The English name of Singapore is an anglicisation of the native Malay name for the country, Singapura, which was in turn derived from Sanskrit (सिंहपुर, IAST: Siṃhapura; siṃha is "lion", pura is "town" or "city"), hence the customary reference to the nation as the Lion City, and its inclusion in many of the nation's symbols (e.g., its coat of arms, Merlion emblem). However, it is unlikely that lions ever lived on the island; Sang Nila Utama, the Srivijayan prince said to have founded and named the island Singapura, perhaps saw a Malayan tiger. There are however other suggestions for the origin of the name and scholars do not believe that the origin of the name to be firmly established. The central island has also been called Pulau Ujong as far back as the third century CE, literally "island at the end" (of the Malay Peninsula) in Malay.
In 1299, according to the Malay Annals, the Kingdom of Singapura was founded on the island by Sang Nila Utama. Although the historicity of the accounts as given in the Malay Annals is the subject of academic debates, it is nevertheless known from various documents that Singapore in the 14th century, then known as Temasek, was a trading port under the influence of both the Majapahit Empire and the Siamese. Historical sources also indicate that around the end of the 14th century, its ruler Parameswara was attacked by either the Majapahit or the Siamese, forcing him to move on to Melaka where he founded the Sultanate of Malacca, Archaeological evidence suggests that the main settlement on Fort Canning was abandoned around this time, although a small trading settlement continued in Singapore for some time afterwards. In 1613, Portuguese raiders burned down the settlement, which by then was nominally part of the Johor Sultanate. The wider maritime region and much trade was under Dutch control for the following period.
Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived in 1819 and signed a treaty with Sultan Hussein Shah of Johor, on behalf of the British East India Company, to develop the southern part of Singapore as a British trading post. In 1824 the entire island, as well as the Temenggong, became a British possession after a further treaty with the Sultan. In 1826, Singapore became part of the Straits Settlements, under the jurisdiction of British India, becoming the regional capital in 1836. Prior to Raffles' arrival, there were only about a thousand people living on the island, mostly indigenous Malays along with a handful of Chinese. By 1860 the population had swelled to over 80,000, more than half being Chinese. Many of these early immigrants came to work on the pepper and gambier plantations. Later, in the 1890s, when the rubber industry also became established in Malaya and Singapore, the island became a global centre for rubber sorting and export.
After the First World War, the British built the large Singapore Naval Base as part of the defensive Singapore strategy. During the Second World War, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded British Malaya, culminating in the Battle of Singapore. When the British force of 60,000 troops surrendered on 15 February 1942, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the defeat "the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history. Between 5,000 and 25,000 ethnic Chinese people were killed in the subsequent Sook Ching massacre. The Japanese occupied Singapore until the British repossessed it in September 1945, after the Surrender of Japan.
During the 1950s, Chinese communists with strong ties to the trade unions and Chinese schools waged a guerrilla war against the government, leading to the Malayan Emergency. The 1954 National Service Riots, Chinese middle schools riots, and Hock Lee bus riots in Singapore were all linked to these events. David Marshall, pro-independence leader of the Labour Front, won Singapore's first general election in 1955. He led a delegation to London, but Britain rejected his demand for complete self-rule. He resigned and was replaced by Lim Yew Hock, whose policies convinced Britain to grant Singapore full internal self-government for all matters except defence and foreign affairs.
During the May 1959 elections, the People's Action Party won a landslide victory. Singapore became an internally self-governing state within the Commonwealth, with Lee Kuan Yew as its first Prime Minister. Governor Sir William Allmond Codrington Goode served as the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Head of State), and was succeeded by Yusof bin Ishak.
As a result of the 1962 Merger Referendum, on 16 September 1963 Singapore joined with the Federation of Malaya, the Crown Colony of Sarawak and the Crown Colony of North Borneo to form the new federation of Malaysia under the terms of the Malaysia Agreement. Given Singapore's limited size and lack of natural resources, it was felt integrating with Malaya would provide a route to stronger economic development. The merger would also give the PAP legitimacy, and remove the threat of communist government over Singapore. However, shortly after the merger, the Singapore state government and the Malaysian central government disagreed on many political and economic issues, and communal strife culminated in the 1964 race riots in Singapore. After many heated ideological conflicts between the two governments, on 9 August 1965, the Malaysian Parliament voted 126 to 0 (with Singaporean delegates not present) to expel Singapore from Malaysia.
Singapore gained independence as the Republic of Singapore (remaining within the Commonwealth of Nations) on 9 August 1965 with Lee Kuan Yew as the prime minister and Yusof bin Ishak as the president. Race riots broke out once more in 1969. In 1967, the country co-founded the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Lee Kuan Yew became Prime Minister, and the country moved from Third World economy to First World affluence in a single generation. Lee Kuan Yew's emphasis on rapid economic growth, support for business entrepreneurship, and limitations on internal democracy shaped Singapore's policies for the next half-century. In 1990, Goh Chok Tong succeeded Lee and became Singapore's second Prime Minister. During Goh's tenure, the country faced the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2003 SARS outbreak.
