A muddy, mangrove-swampy islet nobody wanted in 1819, Singapore is now a leading Asian city-state with one of the highest standards of living in the world. This was achieved without any resources beyond the skills and commitment of its citizens and the economic vision of its leadership. Standing at the southern extremity of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore was established as a free-trading port and settlement early in the nineteenth century by the English colonial administrator Sir Stamford Raffles. Without customs tariffs or other restrictions it drew numbers of Chinese immigrants, and after the opening of the Suez Canal played a leading role in the growing trade in Malaysian rubber and tin.
After the Second World War, during which it was occupied by the Japanese, it reverted to its former status as a British crown colony. In 1963 it became part of Malaysia, but, after two years, tensions between Chinese Singapore and the Malay leadership in Kuala Lumpur led Malaysia to force the island to go it alone. Under Lee Kuan Yew, prime minister for 31 years until 1990, a strategy of high-tech industrialization enabled the economy to grow at a rate of 7% a year. However, freedom of speech is constrained, political debate limited, and both public behavior and private life (chewing gum is forbidden, and vandalism punished by caning) are watched closely.
Singapore Island is largely low-lying, with a hilly center. With limited natural freshwater resources, water is brought from the Malaysian mainland nearby. Reservoirs on high ground hold water for the city's use. Urban development has accelerated deforestation and swamp and land reclamation: 5 percent of the land is forested, and 4 percent is arable. In addition to the main island of Singapore there are 57 smaller islands lying within its territorial waters, many of them in the Strait of Singapore, which opens from the busy seaway of the Strait of Malacca. Between the main island and the Malaysian mainland is the narrow channel of the Johore Strait. A causeway across this strait links Malaysia to Singapore.
While the foundation of its economic growth was the export of manufactured goods, the government has in recent years promoted Singapore as a financial services and banking center, using the latest information technology. In 1995 this sector led economic growth. Singapore is a world leader in biotechnology. Rising labor costs threaten the country's competitiveness today, but its government hopes to offset this by increasing productivity and improving infrastructure. Despite the reduced growth rate accompanying the Asian economic downturn in 1998 there are plans for major infrastructural development: an additional stage for Changi International Airport, extensions to the mass rapid transit system, and a deep-tunnel sewerage project to dispose of wastes. In applied technology, per capita output, investment, and industrial harmony, Singapore possesses many of the attributes of a large modern country.
Singapore 新加坡 Xīnjiāpō Singapura சிங்கப்பூர் Cingkappūr
Singapore (Chinese: 新加坡; pinyin: Xīnjiāpō; Malay: Singapura; Tamil: சிங்கப்பூர், Cingkappūr), officially the Republic of Singapore, is an island microstate located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It lies 137 kilometres (85 mi) north of the equator, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of Indonesia's Riau Islands. At 707.1 km2 (273.0 sq mi), Singapore is one of three remaining true Sovereign city-states in the world (along with Monaco and Vatican City). It is the smallest nation in Southeast Asia.
Before European settlement, the island now known as Singapore was the site of a Malay fishing village at the mouth of the Singapore River. Several hundred indigenous Orang Laut people also lived along the nearby coast, rivers and on smaller islands. In 1819 the British East India Company, led by Sir Stamford Raffles, established a trading post on the island, which was used as a port along the spice route. Singapore became one of the most important commercial and military centres of the British Empire, and the hub of British power in Southeast Asia. The city was occupied by the Japanese during World War II, which Winston Churchill called 'Britain's greatest defeat'. Singapore reverted to British rule immediately after the war, in 1945. Eighteen years later (1963) the city, having achieved independence from Britain, merged with Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak to form Malaysia. However, less than two years later it seceded from the federation and became an independent republic on 9 August 1965. Singapore joined the United Nations on 21 September that same year. It is also a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Since independence, Singapore's standard of living has risen dramatically. Foreign direct investment and a state-led drive to industrialisation based on plans drawn up by the Dutch economist Albert Winsemius have created a modern economy focused on industry, education and urban planning. Singapore is the 5th wealthiest country in the world in terms of GDP (PPP) per capita. In December 2008, the foreign exchange reserves of this small island nation stood at around US$174.2billion. The Singapore government had for the first time in history tapped into her official reserves and withdrew some S$4.9billion with the President's approval. The funds were then used as part of the S$20.5billion Resilience Package unveiled by Finance Minister Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam on 05 February 2009. As at January 2009 Singapore's official reserves stood at US$167.1billion.
