Singapore Country Profile
Singapore is a wealthy city state in south-east Asia. Once a British colonial trading post, today it is a thriving global financial hub and described as one of Asia’s economic “tigers”. It is also renowned for its conservatism and strict local laws and the country prides itself on its stability and security.
Chinese account for more than 75% of Singapore’s multi-racial population, with Malays and Indians making up much of the remainder.
Densely-populated, most of its people live in public-housing tower blocks. Its trade-driven economy is heavily supported by foreign workers. In 2013, the government forecast that by 2030, immigrants will makeup more than 50% of the population.
The People’s Action Party has dominated politics since the country declared independence from Malaysia in 1965. Issues such as the rising cost of living, immigration and income inequality are major challenges facing the government.
- Republic of Singapore
- Capital: Singapore
- Population 5.3 million
- Area 660 sq km (255 sq miles)
- Major languages English, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil
- Major religions Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism
- Life expectancy 79 years (men), 84 years (women)
- Currency Singapore dollar
Singapore President: Halimah Yacob
Halimah Yacob was sworn in as Singapore’s first female president in 2017. As a member of the Muslim Malay minority, she is also the country’s first Malay leader in 47 years.
She became the sole contender when the two other prospective candidates failed to meet eligibility requirements. It’s the first time the presidency has been reserved for a particular ethnic group, as authorities seek to foster harmony in a multicultural society dominated by ethnic Chinese.
She was the Speaker of parliament before taking up the largely ceremonial post of president.
Presidential candidates run as individuals because Singapore’s head of state is supposed to be non-partisan.
Singapore Prime minister: Lee Hsien Loong
The eldest son of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Hsien Loong has been in office since August 2004.
A former army officer and Cambridge-educated mathematician, he followed his father into politics in 1984 at the age of 32.
As prime minister, Mr Lee has launched policies to build a competitive economy, introducing new programmes to upgrade the education system, investing in research and development and transforming the city-state.
Mr Lee has been involved in a very public feud with his siblings over their father’s will.
As the media hub for south-east Asia, Singapore is a strategic centre for the region’s English-speaking audience.
Its tightly-controlled media environment means self-censorship among journalists is common. There are also curbs on online content.
Some key dates in Singapore’s history:
- British administrator Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles oversaw the establishment of Singapore
- 1819 – Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles establishes Singapore as a trading post for the British East India Company.
- 1942 – Singapore falls to Japan during Second World War. The island is renamed Syonan-to or “Light of the South Island” in Japanese.
- 1945-46 – Japanese forces surrender. Singapore becomes a British colony.
- 1959 – Singapore holds first general election.
- 1963 – Singapore joins the Federation of Malaya, Sabah (North Borneo) and Sarawak in the Federation of Malaysia.
- 1965 – Declares independence from the Federation of Malaysia.
- 1990 – Singapore’s founding father Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew stands down after 31 years.
- 1993 – Singapore holds its first presidential election.