Generally, children are expected to be quiet and obedient and may be physically punished for misbehaving. There is very little free space where children can play and few areas designed specially for children.

Child Rearing and Education. Children are thought to hold the key not only to their own future but also to the future of their families, and education is regarded as extremely important. There is a range of private and public nurseries, kindergartens, and play schools. Children start school at age six.

Higher Education. There is a great emphasis on higher education. Children spend six years in primary school and four years in secondary school and then go on to a vocational school or university, depending on their grades (a sure way to higher education in Singapore) or money (a university education abroad). Competition for entrance to the best schools is fierce.


Older people ideally are treated with respect, but wealth and status may supersede age distinctions. A social superior or an authority is treated with much formality. There are great differences between formal and informal events, situations, and places. In social interaction, a certain physical distance is kept, especially between men and women. Food rules of the ethnic groups are always respected.


Religious Beliefs. There is freedom of religion with some exceptions. Singapore has been described as one of the most religious countries in the world. The major religions are Islam (Malay), Hinduism (Indians), Buddhism, Taoism, and folk religion (Chinese), along with a substantial number of Christians of various denominations.

Religious Practitioners. Religious experts vary from formally installed priests and teachers representing the institutionalized religions to self-ordained shamans, healers, and sorcerers.

Rituals and Holy Places. The many Chinese and Indian temples, Malay mosques, and Christian churches are the main public arenas for religious activities. Much religious activity is also carried out in the home. There are different "street festivals" according to the ritual calendars of the different ethnic groups

Death and the Afterlife. A funeral is a major ritual for all ethnic group. The idea of an afterlife is generally shared.

Medicine and Health Care

A well-developed modern medical system consists of private and public clinics and hospitals. Traditional medical beliefs and practices are also common.

Secular Celebrations

The national holiday is on 31 August and is celebrated with military parades and culture shows at the national stadium. The ethnic public holidays are divided nearly equally among Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Christian holidays. The most important ethnic holidays are the Chinese New Year and the Malay Muslim Rahmadan, both celebrated in JanuaryFebruary, and the Indian Deepavali or Festival of the Light, celebrated around SeptemberOctober.

The Arts and Humanities

Literature, Graphic Arts, and Performance Arts. A common complaint is that Singapore has no culture, and the fine arts have a limited public. The government subsidizes some art institutions and events, but generally there is little public funding. The different ethnic groups have their own artistic traditions and focus on arts. The contemporary generation is more focused on contemporary art forms.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Singapore has well-developed scientific institutions. Priority is given to technology and applied science. There are two universities: the National University of Singapore, a full-scale university with all disciplines, and the Nanyang Technical University.


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Clammer, John. The Sociology of Singapore Religion: Studies in Christianity and Chinese Culture, 1991.

Craig, JoAnn. Culture Shock: Singapore and Malaysia, 1979.

Drysdale, John. Singapore: Struggle for Success, 1984.

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Huff, W. G. The Economic Growth of Singapore: Trade and Development in the Twentieth Century, 1994.

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Benedicte BrØgger

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Singapore was an important trading port between the 11th and 16th cents. In 1819 Sir Stamford Raffles re-established it as a counterweight to Dutch influence in the region and it became a crown colony in 1867. It developed with the exploitation of south-east Asian rubber, tin, and oil and was made a major naval base in 1921. On 15 February 1942 the Japanese received its surrender. After the war it remained separate from the Malay Union and was given its own constitution in 1955, which led to self-government in 1959. Singapore initially joined, but then withdrew from, the Malaysian Federation (1965).

David Anthony Washbrook

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Singapore Strait

Singapore Strait, channel, 30 mi (48 km) long and 10 mi (16.1 km) wide, between Singapore island and the Riau Archipelago, Indonesia. It links the Strait of Malacca with the South China Sea and is a major shipping route of SE Asia.