The population of Singapore is approximately 4.84 million. Singapore is highly cosmopolitan and diverse with Chinese people forming an ethnic majority with large populations of Malay, Indian and other people. English, Malay, Tamil, and Chinese are the official languages.
The Constitution of the Republic of Singapore established the nation's political system as a representative democracy, while the country is recognised as a parliamentary republic. The People's Action Party (PAP) dominates the political process and has won control of Parliament in every election since self-government in 1959.
Recent studies of Singapore, however, indicate that lions have never lived there, not even Asiatic lions; the beast seen by Sang Nila Utama was most likely a tiger, probably the Malayan Tiger.
The early onset of town planning in colonial Singapore came largely through a 'divide and rule' framework where the different ethnic groups were settled in different parts of the South of the island. The Singapore River was largely a commercial area that was dominated by traders and bankers of various ethnic groups with mostly Chinese and Indian coolies working to load and unload goods from barge boats known locally as 'bumboats'. The Malays, consisting of the local 'Orang Lauts' who worked mostly as fishermen and seafarers, and Arab traders and scholars were mostly found in the South-east part of the river mouth, where Kampong Glam stands today. The European settlers, who were few then, settled around Fort Canning Hill and further upstream from the Singapore River. Like the Europeans, the early Indian migrants also settled more inland of the Singapore River, where Little India stands today. Very little is known about the rural private settlements in those times (known as kampongs), other than the major move by the post-independent Singapore government to re-settle these residents in the late 1960s.
World War II
During World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Malaya, culminating in the Battle of Singapore. The ill-prepared British, with most of their forces in Europe, were defeated in six days, and surrendered the supposedly impregnable fortress to General Tomoyuki Yamashita on 15 February 1942. The surrender was described by British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill as 'the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history.' The British naval base (see above) was destroyed before the Japanese could take over the base and make use of it. Widespread indiscriminate killing of the Chinese population occurred (see Sook Ching massacre). The Japanese renamed Singapore Shōnantō (昭南島), from Japanese 'Shōwa no jidai ni eta minami no shima' ('昭和の時代に得た南の島'), or 'southern island obtained in the age of Shōwa', and occupied it until the British repossessed the island on 12 September 1945, a month after the Japanese surrender. The name Shōnantō was, at the time, romanised as 'Syonan-to' or 'Syonan', which means 'Light of the South'.
While trying to be self-sufficient, the fledging nation faced problems like mass unemployment, housing shortages, and a dearth of land and natural resources. During Lee Kuan Yew's term as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, his administration tackled the problem of widespread unemployment, raised the standard of living, and implemented a large-scale public housing programme. It was during this time that the foundation of the country's economic infrastructure was developed; the threat of racial tension was curbed; and an independent national defence system centering around compulsory male military service was created.
In 1990, Goh Chok Tong succeeded Lee as Prime Minister. During his tenure, the country faced the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the 2003 SARS outbreak, and terrorist threats posed by Jemaah Islamiyah after the September 11 attacks in the United States. In 2004, Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the third prime minister. Amongst his more notable decisions is the plan to open casinos to attract tourism.
Government and politics
The Members of Parliament (MPs) consist of either elected, non-constituency or nominated Members. The majority of the Members of Parliament are elected into Parliament at a General Election on a first-past-the-post basis and represent either Single Member or Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs).
The elected Members of Parliament act as a bridge between the community and the Government by ensuring that the concerns of their constituents are heard in the Parliament. The present Parliament has 94 Members of Parliament consisting of 84 elected Members of Parliament, one NCMP and nine Nominated members of Parliament.