In 2004, Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the country's third Prime Minister. Lee Hsien Loong's tenure included the 2008 global financial crisis, the resolution of a dispute over Malayan railways land, and the introduction of integrated resorts. Despite the economy's exceptional growth, the People's Action Party (PAP) suffered its worst election results in 2011, winning 60% of votes, amidst hot-button issues of high influx of foreign workers and cost of living. On 23 March 2015 Lee Kuan Yew died, during the 50th year of independence. Subsequently, the PAP maintained its dominance in Parliament at the September general elections, receiving 69.9% of the popular vote, its second-highest polling result behind the 2001 tally of 75.3%.
Singapore is a parliamentary republic with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government representing constituencies. The country's constitution establishes a representative democracy as the political system. Executive power rests with the Cabinet of Singapore, led by the Prime Minister and, to a much lesser extent, the President. The President is elected through a popular vote, and has veto powers over a specific set of executive decisions, such as the use of the national reserves and the appointment of judges, but otherwise occupies a largely ceremonial post.
The Parliament serves as the legislative branch of the government. Members of Parliament (MPs) consist of elected, non-constituency and nominated members. Elected MPs are voted into the Parliament on a "first-past-the-post" (plurality) basis and represent either single-member or group representation constituencies. The People's Action Party has won control of Parliament with large majorities in every election since self-governance was secured in 1959.
Although the elections are clean, there is no independent electoral authority and the government has strong influence on the media. Freedom House ranks Singapore as "partly free" in its Freedom in the World report, and The Economist ranks Singapore as a "flawed democracy", the second best rank of four, in its "Democracy Index". The latest elections were in September 2015, with the PAP winning 83 of 89 seats contested with 70% of the popular vote.
The legal system of Singapore is based on English common law, but with substantial local differences. Trial by jury was abolished in 1970 so that judicial decisions would rest entirely in the hands of appointed judges. Singapore has penalties that include judicial corporal punishment in the form of caning, which may be imposed for such offences as rape, rioting, vandalism, and certain immigration offences.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in Singapore, which was referred to by William Gibson as Disneyland with the Death Penalty. The city-state had the second highest per-capita execution rate in the world between 1994 and 1998, estimated by the United Nations to be 13.83 executions annually per one million people during that period. The death penalty is mandatory for murder, as well as for certain aggravated drug-trafficking and firearms offences.
Amnesty International has said that some legal provisions of the Singapore system conflict with the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that Singapore has "... possibly the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population". The government has disputed Amnesty's claims. Singapore's judicial system is considered one of the most reliable in Asia.
Singapore has been consistently rated among the least corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International. Singapore's unique combination of a strong almost authoritarian government with an emphasis on meritocracy and good governance is known as the "Singapore model", and is regarded as a key factor behind Singapore's political stability, economic growth, and harmonious social order. In 2011, the World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index ranked Singapore among the top countries surveyed with regard to "order and security", "absence of corruption", and "effective criminal justice". However, the country received a much lower ranking for "freedom of speech" and "freedom of assembly". All public gatherings of five or more people require police permits, and protests may legally be held only at the Speakers' Corner.
Singapore's foreign policy is aimed at maintaining security in Southeast Asia and surrounding territories. An underlying principle is political and economic stability in the region. It has diplomatic relations with more than 180 sovereign states.
As one of the five founding members of ASEAN, it is a strong supporter of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and the ASEAN Investment Area, because Singapore's economy is closely linked to that of the region as a whole. Former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong proposed the formation of an ASEAN Economic Community, a step beyond the current AFTA, bringing it closer to a common market. This was agreed to in 2007 for implementation by 2015. Other regional organisations are important to Singapore, and it is the host of the APEC Secretariat. Singapore maintains membership in other regional organisations, such as Asia–Europe Meeting, the Forum for East Asia-Latin American Cooperation, the Indian Ocean Rim Association, and the East Asia Summit. It is also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth.
In general, bilateral relations with other ASEAN members are strong; however, disagreements have arisen, and relations with neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia have sometimes been strained. Malaysia and Singapore have clashed over the delivery of fresh water to Singapore, and access by the Singapore Armed Forces to Malaysian airspace. Border issues exist with Malaysia and Indonesia, and both have banned the sale of marine sand to Singapore over disputes about Singapore's land reclamation. Some previous disputes have been resolved by the International Court of Justice. Piracy in the Strait of Malacca has been a cause of concern for all three countries. Close economic ties exist with Brunei, and the two share a pegged currency value.
The first diplomatic contact with China was made in the 1970s, with full diplomatic relations established in the 1990s. Since then the two countries have been major players in strengthening the ASEAN–China relationship. Singapore and the United States share a long-standing close relationship, in particular in defence, the economy, health, and education. The United States was Singapore's third largest trading partner in 2010, behind China (2nd) and Malaysia (1st). The two countries have a free-trade agreement, and Singapore views its relationship with the United States as an important counterbalance to China's influence. A Strategic Framework Agreement between the two, signed in 2005, formalises security and defence co-operation. Singapore has pushed regional counter-terrorism initiatives, with a strong resolve to deal with terrorists inside its borders. To this end it has given support to the US-led coalition to fight terrorism, with bilateral co-operation in counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation initiatives, and joint military exercises.
