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Singapore

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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.

In a nation that can be traversed in less than an hour, Singapore is a microcosm of Asia, inhabited by Chinese, Malays, Indians, and a significant group of workers and expatriates from all over the world. Singapore, which recently celebrated its 50th birthday, has favored economic practicality over social concerns, encouraging constant reuse and redevelopment of land with massive projects such as the Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa integrated resorts, as well as becoming a major Asian financial hub, but there has also been a growing push back to preserve local heritage.

Demographics

Singapore’s projected population was 5,535,000 individuals as of mid-2015, with 3,375,000 (60.98 percent) citizens and 2,160,000 (39.02 percent) permanent residents (527,700) or international students/foreign workers/dependants (1,632,300). According to the country’s most recent census in 2010, approximately 23% of Singapore residents (i.e. citizens and permanent residents) were foreign born (which implies around 10% of Singapore citizens were foreign-born naturalised citizens); non-residents made up nearly 43% of the overall population.

According to the same census, 74.1 percent of inhabitants were of Chinese ancestry, 13.4 percent were of Malay ancestry, 9.2 percent were of Indian ancestry, and 3.3 percent were of other (including Eurasian) ancestry. Prior to 2010, each individual could only register as a member of one race, by default his or her father’s race, thus mixed-race people were only included in official censuses under their father’s race. People may register using a multi-racial categorization starting in 2010, allowing them to choose one main race and one secondary race, but no more than two.

The average household size in Singapore is 3.43 people, and 90.3 percent of resident households (i.e. households led by a Singapore citizen or permanent resident) own their houses (which include dependants who are neither citizens nor permanent residents). Due to a lack of land, 80.4 percent of resident families live in subsidised, high-rise public housing units called as “HDB flats” by the government body responsible for public housing in the nation (Housing and Development Board). In addition, 75.9% of resident families live in HDB flats or private property that are equivalent to or bigger than a four-room (i.e. three bedrooms + one living room). Singapore has a large number of live-in foreign domestic workers, with about 224,500 foreign domestic workers as of December 2013.

Singaporeans have a median age of 39.3 years, and the total fertility rate in 2014 was projected to be 0.80 children per woman, the lowest in the world and well below the 2.1 required to replace the population.

For decades, the Singapore government has encouraged foreigners to move to Singapore in order to solve this issue. Singapore’s population has remained stable due to the high number of immigrants.

Religion

In Singapore, Buddhism is the most commonly practiced religion, with 33% of the population identifying themselves Buddhists in the most recent census. Christianity is the second most popular religion, followed by Islam, Taoism, and Hinduism. A religious affiliation was not held by 17% of the population. Between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of Christians, Taoists, and non-religious individuals rose by approximately 3% each, while the number of Buddhists dropped. Other religions’ proportion of the population remained essentially constant. According to a Pew Research Center study, Singapore is the world’s most religiously diverse country.

In Singapore, there are monasteries and Dharma centers from all three main Buddhist traditions: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. The majority of Buddhists in Singapore are Chinese and follow the Mahayana tradition, with missionaries arriving from Taiwan and China for decades. However, during the last decade, Thailand’s Theravada Buddhism has grown in favor among the general public (not only the Chinese). Many individuals in Singapore follow the faith of Soka Gakkai International, a Japanese Buddhist organization, although mainly those of Chinese ancestry. In recent years, Tibetan Buddhism has made modest advances within the nation.

Geography

The main island, Pulau Ujong, is one of 63 islands that make up Singapore. The Johor–Singapore Causeway in the north and the Tuas Second Link in the west are two man-made links to Johor, Malaysia. The biggest of Singapore’s minor islands include Jurong Island, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin, and Sentosa. Bukit Timah Hill, at 163.63 meters, is the highest natural peak (537 ft).

Singapore’s land area has grown from 581.5 km2 (224.5 sq mi) in the 1960s to 719.1 km2 (277.6 sq mi) in 2015, a 23 percent growth (130 km2). By 2030, the nation is expected to expand by another 100 km2 (40 sq mi). Some projects, such as Jurong Island, involve combining smaller islands via land reclamation to create bigger, more functional islands.

Because of Singapore’s urbanization, the country has lost 95 percent of its historical forests, and over half of the country’s naturally occurring fauna and flora can now be found in nature reserves like the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, which account for only 0.25 percent of the country’s land area. To counteract this loss, the government has set aside almost 10% of Singapore’s land for parks and natural reserves, as well as five decades of greening initiatives aimed at easing the harshness of urbanisation and enhancing the quality of life. In addition, the government has measures to protect the surviving wildlife. Singapore came in fourth place in the 2014 Environmental Performance Index, which assesses the efficacy of government programs aimed at ensuring environmental sustainability.

Climate

Because Singapore is just 1.5 degrees north of the Equator, it has year-round sunshine and no distinct seasons. Throughout the year, rain occurs nearly everyday, typically in brief, heavy showers that last little more than an hour. However, the northeast monsoon (November to January) sees the greatest rain, with long periods of continuous rain on occasion. Spectacular thunderstorms may occur at any time of day throughout the year, so it’s a good idea to have an umbrella with you at all times, for both sun protection and rain protection.

Forest fires in neighboring Sumatra may also produce thick smoke between May and October, but this is unpredictable and fleeting: For the most up-to-date information, contact the National Environment Agency.