* Elected Members, In Group Representation Constituencies, political parties field a team of between three to six candidates. At least one candidate in the team must belong to a minority race. This requirement ensures that parties contesting the elections in Group Representation Constituencies are multi-racial so that minority races will be represented in Parliament. Presently there are 14 Group Representation Constituencies and 9 Single Member constituencies.
Politics in Singapore have been controlled by the People's Action Party (PAP) since self-government was attained. In consequence, foreign political analysts and several opposition parties like the Workers' Party of Singapore, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) have argued that Singapore is essentially a one-party state. The Economist Intelligence Unit describes Singapore as a 'hybrid regime' of democratic and authoritarian elements. Freedom House ranks the country as 'partly free'. Though general elections are free from irregularities and vote rigging, the PAP has been criticized for manipulating the political system through its use of censorship, gerrymandering, and civil libel suits against opposition politicians. Francis Seow, the exiled former Solicitor-General of Singapore, and opposition politicians such as J.B. Jeyaretnam and Chee Soon Juan claim that Singapore courts favour the PAP government, and there is no separation of powers.
Singapore has a successful and transparent market economy. Government-linked companies are dominant in various sectors of the local economy, such as media, utilities, and public transport. Singapore has consistently been rated as the least corrupt country in Asia and among the world's ten most free from corruption by Transparency International.
Although Singapore's laws are inherited from British and British Indian laws, including many elements of English common law, the PAP has also consistently rejected liberal democratic values, which it typifies as Western and states there should not be a 'one-size-fits-all' solution to a democracy. There are no jury trials. Laws restricting the freedom of speech are justified by claims that they are intended to prohibit speech that may breed ill will or cause disharmony within Singapore's multiracial, multi-religious society. For example, in September 2005, three bloggers were convicted of sedition for posting racist remarks targeting minorities. Some offences can lead to heavy fines or caning and there are laws which allow capital punishment in Singapore for first-degree murder and drug trafficking. Amnesty International has criticised Singapore for having 'possibly the highest execution rate in the world' per capita. The Singapore government argues that there is no international consensus on the appropriateness of the death penalty and that Singapore has the sovereign right to determine its own judicial system and impose capital punishment for the most serious crimes.
Geography and climate
The south of Singapore, around the mouth of the Singapore River and what is now the Downtown Core, used to be the only concentrated urban area, while the rest of the land was either undeveloped tropical rainforest or used for agriculture. Since the 1960s, the government has constructed new residential towns in outlying areas, resulting in an entirely built-up urban landscape. The Urban Redevelopment Authority was established on 1 April 1974, responsible for urban planning.
Singapore Botanic Gardens, a 67.3-hectare (166 acre) Botanic Gardens in Singapore that includes the National Orchid Garden, which has a collection of more than 3,000 species of orchids.
Singapore has on-going land reclamation projects with earth obtained from its own hills, the seabed, and neighbouring countries. As a result, Singapore's land area grew from 581.5 km2 (224.5 sq mi) in the 1960s to 704 km2 (271.8 sq mi) today, and may grow by another 100 km² (38.6 sq mi) by 2030. The projects sometimes involve some of the smaller islands being merged together through land reclamation in order to form larger, more functional islands, such as in the case of Jurong Island.
Under the Köppen climate classification system, Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate with no distinctive seasons. Its climate is characterized by uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity, and abundant rainfall. Temperatures range from 22 °C to 34 °C (72° to 93 °F). On average, the relative humidity is around 90% in the morning and 60% in the afternoon. During prolonged heavy rain, relative humidity often reaches 100%. The lowest and highest temperatures recorded in its maritime history are 19.4 °C (66.9 °F) and 35.8 °C (96.4 °F) respectively. June and July are the hottest months, while November and December make up the wetter monsoon season. From August to October, there is often haze, sometimes severe enough to prompt public health warnings, due to bushfires in neighbouring Indonesia. Singapore does not observe daylight saving time or a summer time zone change. The length of the day is nearly constant year round due to the country's location near the equator.