The Singaporean military is arguably the most technologically advanced in Southeast Asia. It comprises the Singapore Army, Republic of Singapore Navy, and Republic of Singapore Air Force. It is seen as the guarantor of the country's independence. This principle translates into the culture, involving all citizens in the country's defence. The government spends 4.9% of the country's GDP on the military—high by regional standards—and one out of every four dollars of government spending is spent on defence.
After its independence, Singapore had two infantry regiments commanded by British officers. This force was considered too small to provide effective security for the new country, so development of its military forces became a priority. Britain pulled its military out of Singapore in October 1971, leaving behind only a small British, Australian and New Zealand force as a token military presence. The last British soldier left Singapore in March 1976. New Zealand troops were the last to leave, in 1989.
A great deal of initial support came from Israel, a country that is not recognised by the neighbouring Muslim-majority nations of Malaysia, Indonesia, or Brunei. The main fear after independence was an invasion by Malaysia. Israeli Defense Force (IDF) commanders were tasked with creating the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) from scratch, and Israeli instructors were brought in to train Singaporean soldiers. Military courses were conducted according to the IDF's format, and Singapore adopted a system of conscription and reserve service based on the Israeli model. Singapore still maintains strong security ties with Israel and is one of the biggest buyers of Israeli arms and weapons systems. The MATADOR is one example of recent Singaporean–Israeli collaboration.
The SAF is being developed to respond to a wide range of issues, in both conventional and unconventional warfare. The Defence Science and Technology Agency is responsible for procuring resources for the military. The geographic restrictions of Singapore mean that the SAF must plan to fully repulse an attack, as they can not fall back and re-group. The small size of the population has also affected the way the SAF has been designed, with a small active force but a large number of reserves.
Singapore has conscription for all able-bodied males at age 18, except those with a criminal record or who can prove that their loss would bring hardship to their families. Males who have yet to complete pre-university education or are awarded the Public Service Commission scholarship can opt to defer their draft. Though not required to perform military service, the number of women in the SAF has been increasing: since 1989 they have been allowed to fill military vocations formerly reserved for men. Before induction into a specific branch of the armed forces, recruits undergo at least 9 weeks of basic military training.
Because of the scarcity of open land on the main island, training involving activities such as live firing and amphibious warfare is often carried out on smaller islands, typically barred to civilian access. This also avoids risk to the main island and the city. However, large-scale drills are considered too dangerous to be performed in the area, and since 1975 have been performed in Taiwan. Training is also held in about a dozen other countries. In general, military exercises are held with foreign forces once or twice per week.
Due to airspace and land constraints, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) maintains a number of overseas bases in Australia, the United States, and France. The RSAF's 130 Squadron is based in RAAF Base Pearce, Western Australia, and its 126 Squadron is based in the Oakey Army Aviation Centre, Queensland. The RSAF has one squadron—the 150 Squadron—based in Cazaux Air Base in southern France. The RSAF also has a few overseas detachments in the United States, in San Diego, California, Marana, Arizona, Grand Prairie, Texas and Luke Air Force Base, among others.
The SAF has sent forces to assist in operations outside the country, in areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan, in both military and civilian roles. In the region, it has helped stabilise East Timor and has provided aid to Aceh in Indonesia following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. In 2014, the RSN deployed two ships, the RSS Resolute and the Tenacious to the Gulf of Aden to aid in counter piracy efforts as part of Task Force 151. The SAF also helped in relief efforts during Hurricane Katrina and Typhoon Haiyan. Singapore is part of the Five Power Defence Arrangements, a military alliance with Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
Singapore consists of 63 islands, including the main island, Pulau Ujong. There are two man-made connections to Johor, Malaysia: the Johor–Singapore Causeway in the north and the Tuas Second Link in the west. Jurong Island, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin and Sentosa are the largest of Singapore's smaller islands. The highest natural point is Bukit Timah Hill at 163.63 m (537 ft).
Ongoing land reclamation projects have increased Singapore's land area from 581.5 km2 (224.5 sq mi) in the 1960s to 719.1 km2 (277.6 sq mi) in 2015, an increase of some 23% (130 km2). The country is projected to grow by another 100 km2 (40 sq mi) by 2030. Some projects involve merging smaller islands through land reclamation to form larger, more functional islands, as has been done with Jurong Island.
Singapore's urbanisation means that it has lost 95% of its historical forests, and now over half of the naturally occurring fauna and flora in Singapore is present in nature reserves, such as the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, which comprise only 0.25% of Singapore's land area. To combat this decline, in 1967 the government introduced the vision of making Singapore a "garden city" aiming to soften the harshness of urbanisation and improve the quality of life. Since then, nearly 10% of Singapore's land has been set aside for parks and nature reserves. The government also has plans to preserve the remaining wildlife. Singapore was ranked fourth in the 2014 Environmental Performance Index, which measures the effectiveness of state policies for environmental sustainability.
Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen: Af ) with no distinctive seasons, uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity, and abundant rainfall. Temperatures usually range from 22 to 35 °C (72 to 95 °F). Relative humidity averages around 79% in the morning and 73% in the afternoon. While temperature does not vary greatly throughout the year, there is a wetter monsoon season from November to January.
From July to October, there is often haze caused by bush fires in neighbouring Indonesia, usually from the island of Sumatra. Although Singapore does not observe daylight saving time (DST), it follows the GMT+8 time zone, one hour ahead of the typical zone for its geographical location.
Singapore has a highly developed market economy, based historically on extended entrepôt trade. Along with Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan, Singapore is one of the original Four Asian Tigers, but has surpassed its peers in terms of GDP per capita. Between 1965 and 1995, growth rates averaged around 6 per cent per annum, transforming the living standards of the population. The Singaporean economy is known as one of the freest, most innovative, most competitive, most dynamic and most business-friendly. The 2015 Index of Economic Freedom ranks Singapore as the second freest economy in the world and the Ease of Doing Business Index has also ranked Singapore as the easiest place to do business for the past decade. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Singapore is consistently perceived as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, along with New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries. In 2016, Singapore is rated the world's most expensive city for the third consecutive year by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
For several years, Singapore has been one of the few countries with an AAA credit rating from the "big three", and the only Asian country to achieve this rating. Singapore attracts a large amount of foreign investment as a result of its location, skilled workforce, low tax rates, advanced infrastructure and zero-tolerance against corruption. Singapore has the world's eleventh largest foreign reserves, and one of the highest net international investment position per capita. There are more than 7,000 multinational corporations from the United States, Japan, and Europe in Singapore. There are also approximately 1,500 companies from China and a similar number from India. Foreign firms are found in almost all sectors of the country's economy. Roughly 44 percent of the Singaporean workforce is made up of non-Singaporeans. Over ten free-trade agreements have been signed with other countries and regions. Despite market freedom, Singapore's government operations have a significant stake in the economy, contributing 22% of the GDP.
Singapore is the second-largest foreign investor in India. It is the 14th largest exporter and the 15th largest importer in the world.
The currency of Singapore is the Singapore dollar (SGD or S$), issued by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). It is interchangeable with the Brunei dollar at par value since 1967, owing to their historically close relations. MAS manages its monetary policy by allowing the Singapore dollar exchange rate to rise or fall within an undisclosed trading band. This is different from most central banks, which use interest rates to manage policy.
In recent years, the country has been identified as an increasingly popular tax haven for the wealthy due to the low tax rate on personal income and tax exemptions on foreign-based income and capital gains. Australian millionaire retailer Brett Blundy and multi-billionaire Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin are two examples of wealthy individuals who have settled in Singapore (Blundy in 2013 and Saverin in 2012). In 2009, Singapore was removed from the OCDE "liste grise" of tax havens, but ranked fourth on the Tax Justice Network's 2015 Financial Secrecy Index of the world's off-shore financial service providers, banking one-eighth of the world's off-shore capital, while "providing numerous tax avoidance and evasion opportunities". In August 2016, The Straits Times reported that Indonesia had decided to create tax havens on two islands near Singapore to bring Indonesian capital back into the tax base. In October 2016, the Monetary Authority of Singapore admonished and fined UBS and DBS and withdrew Falcon Private Bank's banking license for their alleged role in the Malaysian Sovereign Fund scandal.
Singapore has the world's highest percentage of millionaires, with one out of every six households having at least one million US dollars in disposable wealth. This excludes property, businesses, and luxury goods, which if included would increase the number of millionaires, especially as property in Singapore is among the world's most expensive. Singapore does not have a minimum wage, believing that it would lower its competitiveness. It also has one of the highest income inequalities among developed countries.
Singapore traditionally has one of the lowest unemployment rates among developed countries. The unemployment rate did not exceed 4% from 2005 to 2014, hitting highs of 3.1% in 2005 and 3% during the 2009 global financial crisis; it fell to 1.8% in the first quarter of 2015.
The government provides numerous assistance programmes to the homeless and needy through the Ministry of Social and Family Development, so acute poverty is rare. Some of the programmes include providing between SGD400 and SGD1000 per month to needy households, providing free medical care at government hospitals, and paying for children's school fees. The Singapore government also provides numerous benefits to its citizenry, including: free money to encourage residents to exercise in public gyms, up to $166,000 worth of baby bonus benefits for each baby born to a citizen, heavily subsidised healthcare, money to help the disabled, cheap laptops for poor students, rebates for numerous areas such as public transport, utility bills and more.
Although it has been recognised that foreign workers are crucial to the country's economy, the government is considering capping these workers, as foreign workers make up 80% of the construction industry and up to 50% of the service industry. To keep an effective tap on the issue of immigration and to also attract foreign talents at the same time, the Ministry of Manpower (MoM) issues employment pass under three categories viz: P1 Employment Pass for those individuals with monthly earning of $8,000 and up, P2 Employment Pass for individuals with monthly earning of $4,500–7,999 and Q1 Employment Pass individuals with at least a monthly earning of $3,000.