The average temperature is around:

  • 32°C (86°F) daytime, 25°C (76°F) at night in December and January.
  • 33°C (90°F) daytime, 26°C (81°F) at night for the rest of the year.

The lowest temperature ever recorded in Singapore was 19.4°C in 1934.

Visitors from cooler areas of the globe may be affected by the high temperature and humidity, as well as the absence of breeze and the fact that temperatures remain high at night. Keep in mind that spending more than an hour outside, particularly when coupled with moderate activity, may be extremely tiring. Singaporeans, for example, despise the heat, and with good cause. Many people live in air-conditioned apartments, work in air-conditioned workplaces, and commute to air-conditioned retail malls linked by subterranean tunnels, where they buy, dine, and exercise in air-conditioned fitness clubs. If you want to escape discomfort in Singapore’s scorching heat and humidity, follow their lead.

Politics

Singapore is a parliamentary republic modeled after the Westminster system in the United Kingdom, but unlike the bicameral British parliament, it has just one democratically elected house with 89 members.

The President of Singapore is elected by the people every six years, though the constitution requires presidential candidates to have served as a government minister or as the CEO or chairman of the board of directors of a large corporation for a significant period of time before being allowed to run for office, effectively limiting the number of people who are qualified to run. The President’s position in government is mainly ceremonial, with the Prime Minister holding the greatest power.

The Prime Minister is the head of government and usually represents the political party with the most seats in parliament. Lee Hsien Loong, the head of the People’s Action Party (PAP), the sole party in power since independence, is the current Prime Minister. Opposition parties routinely fight parliamentary elections, which take place every five years. Press censorship and limitations on freedom of expression are contributing factors to the governing party’s inability to be deposed. Singapore’s elections, on the other hand, are usually devoid of corruption and electoral fraud. The Workers’ Party is the sole opposition party with representatives in parliament as of the previous election (WP).

Economy

Singapore has a well-developed market economy that has traditionally relied on long-distance commerce. Singapore is one of the original Four Asian Tigers, along with Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan, although it has outperformed its rivals in terms of GDP per capita. Between 1965 and 1995, annual growth rates averaged approximately 6%, changing the population’s living standards. Singapore’s economy is regarded as one of the most open, creative, competitive, dynamic, and business-friendly in the world. Singapore is rated second freest economy in the world in the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, and the Ease of Doing Business Index has placed Singapore as the easiest location to conduct business for the last decade. Singapore, along with New Zealand and the Scandinavian nations, is regularly rated as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index.

Singapore has been the only Asian nation to obtain top-tier AAA sovereign ratings from all major credit rating agencies, including Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch, for the last ten years. It is one of just nine nations in the world to get a AAA grade from the Big Three (credit rating agencies). Because of its location, talented workforce, low tax rates, modern infrastructure, and zero tolerance for corruption, Singapore draws a significant amount of international investment. In Singapore, there are over 7,000 multinational companies from the United States, Japan, and Europe. There are also around 1,500 Chinese businesses and a comparable number of Indian companies. Foreign companies operate in virtually every area of the economy. In addition, Singapore is India’s second-largest foreign investor. Non-Singaporeans account for about 44% of the Singaporean workforce. With various nations and areas, over 10 free-trade agreements have been struck. Despite its market independence, Singapore’s government activities play an important role in the economy, accounting for 22% of GDP.

Due to its significant reliance on foreign commerce, Singapore is seen as a gauge of global economic health, particularly throughout Asia. Its international trade and money flows account for 407.9% of its GDP, making it the world’s most trade-dependent economy. It is the world’s 14th biggest exporter and 15th largest importer.

Singapore has the tenth biggest foreign reserves in the world, as well as one of the best net international investment positions per capita.

Singapore’s currency is the Singapore dollar (SGD or S$), which is issued by the Singapore Monetary Authority (MAS). Due to their historically strong ties, it has been convertible at par value with the Brunei dollar since 1967. The Singapore dollar exchange rate is allowed to increase or fall within an undisclosed trading range by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). This is in contrast to most central banks, which control policy via interest rates.

Due to the low tax rate on personal income and tax exemptions on foreign-based income and capital gains, the nation has been a favorite tax haven for the affluent in recent years. Brett Blundy, a multi-billionaire Australian retailer, and Eduardo Saverin, a multi-billionaire Facebook co-founder, are two rich people who have moved in Singapore (Blundy in 2013 and Saverin in 2012). Singapore was removed off the OCDE’s “liste grise” of tax havens in 2009, yet it nevertheless came in fifth on the Tax Justice Network’s 2013 Financial Secrecy Index of the world’s top tax havens, just ahead of the United States.

The Straits Times reported in August 2016 that Indonesia has planned to establish tax havens on two islands near Singapore in order to reintroduce Indonesian money into the tax base. For their suspected involvement in the Malaysian Sovereign Fund scam, the Monetary Authority of Singapore reprimanded and fined UBS and DBS, as well as withdrawing Falcon Private Bank’s banking license, in October 2016.

With one out of every six families possessing at least one million dollars in disposable wealth, Singapore has the highest proportion of millionaires in the world. This does not include property, companies, or luxury items, which, if included, would increase the number of millionaires, particularly because Singapore property is among the most expensive in the world. Singapore does not have a minimum wage because it believes it would reduce the country’s competitiveness. It also has one of the most pronounced economic disparities among industrialized nations.

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