About 23% of Singapore's land area consists of forest and nature reserves. Urbanisation has eliminated many areas of former primary rainforest, with the only remaining area of primary rainforest being Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. A variety of parks are maintained with human intervention, such as the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Singapore has been rated as the most business-friendly economy in the world, with thousands of foreign expatriates working in multi-national corporations. Singapore is also considered to be one of the top centres of finance in the world and throughout the region. In addition to this, the city-state also employs tens of thousands of foreign blue-collared workers around the world.
As a result of global recession and a slump in the technology sector, the country's GDP contracted 2.2% in 2001. The Economic Review Committee (ERC) was set up in December 2001, and recommended several policy changes with a view to revitalising the economy. Singapore has since recovered from the recession, largely due to improvements in the world economy; the Singaporean economy itself grew by 8.3% in 2004, 6.4% in 2005 and 7.9% in 2006. On 19 August 2007, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in his National Day Rally Speech that Singapore's economy is expected to grow by at least 4-6% annually over the next 5-10 years.
The per capita GDP in 2006 was US$29,474. As of September 2007, the unemployment rate is 1.7%, which is the lowest in a decade, having improved to around pre-Asian crisis level. Employment continued to grow strongly as the economy maintained its rapid expansion. In the first three quarters of 2007, 171,500 new jobs were created, which is close to the 176,000 for the whole of 2006. For the whole of 2007, Singapore's economy has grew 7.5% and drew in a record S$16 billion (US$10.6b,€8.3b)of fixed asset investments in manufacturing and projects generating S$3 billion (US$2b,€1.6b)of total business spending in services.
Singapore introduced a Goods and Services Tax (GST) with an initial rate of 3% on 1 April 1994 substantially increasing government revenue by S$1.6 billion (US$1b,€800m) and stabilising government finances. The taxable GST was increased to 4% in 2003, to 5% in 2004, and to 7% on 1 July 2007.
Due to the economic recession, Singapore's economy expanded by only 1.1% in Year 2008, much lower than the expected 4.5% to 6.5% growth, while the unemployment rate was at 2.8%. The economy is expected to contract greatly by 8% in 2009 and unemployment could rise to 5 percent this year as forecast by several private sector economists.
Free Trade Agreements
Singapore has 14 bilateral and multilateral trade agreements worldwide:
* Association of Southeast Asian Nations ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA)
Singapore is fast positioning itself as a medical tourism hub — about 200,000 foreigners seek medical care in the country each year and Singapore medical services aim to serve one million foreign patients annually by 2012 and generate USD 3 billion in revenue. The government expects that the initiative could create an estimated 13,000 new jobs within the health industries.
Under the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), Wireless@SG is a government initiative to build Singapore's infocomm infrastructure. Working through IDA's Call-for-Collaboration, SingTel, iCell and QMax deploy a municipal wireless network throughout Singapore. Since late 2006, users have enjoyed free wireless access through Wi-Fi under the 'basic-tier' package offered by all three operators for 3 years.
On 27 June 2007, to commemorate 40 years of currency agreement with Brunei, a commemorative S$20 note was launched; the back is identical to the Bruneian $20 note launched concurrently.
Singapore supports the concept of Southeast Asian regionalism and plays an active role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Singapore is a founding member. Singapore is also a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which has its Secretariat in Singapore. Singapore also has close relations with fellow ASEAN nation Brunei and maintains Army training facilities in the Sultanate.
* Water deliveries to Singapore
The armed forces serve primarily as a deterrent against potential aggressors and also provide humanitarian assistance to other countries. Singapore has mutual defence pacts with several countries, most notably the Five Power Defence Arrangements. There is an extensive overseas network of training grounds in the United States, Australia, Republic of China (Taiwan), New Zealand, France, Thailand, Brunei, India and South Africa. Since 1980, the concept and strategy of 'Total Defence' has been adopted in all aspects of security; an approach aimed at strengthening Singapore against all kinds of threats.