Globally, Singapore is a leader in several economic sectors, including being 3rd-largest foreign exchange centre, 3rd-leading financial centre, 2nd-largest casino gambling market, 3rd-largest oil-refining and trading centre, world's largest oil-rig producer and major hub for ship repair services, world's top logistics hub.
The economy is diversified, with its top contributors – financial services, manufacturing, oil-refining. Its main exports are refined petroleum, integrated circuits and computers which constituted 27% of the country's GDP in 2010, and includes significant electronics, petroleum refining, chemicals, mechanical engineering and biomedical sciences sectors. In 2006, Singapore produced about 10% of the world's foundry wafer output.
Singapore's largest companies are in the telecoms, banking, transportation and manufacturing sectors, many of which started as state-run enterprises, and has since been listed on the Singapore Exchange, including Singapore Telecommunications (Singtel), Singapore Technologies Engineering, Keppel Corporation, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC), Development Bank of Singapore (DBS), United Overseas Bank (UOB). In 2011, amidst the global financial crisis, OCBC, DBS and UOB were ranked as the world's 1st, 5th, 6th "strongest banks in the world" respectively by Bloomberg surveys.
The nation's best known global brands include Singapore Airlines, Changi Airport and Port of Singapore, all three are amongst the most-awarded in their respective industry sectors. Singapore Airlines is ranked as Asia's most-admired company, and world's 19th most-admired in 2015, by Fortune's annual "50 most admired companies in the world" industry surveys. It is also the world's most-awarded airline, including "Best international airline", by US-based Travel + Leisure reader surveys, for 20 consecutive years. Changi Airport connects over 100 airlines to more than 300 cities. The strategic international air hub has more than 480 "World's Best Airport" awards as of 2015, and is known as the most-awarded airport in the world.
Tourism forms a large part of the economy, with over 15 million tourists visiting the city-state in 2014. To expand the sector, casinos were legalised in 2005, but only two licenses for "Integrated Resorts" were issued, to control money laundering and addiction. Singapore also promotes itself as a medical tourism hub: about 200,000 foreigners seek medical care there each year. Singapore medical services aim to serve at least one million foreign patients annually and generate USD3 billion in revenue. In 2015, Lonely Planet and The New York Times listed Singapore as their top and 6th best world destination to visit respectively.
Singapore is an education hub, with more than 80,000 international students in 2006. 5,000 Malaysian students cross the Johor–Singapore Causeway daily to attend schools in Singapore. In 2009, 20% of all students in Singaporean universities were international students, a majority from ASEAN, China and India.
Information and communications technologies (ICT) is one of the pillars of Singapore's economic success. The World Economic Forum's 2015 Global Technology Report placed Singapore as the most "Tech-Ready Nation". It is the most comprehensive survey of the pervasiveness and network-readiness of a country, in terms of market, political and regulatory infrastructure for connectivity. Singapore has also topped Waseda University's International e-Government rankings from 2009 to 2013, and 2015.
Singapore has the world's highest smartphone penetration rates, in surveys by Deloitte and Google Consumer Barometer – at 89% and 85% of the population respectively in 2014. Overall mobile phone penetration rate is at 148 mobile phone subscribers per 100 people.
Internet in Singapore is provided by state owned Singtel and partially state owned Starhub and M1 Limited plus some other business internet service providers (ISPs) that offer residential service plans of speeds up to 2 Gbit/s as of Spring 2015.
Equinix (332 participants) and also it's smaller brother Singapore Internet Exchange (70 participants) are Internet exchange points where Internet service providers and Content delivery networks exchange Internet traffic between their networks (autonomous systems) in various locations in Singapore.
As Singapore is a small island with a high population density, the number of private cars on the road is restricted so as to curb pollution and congestion. Car buyers must pay for duties one-and-a-half times the vehicle's market value, and bid for a Singaporean Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which allows the car to run on the road for a decade. The cost of the Singaporean certificate of entitlement alone would buy a Porsche Boxster in the United States. Car prices are generally significantly higher in Singapore than in other English-speaking countries. As with most Commonwealth countries, vehicles on the road and people walking on the streets keep to the left.
Singaporean residents also travel by bicycles, bus, taxis and train (MRT or LRT). Two companies run the train transport system—SBS Transit and SMRT Corporation. Four companies, Go-Ahead, Tower-Transit, SBS Transit and SMRT Corporation run the public buses under a 'Bus Contracting Model' where operators bid for routes.. There are six taxi companies, who together put out over 28,000 taxis on the road. Taxis are a popular form of public transport as the fares are relatively cheap compared to many other developed countries.
