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Singapore Flag


Full Country Name:
The Republic of Singapore
Country Profile: Singapore


Singapore Map


Area: 647 sq km (250 sq mi)
Population: 4.2m (UN, 2003)
People: Chinese (77%), Malay (14%), Indians (8%), Others (1%)
Languages: Mandarin Chinese, English, Malay and Tamil. Mandarin, English, Malay and Tamil are the official languages. English is widely spoken and is the main language of communication.
Religions: 31% Taoist, 28% Buddhist, 18% Muslim, 10% Christian, 4% Hindu
Currency: Singapore Dollar
Major Political Parties: People's Action Party (PAP)
Government: Republic and Parliamentary Democracy
Head of State: President SR Nathan
Prime Minister: Lee Hsien Loong
Foreign Minister: Brigadier-General (NS) George Yeo
Membership of international groupings/organisations: Commonwealth, United Nations (UN) (UNSC member 2001-02), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Non Aligned Movement (NAM) and Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Colombo Plan, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Trade Organisation (WTO).


The Republic of Singapore lies to the south of the Malay peninsula, to which it is joined by a causeway, 1.2 km long, carrying a road, railway and water pipeline across the Straits of Johor, and a separate link bridge. Situated 1.5 degrees north of the Equator, Singapore occupies a focal position at the turning point of the shortest sea route from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea. The climate is hot and humid, with no clearly defined seasons although December and January are the wettest months.


Recent History

The most recent election in November 2001 resulted in a victory for the People's Action Party (PAP). They won 82 out of 84 seats with 55 seats being uncontested. This was the PAP's most successful election since 1980. Singapore coped well with the Asian economic crisis of 1997-1998 and was out of recession by 1999. It was subsequently hit by the US/global economic slowdown. Singapore was also affected by the outbreak of SARS in 2003. But the Singaporean economy bounced back strongly in 2004, showing 8.4% growth for the year.

Longer Historical Perspective

Singapore has been a trading centre since probably the 13th century when it may have been part of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire. Singapore was destroyed in the late fourteenth century and was abandoned for over 400 years, the home of a few fishermen and pirates. In 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles, seeking a base from which to extend British influence in South-East Asia, obtained permission from local rulers to establish a trading post at Singapore, and in 1824 the island was ceded in perpetuity. It was Raffles who laid the foundations of modern Singapore.

In 1826, Singapore joined Penang and Malacca to form the Straits Settlements. Singapore soon became Britain's most important trading centre in the area. In 1867, the connection with India was dissolved and Singapore became a Crown Colony. Singapore prospered throughout the 19th century, boosted by the opening of the Suez Canal and the gradual extension of British influence throughout the Malay peninsula, to become the commercial and financial hub of South-East Asia. Its naval base was one of a chain of British bases from Gibraltar to the Far East. Singapore's population rapidly expanded with the arrival of thousands of Chinese settlers.

Singapore's reputation as a British stronghold did not deter the Japanese from attacking Malaya in 1941 and then Singapore itself, which fell in 1942. British rule was restored in 1945.

In 1946, Singapore became a separate Crown Colony and in 1959, was granted internal self-government. The first general election was held that year and the PAP led by Lee Kuan Yew won an outright majority. The PAP has been in power ever since.

In 1963, Singapore together with the Crown Colonies of Sabah and Sarawak joined the recently independent Federation of Malaya to form Malaysia. Singapore left the Federation in 1965, achieving full independence. There were considerable doubts, on economic and security grounds, about Singapore's ability to survive. The doubts were fuelled by the British decision in 1966 to withdraw its bases 'East of Suez' by the mid-70s, later brought forward to 1971. The British base had made a sizeable contribution to the Singapore economy. Singapore responded with a programme of rapid industrialisation, supported by foreign investment, and the training and regulation of the Singapore work-force. The foundations were laid for Singapore's rapid economic development in the following decades.

PAP control of Singapore continued unchallenged until 1981 when the first opposition MP was elected. There are now two elected opposition MPs in Parliament. The Constitution also provides for the appointment of other MPs not voted in at a General Election. Up to three Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) from the opposition political parties can be appointed. Currently there is one MP within this category in Parliament which brings the total number of Opposition MPs to three.

In 1990, Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) stepped down as Prime Minister in favour of Goh Chok Tong, but remained in PM Goh’s cabinet as Senior Minister and is now Minister Mentor in PM Lee’s cabinet. In 1991, the constitution was amended to provide for an elected president. Although largely ceremonial, the President has a role in safeguarding the national reserves – the so-called 'dual-key' policy. The parliamentary system has also been adjusted to provide for nominated MPs and grouped constituencies.
This is an external link BBC Monitoring Timeline


Recent Political Developments

The PAP retains widespread popular support. The government is characterised by conservative, but extremely effective flexible management of the economy.