The recent rise in unconventional warfare and terrorism has cast increasing emphasis on non-military aspects of defence. The Gurkha Contingent, part of the Singapore Police Force, is also a counter-terrorist force. In 1991, the hijacking of Singapore Airlines Flight 117 ended in the storming of the aircraft by Singapore Special Operations Force and the subsequent deaths of all four hijackers without injury to either passengers or SOF personnel. A concern is Jemaah Islamiyah, a militant Islamic group whose plan to attack the Australian High Commission was ultimately foiled in 2001.
Singapore's defence resources have been used in international humanitarian aid missions, including United Nations peacekeeping assignments involved in 11 different countries. In September 2005, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) sent three CH-47 Chinook helicopters to Louisiana to assist in relief operations for Hurricane Katrina. In the aftermath of the 2004 Asian Tsunami (or Boxing Day Tsunami), the SAF deployed 3 LSTs (Landing Ship Tank), 12 Super Puma and 8 Chinook helicopters to aid in relief operations to the countries that were affected by the tsunami.
Singapore Armed Forces
The Singapore Army is one of the three services of the Singapore Armed Forces. It is headed by the Chief of Army (COA), currently Major General Neo Kian Hong. The Army focuses on leveraging technology and weapon systems as 'force-multipliers'. It is currently undergoing the transformation into what it terms a '3rd-Generation fighting force'.
The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), the air force branch, guards the airspace of Singapore. The RSAF was established in 1968 as the Singapore Air Defence Command. It operates four air bases in Singapore and operates its aircraft in several overseas locations in order to provide greater exposure to its pilots. The main aircraft found in its fleet include F-16 Fighting Falcons, CH-47 Chinook and C-130 Hercules.
The final branch, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), is the navy of the Singapore Armed Forces, responsible for the defence of Singapore against seaborne threats and protection of its sea lines of communications. Operating within the crowded littoral waters of the Singapore Strait, the RSN is regarded as one of the best in the region. The RSN operates from two bases, Tuas Naval Base and Changi Naval Base, and has a large number of vessels, including 4 submarines, 6 frigates, and 4 amphibious transport docks. All commissioned ships of the RSN have a prefix RSS, which means Republic of Singapore Ship.
Singapore Police Force
Police officers typically respond to calls in rapid-deployment vehicles known as the Fast Response Car. They have been staunch users of Japanese-made saloon cars since the 1980s for patrol duties, with the mainstay models in use being the various generations of the Mitsubishi Lancers, Mazda 323s, Toyota Corollas & Subaru Impreza.
Singapore Civil Defence Force
The SCDF maintains a large fleet of custom vehicles, called appliances, to provide an emergency response force capable of mitigating any and all kinds of fires and disasters. Ranging from the generic fire truck and ambulance to more sophisticated mobile command structures and disaster mitigation vehicles of all kinds, many of the appliances were designed and commissioned by the Force itself rather than obtaining ready-made designs from industries.
According to government statistics, the population of Singapore as of 2008 was 4.84 million, of whom 3.64 million were Singaporean citizens and permanent residents (termed 'Singapore Residents'). Various Chinese ethnic groups formed 75.2% of Singapore's residents, Malays 13.6%, Indians 8.8%, while Eurasians, Arabs and other groups formed 2.4%.
In 2006 the crude birth rate stood at 10.1 per 1000, a very low level attributed to birth control policies, and the crude death rate was also one of the lowest in the world at 4.3 per 1000. The total population growth was 4.4% with Singapore residents growth at 1.8%. The higher percentage growth rate is largely from net immigration, but also increasing life expectancy. Singapore is the second-most densely populated independent country in the world after Monaco, excluding Macau and Hong Kong, which are special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China. In 1957, Singapore's population was approximately 1.45 million, and there was a relatively high birth rate. Aware of the country's extremely limited natural resources and small territory, the government introduced birth control policies in the late 1960s. In the late 1990s, the population was aging, with fewer people entering the labour market and a shortage of skilled workers. In a dramatic reversal of policy, the Singapore government introduced a 'baby bonus' scheme in 2001 (enhanced in August 2004) that encouraged couples to have more children.