Singapore has a road system covering 3,356 kilometres (2,085 mi), which includes 161 kilometres (100 mi) of expressways. The Singapore Area Licensing Scheme, implemented in 1975, became the world's first congestion pricing scheme, and included other complementary measures such as stringent car ownership quotas and improvements in mass transit. Upgraded in 1998 and renamed Electronic Road Pricing, the system introduced electronic toll collection, electronic detection, and video surveillance technology.
Singapore is a major international transport hub in Asia, serving some of the busiest sea and air trade routes. Changi Airport is an aviation centre for Southeast Asia and a stopover on the Kangaroo Route between Sydney and London. There are eight airports in the country, and Singapore Changi Airport hosts a network of over 100 airlines connecting Singapore to some 300 cities in about 70 countries and territories worldwide. It has been rated one of the best international airports by international travel magazines, including being rated as the world's best airport for the first time in 2006 by Skytrax. The national airline is Singapore Airlines.
The Port of Singapore, managed by port operators PSA International and Jurong Port, was the world's second-busiest port in 2005 in terms of shipping tonnage handled, at 1.15 billion gross tons, and in terms of containerised traffic, at 23.2 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). It is also the world's second-busiest, behind Shanghai, in terms of cargo tonnage with 423 million tons handled. In addition, the port is the world's busiest for transshipment traffic and the world's biggest ship refuelling centre.
Access to water is universal, affordable, efficient and of high quality. Innovative integrated water management approaches such as the reuse of reclaimed water, the establishment of protected areas in urban rainwater catchments and the use of estuaries as freshwater reservoirs have been introduced along with seawater desalination to reduce the country's dependence on water imported from neighbouring Malaysia.
Singapore's approach does not rely only on physical infrastructure, but it also emphasises proper legislation and enforcement, water pricing, public education as well as research and development.
As of mid-2015, the estimated population of Singapore was 5,535,000 people, 3,375,000 (60.98%) of whom were citizens, while the remaining 2,160,000 (39.02%) were permanent residents (527,700) or foreign students/foreign workers/dependants (1,632,300). According to the country's most recent census in 2010, nearly 23% of Singaporean residents (i.e. citizens and permanent residents) were foreign born (which means about 10% of Singapore citizens were foreign-born naturalised citizens); if non-residents were counted, nearly 43% of the total population were foreign born.
The same census also reports that about 74.1% of residents were of Chinese descent, 13.4% of Malay descent, 9.2% of Indian descent, and 3.3% of other (including Eurasian) descent. Prior to 2010, each person could register as a member of only one race, by default that of his or her father, therefore mixed-race persons were solely grouped under their father's race in government censuses. From 2010 onward, people may register using a multi-racial classification, in which they may choose one primary race and one secondary race, but no more than two.
90.3% of resident households (i.e. households headed by a Singapore citizen or permanent resident) own the homes they live in, and the average household size is 3.43 persons (which include dependants who are neither citizens nor permanent residents). However, due to scarcity of land, 80.4% of resident households live in subsidised, high-rise, public housing apartments known as "HDB flats" because of the government board (Housing and Development Board) responsible for public housing in the country. Also, 75.9% of resident households live in properties that are equal to, or larger than, a four-room (i.e. three bedrooms plus one living room) HDB flat or in private housing. Live-in foreign domestic workers are quite common in Singapore, with about 224,500 foreign domestic workers there, as of December 2013.
The median age of Singaporean residents is 39.3, and the total fertility rate is estimated to be 0.80 children per woman in 2014, the lowest in the world and well below the 2.1 needed to replace the population. To overcome this problem, the Singapore government has been encouraging foreigners to immigrate to Singapore for the past few decades. The large number of immigrants has kept Singapore's population from declining.
Buddhism is the most widely practised religion in Singapore, with 33% of the resident population declaring themselves adherents at the most recent census. The next-most practised religion is Christianity, followed by Islam, Taoism, and Hinduism. 17% of the population did not have a religious affiliation. The proportion of Christians, Taoists, and non-religious people increased between 2000 and 2010 by about 3% each, whilst the proportion of Buddhists decreased. Other faiths remained largely stable in their share of the population. An analysis by the Pew Research Center found Singapore to be the world's most religiously diverse nation.
There are monasteries and Dharma centres from all three major traditions of Buddhism in Singapore: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Most Buddhists in Singapore are Chinese and are of the Mahayana tradition, with missionaries having come into the country from Taiwan and China for several decades. However, Thailand's Theravada Buddhism has seen growing popularity among the populace (not only the Chinese) during the past decade. The religion of Soka Gakkai International, a Japanese Buddhist organisation, is practised by many people in Singapore, but mostly by those of Chinese descent. Tibetan Buddhism has also made slow inroads into the country in recent years.
Singapore has four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil. English is the common language, and is the language of business, government, and the medium of instruction in schools. Public bodies in Singapore, such as the Singapore Public Service, (which includes the Singapore Civil Service and other agencies), conduct their business in English, and official documents written in a non-English official language such as Malay, Chinese or Tamil typically have to be translated into English to be accepted for submission.