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Singaporeabhor, adore, afore, anymore, ashore, awe, bandore, Bangalore, before, boar, Boer, bore, caw, chore, claw, cocksure, comprador, cor, core, corps, craw, Delors, deplore, door, draw, drawer, evermore, explore, flaw, floor, for, forbore, fore, foresaw, forevermore, forswore, four, fourscore, furthermore, Gábor, galore, gnaw, gore, grantor, guarantor, guffaw, hard-core, Haugh, haw, hoar, ignore, implore, Indore, interwar, jaw, Johor, Lahore, law, lessor, lor, lore, macaw, man-o'-war, maw, mirador, mor, more, mortgagor, Mysore, nevermore, nor, oar, obligor, offshore, onshore, or, ore, outdoor, outwore, paw, poor, pore, pour, rapport, raw, roar, saw, scaur, score, senhor, señor, shaw, ship-to-shore, shop-floor, shore, signor, Singapore, snore, soar, softcore, sore, spore, squaw, store, straw, swore, Tagore, tau, taw, thaw, Thor, threescore, tor, tore, torr, trapdoor, tug-of-war, two-by-four, underfloor, underscore, war, warrantor, Waugh, whore, withdraw, wore, yaw, yore, your

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Singaporeanantipodean, Crimean, Judaean, Korean •Albion •Gambian, Zambian •lesbian •Arabian, Bessarabian, Fabian, gabion, Sabian, Swabian •amphibian, Libyan, Namibian •Sorbian •Danubian, Nubian •Colombian • Serbian • Nietzschean •Chadian, Trinidadian •Andean, Kandyan •guardian •Acadian, Akkadian, Arcadian, Barbadian, Canadian, circadian, Grenadian, Hadean, Orcadian, Palladian, radian, steradian •Archimedean, comedian, epicedian, median, tragedian •ascidian, Derridean, Dravidian, enchiridion, Euclidean, Floridian, Gideon, Lydian, meridian, Numidian, obsidian, Pisidian, quotidian, viridian •Amerindian, Indian •accordion, Edwardian •Cambodian, collodion, custodian, melodeon, nickelodeon, Odeon •Freudian • Bermudian • Burundian •Burgundian •Falstaffian, Halafian •Christadelphian, Delphian, Philadelphian •nymphean • ruffian • Brobdingnagian •Carolingian • Swedenborgian •logion, Muskogean •Jungian •magian, Pelagian •collegian •callipygian, Cantabrigian, Phrygian, Stygian •Merovingian • philologian • Fujian •Czechoslovakian • Pickwickian •Algonquian • Chomskian •Kentuckian •battalion, galleon, medallion, rapscallion, scallion •Anglian, ganglion •Heraklion •Dalian, Malian, Somalian •Chellean, Machiavellian, Orwellian, Sabellian, Trevelyan, triskelion •Wesleyan •alien, Australian, bacchanalian, Castalian, Deucalion, episcopalian, Hegelian, madrigalian, mammalian, Pygmalion, Salian, saturnalian, sesquipedalian, tatterdemalion, Thessalian, Westphalian •anthelion, Aristotelian, Aurelian, carnelian, chameleon, Karelian, Mendelian, Mephistophelian, Pelion, Sahelian •Abbevillian, Azilian, Brazilian, caecilian, Castilian, Chilean, Churchillian, civilian, cotillion, crocodilian, epyllion, Gillian, Lilian, Maximilian, Pamphylian, pavilion, postilion, Quintilian, reptilian, Sicilian, Tamilian, vaudevillian, vermilion, Virgilian •Aeolian, Anatolian, Eolian, Jolyon, Mongolian, napoleon, simoleon •Acheulian, Boolean, cerulean, Friulian, Julian, Julien •bullion •mullion, scullion, Tertullian •Liverpudlian •Bahamian, Bamian, Damian, Mesopotamian, Samian •anthemion, Bohemian •Endymion, prosimian, Simeon, simian •isthmian • antinomian •Permian, vermian •Oceanian •Albanian, Azanian, Iranian, Jordanian, Lithuanian, Mauritanian, Mediterranean, Panamanian, Pennsylvanian, Pomeranian, Romanian, Ruritanian, Sassanian, subterranean, Tasmanian, Transylvanian, Tripolitanian, Turanian, Ukrainian, Vulcanian •Armenian, Athenian, Fenian, Magdalenian, Mycenaean (US