In 2006, the total fertility rate was only 1.26 children per woman, the 3rd lowest in the world and well below the 2.10 needed to replace the population. In 2006, 38,317 babies were born, compared to around 37,600 in 2005. This number, however, is not sufficient to maintain the population's growth. To overcome this problem, the government is encouraging foreigners to immigrate to Singapore. These large numbers of immigrants have kept Singapore's population from declining.
Singapore is a multi-religious country. According to Statistics Singapore, around 51% of resident Singaporeans (excluding significant numbers of visitors and migrant workers) practice Buddhism and Taoism. About 15%, mostly Chinese, Eurasians, and Indians, practice Christianity - a broad classification including Catholicism, Protestantism and other denominations. Muslims constitute 14%, of whom Malays account for the majority with a substantial number of Indian Muslims and Chinese Muslims. Smaller minorities practice Sikhism, Hinduism and others, according to the 2000 census.
Some religious materials and practices are banned in Singapore. The Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, are prohibited from distributing religious materials and are sometimes jailed for their conscientious refusals to serve in the Singaporean military.
About 15% of the population declared no religious affiliation.
Many children attend private kindergartens until they start at primary school at the age of six. Singapore's ruling political party, the PAP, is the largest provider of preschool education through its community arm.
English is the language of instruction for mathematics and the natural sciences. For the Chinese community, there are Special Assistance Plan schools which receive extra funding to teach in Mandarin along with English. Some schools also integrate language subjects with mathematics and the sciences, using both English and a second language.
Curricular standards are set by the Ministry of Education with a mix of private schools and public schools. There is no strict public-private dichotomy: the degree of autonomy, regarding curriculum and student admission, government funding received, and tuition burden on the students is further classified into 'government-run', 'government-aided', 'autonomous', 'independent', and 'privately-funded'. In addition, international schools cater to expatriate students, and to a few local students given permission by the education ministry.
There are three state universities in Singapore; the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University. A fourth public university is under consideration as the government looks to provide higher education for 30% of each cohort. There are also five polytechnics (Singapore Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic). Unlike similarly named institutions in many other countries, polytechnics in Singapore do not award degrees.
The educational system features non-compulsory kindergarten for three years, followed by six years of primary education leading up to the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). Four to five years of secondary education follow, leading up to the Singapore-Cambridge GCE 'N' Level or Singapore-Cambridge GCE 'O' Level examinations that assess academic achievement and determine the kind of post-secondary education routes they can pursue.
Junior Colleges and Centralised Institutes provide a two or three-year pre-university education route. An alternative, the Integrated Programme, lets the more academically-inclined skip the 'O' Level examination and proceed straight to obtain pre-university qualifications such as the GCE 'A' Level certificate, the International Baccalaureate diploma, or other equivalent academic accreditations. Polytechnics offer courses leading up to at least a diploma for students, while the other tertiary institutions offer various bachelor's, master's, doctoral degrees, other higher diplomas, and associate degree courses. Other institutes include the National Institute of Education (NIE), a teaching college to train teachers, various management institutes, and vocational education institutes such as the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).
The Economic Development Board (EDB) has been actively recruiting foreign schools to set up campuses in Singapore under the 'Global Schoolhouse' programme which aims to attract 150000 foreign students by 2015. ESSEC Business School, a century-old Parisian business school, provides courses specific to Asia. in 2001 INSEAD, a leading business school, opened its first overseas campus in Singapore, and the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business has a campus in the city as well. The Tisch School of the Arts is the latest to set up a branch campus, opening in 2007.
However, the EDB failed to attract and retain the University of Warwick and University of New South Wales, respectively, citing lack of academic freedom and financial concerns.