Lee Hsien Loong (LKY’s son), suceeded Goh Chok Tong as PM on 12 August 2004. LKY is still synonymous with Singapore and as a serving member of the Cabinet continues to exert influence from his position as ‘Minister Mentor’ in the Prime Minister's Office. His successor, Goh Chok Tong, won plaudits for his stewardship of the country - particularly his management of the Asian financial crisis. Goh Chok Tong continues to remain in the cabinet as ‘Senior Minister’.


The last election took place on 3 November 2001. Elections are held every five years from the date of convening of the Parliament (not from the holding of elections). The current Parliament, the tenth, was convened on 25 March 2002, following the November 2001 elections. Parliament was prorogued late in 2004 and the second session of the 10th Parliament was opened by President Nathan on Wednesday 12th January 2005.


Basic Economic Facts
GDP (at 1995 market prices): S$ 164.3 billion (2003)
GDP per capita: S$38,023
Annual Growth: 8.4% (2004)
Inflation: 0.5% (2003)
Major Industries: Manufacturing (particularly electronics, engineering, biomedical sciences, and chemicals), financial and business services, and commerce.

Singapore is a model of economic development. From independence in 1965, it achieved almost uninterrupted growth of nearly 8% per annum for over three decades. By the 1990s, it had GDP per capita levels similar to many OECD countries and it was acknowledged widely as one of Asia’s “tigers”. The contrast between Singapore and some of its regional neighbours is all the more striking given its size and lack of natural resources.

Until recently, Singapore had experienced few periods of economic difficulty. However, Singapore was hit hard in 2001 by a downturn in its key global markets (particularly the US) and a collapse in demand for electronics goods. As a result, Singapore experienced in 2001 its worst recession since independence: GDP fell 1.9% after growing almost 10% in 2000. Although the economy grew again by 2.2% in 2002, Singapore was hit hard again in 2003 by SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). The Singapore government handled the outbreak better than most, but the economic fallout was significant, particularly in the retail, tourism and consumer-services sectors, and GDP grew by only 1.1% in 2003.

Nevertheless, Singapore's economy remains fundamentally sound and has made a strong recovery. GDP is predicted to grow by 3-5% in 2005.


Singapore was a founder member of ASEAN in 1967 and has worked hard to maintain good relations with regional neighbours. Singapore foreign policy has been designed to ensure a regional balance. Relations with China have intensified following the opening of diplomatic relations in 1990.

Singapore's Relations with the International Community

Singapore is an active player on the world international stage through its membership of the UN, the Commonwealth, ASEAN, APEC, the WTO and the NAM. Singapore served for the first time on the UN Security Council in 2001 and 2002. Prime Minister Goh was the driving force behind biennial Asia Europe Meetings (ASEM). In keeping with Singapore’s position as a trading nation, Singapore is a strong supporter of free trade and uses its membership of APEC and the WTO to press for progress in this area.

Indian Ocean Tsunami

Despite being so close to the epicentre of the earthquake, Singapore was extremely fortunate and suffered no damage from the Indian Ocean Tsunami on 26th December 2004, due to its geographically protected position. The country has however been very quick to support the humanitarian aid effort, particularly in Indonesia. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong initiated the Jakarta Summit of ASEAN and other leading nations which took place on Thursday 6th January.


Violent crime is rare. You should be aware of the dangers of street crime, particularly bag‑snatching. You should:

* take particular care of your passport;
* leave tickets and unneeded cash/travellers cheques in the hotel safe or at (hosts') home;
* when going out, avoid carrying valuables with you, and be aware of your surroundings;
* not leave possessions in unattended vehicles.

Police permission is required for certain kinds of public gatherings in Singapore. You should therefore avoid street gatherings and public demonstrations, which might place you at risk.

Road Safety

Road conditions in Singapore are generally good. If you are involved in an accident, you should not leave the scene until the police have attended.

A foreign driving licence can be used in Singapore for as long as it is valid. But British nationals staying in Singapore for longer than one year should get a Singaporean driving licence or an annually-renewable International Driving Permit. These are more readily recognised by the Singaporean authorities.

Sea Safety

There have been attacks against ships in and around the waters of Singapore and the Malacca Straits. Mariners are advised to be vigilant and take appropriate precautions; reduce opportunities for theft; establish secure areas onboard; and report all incidents to the coastal and flag state authorities.



There are severe penalties for all drug offences in Singapore including, in some cases, the death penalty. A wider range of lesser offences carries corporal punishment.


Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence in Singapore, and the traffic police regularly carry out breath tests. Sentences can be up to 10 years in prison.

Air rage

The Singaporean authorities will prosecute cases of air rage within their jurisdiction. The maximum sentence is seven years imprisonment, and corporal punishment (the rattan cane).

Don't smoke in any public place or indoor restaurant. It is banned. Failure to observe this regulation attracts an immediate fine. Don't chew gum on the Mass Rapid Transit (MTR) system. It is forbidden and the penalty can be a heavy on-the-spot fine. Don't litter. The penalty is an on-the-spot fine.

Last Updated – 25 April 2005

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