(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||Singapore was founded as a British trading colony in 1819. It joined the Malaysian Federation in 1963 but separated two years later and became independent. Singapore subsequently became one of the world’s most prosperous countries with strong international trading links (its port is one of the world’s busiest in terms of tonnage handled) and with per capita GDP equal to that of the leading nations of Western Europe.|
The first records of settlement in Singapore are from the 2nd century AD. The island was an outpost of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire and originally had the Javanese name Temasek (‘sea town’). Temasek (Tumasek) rapidly became a significant trading settlement, but declined in the late 14th century. There are few remnants of old Temasek in Singapore, but archaeologists in Singapore have uncovered artefacts of that and other settlements. Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, Singapore island was part of the Sultanate of Johor. During the Malay-Portugal wars in 1613, the settlement was set ablaze by Portuguese troops. The Portuguese subsequently held control in that century and the Dutch in the 17th, but throughout most of this time the island’s population consisted mainly of fishermen.
On 29 January 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles landed on the main island. Spotting its potential as a strategic geographical trading post in Southeast Asia, Raffles signed a treaty with Sultan Hussein Shah on behalf of the British East India Company on 6 February 1819 to develop the southern part of Singapore as a British trading post and settlement. Until August 1824, Singapore was still a territory controlled by a Malay Ruler. Singapore only officially became a British colony in August 1824 when the British extended control over the whole island. John Crawfurd, the second resident of Singapore, was the one who made Singapore a British possession. He signed a treaty with Sultan Hussein Shah on 2 August 1824 in which the Sultan and the Temmenggong handed over the whole island to the British East India Company thus marking the start of the island’s modern era. Raffles’s deputy, William Farquhar, oversaw a period of growth and ethnic migration, which was largely spurred by a no-restriction immigration policy. The British India office governed the island from 1858, but Singapore was made a British crown colony in 1867, answerable directly to the Crown. By 1869, 100,000 lived on the island.
The early onset of town planning in colonial Singapore came largely through a “divide and rule” framework where the different ethnic groups were settled in different parts of the South of the island. The Singapore River was largely a commercial area that was dominated by traders and bankers of various ethnic groups with mostly Chinese and Indian coolies working to load and unload goods from barge boats known locally as “bumboats”. The Malays, consisting of the local “Orang Lauts” who worked mostly as fishermen and seafarers, and Arab traders and scholars were mostly found in the South-east part of the river mouth, where Kampong Glam stands today. The European settlers, who were few then, settled around Fort Canning Hill and further upstream from the Singapore River. Like the Europeans, the early Indian migrants also settled more inland of the Singapore River, where Little India stands today. Very little is known about the rural private settlements in those times (known as kampongs), other than the major move by the post-independent Singapore government to re-settle these residents in the late 1960s.
World War II
Years before the rise of the Japanese, the British noted that Japan was building its forces rapidly. Wanting to protect its assets in SouthEast Asia, the British decided to build a naval base on the Northern end of Singapore. However, due to the war with Germany, all warship and war equipment was brought over to Europe.
During World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Malaya, culminating in the Battle of Singapore. The ill-prepared British, with most of their forces in Europe, were defeated in six days, and surrendered the supposedly impregnable fortress to General Tomoyuki Yamashita on 15 February 1942. The surrender was described by British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill as “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history.” The British naval base (see above) was destroyed before the Japanese could take over the base and make use of it. The Japanese renamed Singapore Shōnantō (昭南島?), from Japanese “Shōwa no jidai ni eta minami no shima” (“昭和の時代に得た南の島”?), or “southern island obtained in the age of Shōwa”, and occupied it until the British repossessed the island on 12 September 1945, a month after the Japanese surrender.
The name Shōnantō was, at the time, romanised as “Syonan-to” or “Syonan”, which means “Light of the South”.
Singapore became a self-governing state within the British Empire in 1959 with Yusof bin Ishak as its first Yang di-Pertuan Negara or president, and Lee Kuan Yew as its first Prime Minister. It declared independence from Britain unilaterally in August 1963, before joining the Federation of Malaysia in September along with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak as the result of the 1962 Merger Referendum of Singapore. Singapore left the federation two years after heated ideological conflict between the state’s PAP government and the federal Kuala Lumpur government. Singapore officially gained sovereignty on 9 August 1965. Yusof bin Ishak was sworn in as the first President of Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew remained prime minister.
While trying to be self-sufficient, the fledging nation faced problems like mass unemployment, housing shortages, and a dearth of land and natural resources. During Lee Kuan Yew’s term as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, his administration tackled the problem of widespread unemployment, raised the standard of living, and implemented a large-scale public housing programme.It was during this time that the foundation of the country’s economic infrastructure was developed; the threat of racial tension was curbed; and an independent national defence system centring around compulsory male military service was created.