In 1999, the Ministry of Education started the Programme for Rebuilding and Improving Existing schools (PRIME) to upgrade school buildings, many of which were built over 20 to 30 years ago, in phases at a cost of S$4.5 billion. This programme aims to provide a better school environment for the students by upgrading school buildings to latest standards. In 2005, the Flexible School Infrastructure (FlexSI) framework was implemented through the building of modular classrooms which can be opened up for larger lectures, and allowing a school's staff members to mould their school's designs to suit the school's unique identity and culture. At the same time, an indoor sports hall will be provided to every school so that schools can carry out physical education lessons in inclement weather.
English has been heavily promoted as the country's language of administration since its independence. The English used is primarily based on British English, with some American English influences. The use of English became widespread in Singapore after it was implemented as a first language medium in the education system, and English is the most common language in Singaporean literature. In school, children are required to learn English and one of the three other official languages. Public signs and official publications are in English, although there are usually translated versions in other official languages. However, most Singaporeans speak a localised hybrid form of English known as Singlish ('Singapore English'), which has many creole-like characteristics, incorporating vocabulary and grammar from Standard English, various Chinese dialects, Malay, and Indian languages.
The second most common language in Singapore is Mandarin, with over seventy percent of the population having it as a second language. Most Singapore Chinese are, however, descended from immigrants who came from the southern regions of China where other dialects were spoken, such as Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese. Mandarin use has spread largely as a result of government efforts to support its adoption and use over the dialects.
Local foods are diverse, ranging from Hainanese chicken rice to satay. Singaporeans also enjoy a wide variety of seafood including crabs, clams, squid, and oysters. One such dish is stingray barbecued and served on banana leaf with sambal or chili.
Amongst locals, popular dishes include bak chor mee, mee pok, sambal stingray, laksa, nasi lemak, chili crab and satay. All of which, can be found at local hawker centres around Singapore.
An annual arts festival is also organised by the National Arts Council that incorporates theatre arts, dance, music and visual arts, among other possibilities.
A first Singapore Biennale took place in 2006 to showcase contemporary art from around the world. The next one will be in 2008 which will feature Southeast Asian works.
The 'Singapore government' says the media play an important role in the country, and describes the city as one of the key strategic media centres in the Asia-Pacific region. The goal of the government's Media 21 plan, launched in 2002, is to establish Singapore as a global media hub.
In its Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index for 2004, Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore 147 out of 167. Most of the local media are directly or indirectly controlled by the government through shareholdings of these media entities by the state's investment arm Temasek Holdings, and are often perceived as pro-government.
There are also several popular magazines circulating in Singapore, like i-weekly, 8 days, Citta Bella, Her World, Brides, Men's Health and FHM Singapore
Sport and recreation
The 55,000 seat National Stadium, Singapore, located in Kallang was opened in July 1973 and was used for sporting, cultural, entertainment and national events until its official closure on 30 June 2007 to make way for the Singapore Sports Hub on the same site. This sports complex is expected to be ready by 2011 and will comprise a new 55,000-capacity National Stadium with a retractable roof, a 6,000-capacity indoor aquatic centre, a 400-metre warm-up athletic track and a 3,000-seater multi-purpose arena. 36,000 square metres of space have also been reserved for commercial development.
Singaporean sportsmen have performed in regional as well as international competitions in sports such as table tennis, badminton, bowling, sailing, silat, swimming and water polo. Athletes such as Fandi Ahmad, Ang Peng Siong, Li Jiawei and Ronald Susilo have become household names in the country.
The Singapore Slingers joined the Australian National Basketball League in 2006 and have three Singaporeans in their squad. Despite being the team with the largest support pool in the NBL, they generally get the smallest crowds in the NBL.
Beginning in 2008, Singapore started hosting a round of the Formula One World Championship. The race staged at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in the Marina Bay area and became the first night race on the F1 circuit and the first street circuit in Asia.
On 21 February 2008, the International Olympic Committee announced that Singapore won the bid to host the inaugural 2010 Summer Youth Olympics. Singapore beat Moscow in the final by 53 votes to 44.