Mycenean), Slovenian, Tyrrhenian •Argentinian, Arminian, Augustinian, Carthaginian, Darwinian, dominion, Guinean, Justinian, Ninian, Palestinian, Sardinian, Virginian •epilimnion, hypolimnion •Bosnian •Bornean, Californian, Capricornian •Aberdonian, Amazonian, Apollonian, Babylonian, Baconian, Bostonian, Caledonian, Catalonian, Chalcedonian, Ciceronian, Devonian, draconian, Estonian, Etonian, gorgonian, Ionian, Johnsonian, Laconian, Macedonian, Miltonian, Newtonian, Oregonian, Oxonian, Patagonian, Plutonian, Tennysonian, Tobagonian, Washingtonian •Cameroonian, communion, Mancunian, Neptunian, Réunion, union •Hibernian, Saturnian •Campion, champion, Grampian, rampion, tampion •thespian • Mississippian • Olympian •Crispian •Scorpian, scorpion •cornucopian, dystopian, Ethiopian, Salopian, subtopian, Utopian •Guadeloupian •Carian, carrion, clarion, Marian •Calabrian, Cantabrian •Cambrian • Bactrian •Lancastrian, Zoroastrian •Alexandrian • Maharashtrian •equestrian, pedestrian •agrarian, antiquarian, apiarian, Aquarian, Arian, Aryan, authoritarian, barbarian, Bavarian, Bulgarian, Caesarean (US Cesarean), centenarian, communitarian, contrarian, Darien, disciplinarian, egalitarian, equalitarian, establishmentarian, fruitarian, Gibraltarian, grammarian, Hanoverian, humanitarian, Hungarian, latitudinarian, libertarian, librarian, majoritarian, millenarian, necessarian, necessitarian, nonagenarian, octogenarian, ovarian, Parian, parliamentarian, planarian, predestinarian, prelapsarian, proletarian, quadragenarian, quinquagenarian, quodlibetarian, Rastafarian, riparian, rosarian, Rotarian, sabbatarian, Sagittarian, sanitarian, Sauveterrian, sectarian, seminarian, septuagenarian, sexagenarian, topiarian, totalitarian, Trinitarian, ubiquitarian, Unitarian, utilitarian, valetudinarian, vegetarian, veterinarian, vulgarian •Adrian, Hadrian •Assyrian, Illyrian, Syrian, Tyrian •morion • Austrian •Dorian, Ecuadorean, historian, Hyperborean, Nestorian, oratorian, praetorian (US pretorian), salutatorian, Salvadorean, Singaporean, stentorian, Taurean, valedictorian, Victorian •Ugrian • Zarathustrian •Cumbrian, Northumbrian, Umbrian •Algerian, Cancerian, Chaucerian, Cimmerian, criterion, Hesperian, Hitlerian, Hyperion, Iberian, Liberian, Nigerian, Presbyterian, Shakespearean, Siberian, Spenserian, Sumerian, valerian, Wagnerian, Zairean •Arthurian, Ben-Gurion, centurion, durian, holothurian, Khachaturian, Ligurian, Missourian, Silurian, tellurian •Circassian, Parnassian •halcyon • Capsian • Hessian •Albigensian, Waldensian •Dacian • Keatsian •Cilician, Galician, Lycian, Mysian, Odyssean •Leibnizian • Piscean • Ossian •Gaussian • Joycean • Andalusian •Mercian • Appalachian • Decian •Ordovician, Priscian •Lucian •himation, Montserratian •Atlantean, Dantean, Kantian •bastion, Erastian, Sebastian •Mozartian • Brechtian • Thyestean •Fortean • Faustian • protean •Djiboutian •fustian, Procrustean •Gilbertian, Goethean, nemertean •pantheon •Hogarthian, Parthian •Lethean, Promethean •Pythian • Corinthian • Scythian •Lothian, Midlothian •Latvian • Yugoslavian •avian, Batavian, Flavian, Moldavian, Moravian, Octavian, Scandinavian, Shavian •Bolivian, Maldivian, oblivion, Vivian •Chekhovian, Harrovian, Jovian, Pavlovian •alluvion, antediluvian, diluvian, Peruvian •Servian • Malawian • Zimbabwean •Abkhazian • Dickensian •Caucasian, Malaysian, Rabelaisian •Keynesian •Belizean, Cartesian, Indonesian, Milesian, Salesian, Silesian •Elysian, Frisian, Parisian, Tunisian •Holmesian •Carthusian, Malthusian, Venusian

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