Singapore, also known as the Lion Metropolis, the Garden City, and the Red Dot, is a sovereign state and global city in Southeast Asia, as well as the world’s only island city-state. It is located one degree (137 kilometers) north of the equator, south of the southernmost point of continental Asia and peninsular Malaysia, and to the south of Indonesia’s Riau Islands. Singapore’s territory includes a diamond-shaped main island as well as 62 smaller islets. Since independence, significant land reclamation has expanded the island’s overall area by 23% (130 km2), and a greening program has blanketed the densely populated island with tropical vegetation, parks, and gardens.
Sir Stamford Raffles established colonial Singapore in 1819 as an East India Company trading station; following the formation of the British Raj, the islands were surrendered to Britain and became part of the Straits Settlements in 1826. During World War II, Japan seized Singapore. It achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1963 by joining forces with other former British colonies to create Malaysia, but was ejected two years later due to ideological disagreements. After a period of instability, and despite a lack of natural resources and a hinterland, the country emerged as an Asian Tiger economy built on foreign commerce and human capital.
Singapore is a worldwide trade, financial, and transportation center. Its rankings include: most “technology-ready” nation (WEF), top International-meetings city (UIA), city with “best investment potential” (BERI), 2nd-most competitive country (WEF), third-largest foreign exchange center, third-largest financial center, third-largest oil refining and trading center, and one of the top two busiest container ports since the 1990s. Singapore’s most well-known worldwide brands are Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Changi Airport, both of which have received many awards. It has been the only Asian nation with the highest AAA sovereign rating from all major credit rating agencies, including S&P, Moody’s, and Fitch, for the last decade.
Singapore scores well on the Human Development Index (UN), leading Asia and ranking 11th worldwide, particularly on important indicators of education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety, and housing. Despite significant economic disparity, 90% of resident families own their houses, and the nation boasts one of the greatest per capita incomes in the world, with minimal taxes. Singapore has 5.6 million inhabitants, with 38% of them being permanent residents or other foreign nationalities. Singaporeans are typically multilingual, speaking both their native tongue and English as their common language. Its cultural variety is evident in its ethnic “hawker” food and main festivals—Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Western—all of which are national holidays.
It is generally regarded as the “Singapore model” because of its efficient, pragmatic, and uncorrupt government and civil service, as well as its fast growth plans. According to Gallup surveys, 84 percent of its people have faith in the national government, and 85 percent have faith in its judicial institutions, which is one of the best scores ever recorded. Singapore has considerable influence in global events despite its small size, prompting some experts to categorize it as a medium power. Forbes ranks it as Asia’s most influential city and the fourth most important city in the world.
Singapore is a unitary, multiparty, parliamentary republic with a Westminster form of unicameral parliamentary government, although Freedom House classifies it as “partly free.” Since the country’s independence in 1959, the People’s Action Party has won every election. Singapore is one of the ASEAN’s five founding members, as well as the home of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat and a member of the East Asia Summit, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Commonwealth of Nations.