The Constitution of Singapore and all laws are written in English, and interpreters are required if one wishes to address the Singaporean Courts in a language other than English. English is the native tongue for only one-third of all Singaporeans, with roughly a quarter of all Singaporean Malays, a third of all Singaporean Chinese, and half of all Singaporean Indians speaking it as their native tongue. Twenty percent of Singaporeans cannot read or write in English.
Singaporeans are mostly bilingual, with English as their common language and usually the mother-tongue as a second language taught in schools, in order to preserve each individual's ethnic identity and values. The official languages amongst Singaporeans are English (80% literacy), Mandarin (65% literacy), Malay (17% literacy), and Tamil (4% literacy). Singapore English is based on British English, and forms of English spoken in Singapore range from Standard Singapore English to a colloquial form known as "Singlish". Singlish is discouraged by the government.
Singaporean Mandarin is the language that is spoken as the native tongue by the greatest number of Singaporeans, with 1.2 million using it as their home language. Nearly half a million speak other varieties of Chinese, mainly Hokkien, Teochew, and Cantonese, as their home language, although the use of these is declining in favour of Mandarin and English. Singapore Chinese characters are written using simplified Chinese characters.
Malay was chosen as a national language by the Singaporean government after independence from Britain in the 1960s to avoid friction with Singapore's Malay-speaking neighbours—Malaysia and Indonesia. It has a symbolic, rather than functional purpose. It is used in the national anthem "Majulah Singapura", in citations of Singaporean orders and decorations, and in military commands. In general, Malay is spoken mainly within the Singaporean Malay community, with only 17% of all Singaporeans literate in Malay and only 12% using it as their native language. While Singaporean Malay is officially written in the Latin-based Rumi script, Singaporean Malays still learn some Jawi as children alongside Rumi, and Jawi is considered an ethnic script for use on Singaporean Identity Cards.
Around 100,000, or 3%, of Singaporeans speak Tamil as their native language. Tamil has official status in Singapore and there have been no attempts to discourage the use of other Indian languages.
Education for primary, secondary, and tertiary levels is mostly supported by the state. All institutions, private and public, must be registered with the Ministry of Education. English is the language of instruction in all public schools, and all subjects are taught and examined in English except for the "mother tongue" language paper. While the term "mother tongue" in general refers to the first language internationally, in Singapore's education system, it is used to refer to the second language, as English is the first language. Students who have been abroad for a while, or who struggle with their "Mother Tongue" language, are allowed to take a simpler syllabus or drop the subject.
Education takes place in three stages: primary, secondary, and pre-university education. Only the primary level is compulsory. Students begin with six years of primary school, which is made up of a four-year foundation course and a two-year orientation stage. The curriculum is focused on the development of English, the mother tongue, mathematics, and science. Secondary school lasts from four to five years, and is divided between Special, Express, Normal (Academic), and Normal (Technical) streams in each school, depending on a student's ability level. The basic coursework breakdown is the same as in the primary level, although classes are much more specialised. Pre-university education takes place over two to three years at senior schools, mostly called Junior Colleges.
National examinations are standardised across all schools, with a test taken after each stage. After the first six years of education, students take the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), which determines their placement at secondary school. At the end of the secondary stage, GCE "O"-Level or "N"-level exams are taken; at the end of the following pre-university stage, the GCE "A"-Level exams are taken.
Some schools have a degree of freedom in their curriculum and are known as autonomous schools. These exist from the secondary education level and up. Singapore has 6 public universities of which the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University are among the top 20 universities in the world.
Of all non-student Singaporeans aged 15 and above, 18% have no education qualifications at all while 45% have the PSLE as their highest qualification; 15% have the GCE 'O' Level as their highest qualification and 14% have a degree. Students in Singapore have consistently been ranked as some of the best educated in the world, especially in science and maths.
Singapore has a generally efficient healthcare system, even though their health expenditures are relatively low for developed countries. The World Health Organisation ranks Singapore's healthcare system as 6th overall in the world in its World Health Report. In general, Singapore has had the lowest infant mortality rate in the world for the past two decades. Life expectancy in Singapore is 80 for males and 85 for females, placing the country 4th in the world for life expectancy. Almost the whole population has access to improved water and sanitation facilities. There are fewer than 10 annual deaths from HIV per 100,000 people. There is a high level of immunisation. Adult obesity is below 10%. The Economist Intelligence Unit, in its 2013 "Where-to-be-born Index", ranks Singapore as having the best quality of life in Asia and sixth overall in the world.
The government's healthcare system is based upon the "3M" framework. This has three components: Medifund, which provides a safety net for those not able to otherwise afford healthcare, Medisave, a compulsory national medical savings account system covering about 85% of the population, and Medishield, a government-funded health insurance program. Public hospitals in Singapore have autonomy in their management decisions, and compete for patients. A subsidy scheme exists for those on low income. In 2008, 32% of healthcare was funded by the government. It accounts for approximately 3.5% of Singapore's GDP.