In 1990, Goh Chok Tong succeeded Lee as Prime Minister. During his tenure, the country tackled the impacts of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the 2003 SARS outbreak, and terrorist threats posed by Jemaah Islamiyah after the September 11 attacks. In 2004, Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the third prime minister. Amongst his more notable decisions is the plan to open casinos to attract tourism.
|Geography||Location: Southeastern Asia, islands between Malaysia and Indonesia
Geographic coordinates: 1 22 N, 103 48 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 692.7 sq km
land: 682.7 sq km
water: 10 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly more than 3.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 193 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: within and beyond territorial sea, as defined in treaties and practice
Climate: tropical; hot, humid, rainy; two distinct monsoon seasons – Northeastern monsoon (December to March) and Southwestern monsoon (June to September); inter-monsoon – frequent afternoon and early evening thunderstorms
Terrain: lowland; gently undulating central plateau contains water catchment area and nature preserve
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Singapore Strait 0 m
highest point: Bukit Timah 166 m
Natural resources: fish, deepwater ports
Land use: arable land: 1.47%
permanent crops: 1.47%
other: 97.06% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Total renewable water resources: 0.6 cu km (1975)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.19 cu km/yr (45%/51%/4%)
per capita: 44 cu m/yr (1975)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: industrial pollution; limited natural fresh water resources; limited land availability presents waste disposal problems; seasonal smoke/haze resulting from forest fires in Indonesia
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: focal point for Southeast Asian sea routes
|Politics||Singapore is a parliamentary democracy with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government representing different constituencies. The bulk of the executive powers rests with the Cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister, currently Mr Lee Hsien Loong. The office of President of Singapore, historically a ceremonial one, was granted some veto powers as of 1991 for a few key decisions such as the use of the national reserves and the appointment of judiciary positions. Although the position is to be elected by popular vote, however only the 1993 election has been contested to date. The legislative branch of government is the Parliament.
Parliamentary elections in Singapore are plurality-based for group representation constituencies since the Parliamentary Elections Act was modified in 1991.
The Members of Parliament (MPs) consist of either elected, non-constituency or nominated Members. The majority of the Members of Parliament are elected into Parliament at a General Election on a first-past-the-post basis and represent either Single Member or Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs).
The elected Members of Parliament act as a bridge between the community and the Government by ensuring that the concerns of their constituents are heard in the Parliament. The present Parliament has 94 Members of Parliament consisting of 84 elected Members of Parliament, one NCMP and nine Nominated members of Parliament.
Politics in Singapore have been controlled by the People’s Action Party (PAP) since self-government was attained. In consequence, foreign political analysts and several opposition parties like the Workers’ Party of Singapore, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) have argued that Singapore is essentially a one-party state. Many analysts consider Singapore to be an illiberal or procedural democracy rather than a true democracy. The Economist Intelligence Unit describes Singapore as a “hybrid regime” of democratic and authoritarian elements. Freedom House ranks the country as “partly free”. Though general elections are free from irregularities and vote rigging, the PAP has been criticized for manipulating the political system through its use of censorship, gerrymandering, and civil libel suits against opposition politicians. Francis Seow, the exiled former Solicitor-General of Singapore, is a prominent critic. Seow and opposition politicians such as J.B. Jeyaretnam and Chee Soon Juan claim that Singapore courts favour the PAP government, and there is no separation of powers.
Singapore has a successful and transparent market economy. Government-linked companies are dominant in various sectors of the local economy, such as media, utilities, and public transport. Singapore has consistently been rated as the least corrupt country in Asia and among the world’s ten most free from corruption by Transparency International.
Although Singapore’s laws are inherited from British and British Indian laws, including many elements of English common law, the PAP has also consistently rejected liberal democratic values, which it typifies as Western and states there should not be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to a democracy. There are no jury trials. Laws restricting the freedom of speech are justified by claims that they are intended to prohibit speech that may breed ill will or cause disharmony within Singapore’s multiracial, multi-religious society. For example, in September 2005, three bloggers were convicted of sedition for posting racist remarks targeting minorities. Some offences can lead to heavy fines or caning and there are laws which allow capital punishment in Singapore for first-degree murder and drug trafficking. Amnesty International has criticised Singapore for having “possibly the highest execution rate in the world” per capita. The Singapore government argues that there is no international consensus on the appropriateness of the death penalty and that Singapore has the sovereign right to determine its own judicial system and impose capital punishment for the most serious crimes.[
|People||Population: 4,608,167 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 14.8% (male 353,333/female 329,005)
15-64 years: 76.5% (male 1,717,357/female 1,809,462)
65 years and over: 8.7% (male 177,378/female 221,632) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 38.4 years
male: 38 years
female: 38.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.135% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 8.99 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 4.53 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 6.88 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.8 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 2.3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 2.51 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 2.08 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 81.89 years
male: 79.29 years
female: 84.68 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.08 children born/woman (2008 est.)