Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, and often referred to as the Lion City or the Little Red Dot, is a sovereign city-state in Southeast Asia, and the world’s only island city-state. It lies one degree (137 km) north of the equator, south of the southernmost tip of continental Asia and peninsular Malaysia, with Indonesia’s Riau Islands to the south. Singapore’s territory consists of a diamond-shaped main island along with 62 other islets. Since independence, extensive land reclamation has increased its total size by 23% (130 km2), and its greening policy has covered the densely populated island with tropical flora, parks and gardens.
Stamford Raffles founded colonial Singapore in 1819 as a trading post of the East India Company; after the establishment of the British Raj, the islands were ceded to Britain and became part of its Straits Settlements in 1826. During the Second World War, Singapore was occupied by Japan. It gained independence from the UK in 1963 by federating with other former British territories to form Malaysia, but was expelled two years later over ideological differences, becoming a sovereign nation in 1965. After early years of turbulence, and despite lacking natural resources and a hinterland, the nation developed rapidly as an Asian Tiger economy, based on external trade and its workforce.
Singapore is a global commerce, finance and transport hub. Its standings include: the most “technology-ready” nation (WEF), top International-meetings city (UIA), city with “best investment potential” (BERI), second-most competitive country, third-largest foreign exchange market, third-largest financial centre, third-largest oil refining and trading centre, and the second-busiest container port. The country has also been identified as a tax haven.
Singapore is ranked 11th internationally and first in Asia on the UN Human Development Index. It is ranked highly in education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety, and housing, but does not fare well on the Democracy index. Although income inequality is high, 90% of homes are owner-occupied. 38% of Singapore’s 5.6 million residents are permanent residents and other foreign nationals. There are four official languages on the island: Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English. English is its common language; most Singaporeans are bilingual.
Singapore is a unitary multiparty parliamentary republic, with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government. The People’s Action Party has won every election since self-government in 1959. One of the five founding members of the ASEAN, Singapore is also the host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat, and a member of the East Asia Summit, Non-Aligned Movement, and the Commonwealth of Nations.
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in Singapore and it has been referred to 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.
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