Despite its small size, Singapore has a diversity of languages, religions, and cultures. Former Prime Ministers of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, have stated that Singapore does not fit the traditional description of a nation, calling it a society-in-transition, pointing out the fact that Singaporeans do not all speak the same language, share the same religion, or have the same customs. Even though English is the first language of the nation, according to the 2010 census 20% of Singaporeans are illiterate in English. This is however an improvement from 1990, when 40% of Singaporeans were illiterate in English.
When Singapore became independent from the United Kingdom in 1963, most Singaporean citizens were uneducated labourers from Malaysia, China and India. Many were transient labourers, seeking to make some money in Singapore, with no intention of staying permanently. There was also a sizeable minority of middle-class, locally-born people—known as Peranakans or Baba-Nyonya—descendants of 15th and 16th-century Chinese immigrants. With the exception of the Peranakans who pledged their loyalties to Singapore, most of the labourers' loyalties lay with their respective homelands of Malaysia, China and India. After independence, the government began a deliberate process of crafting a Singaporean identity and culture.
Each Singaporean's behaviours and attitudes are influenced by, among other things, his or her home language and his religion. Singaporeans who speak English as their native language tend to lean toward Western culture, while those who speak Chinese as their native language tend to lean toward Chinese culture and Confucianism. Malay-speaking Singaporeans tend to lean toward Malay culture, which itself is closely linked to Islamic culture.
Racial and religious harmony is regarded by Singaporeans as a crucial part of Singapore's success, and played a part in building a Singaporean identity.
The national flower of Singapore is the hybrid orchid, Vanda 'Miss Joaquim', named in memory of a Singapore-born Armenian woman, who crossbred the flower in her garden at Tanjong Pagar in 1893. Many national symbols such as the Coat of arms of Singapore and the Lion head symbol of Singapore make use of the lion, as Singapore is known as the Lion City. Singapore is also known as the Little Red Dot. Major religious festivals are public holidays.
Singapore has a reputation as a nanny state. However, the government places heavy emphasis on meritocracy, where one is judged based on one's ability.
The diversity of food is touted as a reason to visit the country, and the variety of food representing different ethnicities is seen by the government as a symbol of its multiculturalism.
In popular culture, food items belong to a particular ethnicity, with Chinese, Malay, and Indian food clearly defined. However, the diversity of cuisine has been increased further by the "hybridisation" of different styles (e.g., the Peranakan cuisine, a mix of Chinese and Malay cuisine).
Since the 1990s, the government has been promoting Singapore as a centre for arts and culture, in particular the performing arts, and to transform the country into a cosmopolitan "gateway between the East and West". For example:The Esplanade, a performing arts centre opened in October 2002.
The national orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, plays at the Esplanade.
The annual Singapore Arts Festival is organised by the National Arts Council.
The stand-up comedy scene has been growing, with a weekly open mic.
Popular sports include football, basketball, cricket, swimming, sailing, table tennis and badminton. Most Singaporeans live in public residential areas (known as "HDB flats") near amenities such as public swimming pools, outdoor basketball courts and indoor sport complexes. Water sports are popular, including sailing, kayaking and water skiing. Scuba diving is another popular recreational sport.
Singapore's football league, the S.League, launched in 1996, currently comprises nine clubs, including two foreign teams.
The Singapore Slingers, formerly the Hunter Pirates in the Australian National Basketball League, is one of the inaugural teams in the ASEAN Basketball League which was founded in October 2009.
Singapore began hosting a round of the Formula One World Championship, the Singapore Grand Prix, in 2008. The race takes place on the Marina Bay Street Circuit and was the inaugural F1 night race, and the first F1 street race in Asia. Singapore will remain on the F1 calendar until at least 2017, after race organisers signed a contract extension with Formula One Management on the eve of the 2012 event.
Kranji Racecourse is run by the Singapore Turf Club and hosts several meetings per week, including international races—notably the Singapore Airlines International Cup.
Singapore also hosted the inaugural 2010 Summer Youth Olympics.
Companies linked to the government control much of the domestic media in Singapore. MediaCorp operates most free-to-air television channels and free-to-air radio stations in Singapore. There are a total of seven free-to-air TV channels offered by Mediacorp. Starhub Cable Vision (SCV) also offers cable television with channels from all around the world, and Singtel's Mio TV provides an IPTV service. Singapore Press Holdings, a body with close links to the government, controls most of the newspaper industry in Singapore.
Singapore's media industry has sometimes been criticised for being overly regulated and lacking in freedom by human rights groups such as Freedom House. Self-censorship among journalists is said to be common. In 2014, Singapore dipped to its lowest ranking ever (153rd of 180 nations) on the Press Freedom Index published by the French Reporters Without Borders. The Media Development Authority regulates Singaporean media, claiming to balance the demand for choice and protection against offensive and harmful material.
Private ownership of TV satellite dishes is banned. In 2016, there were an estimated 4.7 million internet users in Singapore, representing 82.5% of the population. The Singapore government does not engage in widespread censoring of the internet, but it maintains a list of one hundred websites—mostly pornographic—that it blocks as a "symbolic statement of the Singaporean community's stand on harmful and undesirable content on the Internet". As the block covers only home internet access, users may still visit the blocked websites from their office computers.