Due to the lack of space and lack of preservation policies during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, few historical buildings remain in the Central Business District (CBD) - the Fullerton Hotel and the previously-moved Lau Pa Sat being some exceptions. However, just outside of Raffles Place, and throughout the rest of the downtown core, there is a large scattering of pre-WWII buildings - some going back nearly as far as Raffles, as with the Empress Place Building, built in 1827. Many classical buildings were destroyed during the post-war decades, up until the 1990s, when the government started strict programmes to conserve the buildings and areas of historic value.
Past the shopping malls are streets lined with shophouses. Many other such areas have been gazetted as historic districts. Information can be found at the URA Centre in Maxwell Road, where there are exhibits and several models of the island and its architecture. Singapore has also become a centre for postmodern architecture. Historically, the demand for high-end buildings has been in and around the Central Business District (CBD). After decades of development, the CBD has become an area with many tall office buildings. These buildings comprise the skyline along the coast of Marina Bay and Raffles Place, a tourist attraction in Singapore. Plans for tall buildings must be reviewed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. No building in Singapore may be taller than 280 metres. The three tallest buildings in Singapore, namely Republic Plaza, UOB Plaza One and OUB Centre, are all 280 metres in height.
More contemporary architectural examples in Singapore include the Marina Bay Financial Centre, Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort, One Raffles Quay, Reflections at Keppel Bay, The Sail @ Marina Bay, the Singapore Flyer, One Marina Boulevard, and Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay.
Singapore has a network of reservoirs and water catchment areas. In 2001, there were 19 raw water reservoirs, 9 treatment works and 14 storage or service reservoirs locally to serve domestic needs. Marina Barrage is a dam being constructed around the estuary of three Singapore rivers, creating a huge freshwater reservoir by 2009, the Marina Bay reservoir. This will increase the rainfall catchment to two-thirds of the country's surface area.
Historically, Singapore relied on imports from Malaysia to supply half of its water consumption. However, two water agreements that supply water to Singapore are due to expire by 2011 and 2061 respectively. The two countries are engaged in a dispute on the price of water. Without a resolution in sight, the government of Singapore decided to increase self-sufficiency in its water supply. Presently, more catchment areas, facilities to recycle water (producing NEWater) and desalination plants are being built. This 'four tap' strategy aims to reduce reliance on foreign supply and to diversify its water sources. In 2008, a water barrage name - The Marina Barrage was built across the Marina Channel between Marina East and Marina South. The barrage aims to provides additional water supply catchment area, improve flood control and serve as an outdoor attraction for tourists and Singaporeans.
Singapore is an aviation hub for the Southeast Asian region and a stopover on the Kangaroo route between Australasia and Europe. Singapore Changi Airport has a network of 81 airlines connecting Singapore to 185 cities in 58 countries. It has been rated as one of the best international airports by international travel magazines, including being rated as the world's best airport for the first time in 2006 by Skytrax. The airport currently has three passenger terminals. There is also a budget terminal, which serves budget carrier Tiger Airways and Cebu Pacific. The national carrier is Singapore Airlines (SIA). The government is moving towards privatising Changi airport.
Singapore is linked to Johor, Malaysia via the Johor-Singapore Causeway and the Tuas Second Link, as well as a railway operated by Keretapi Tanah Melayu of Malaysia, with its southern terminus at Tanjong Pagar railway station. Frequent ferry service to several nearby Indonesian ports also exists.
More than 2.85 million people use the bus network daily operated mainly by SBS Transit and SMRT Buses, the two main public bus operators, while more than 1.5 million people use either the LRT or MRT as part of their daily routine. Approximately 945,000 people use the taxi services daily. Private vehicle use in the Central Area is discouraged by tolls implemented during hours of heavy road traffic, through an Electronic Road Pricing system. Private vehicle ownership is discouraged by high vehicle taxes and imposing quotas on vehicle purchase.
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