Singapore has won the annual Commonwealth Essay Competition nine times
since 1983 when it was launched; no other country has won more than
three times. Singapore is by far the most densely populated country in
the Commonwealth. Scholarships for postgraduate study in integrative
sciences and engineering are awarded by Singapore to citizens of other
Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship
Joined Commonwealth: 1965
Population: 5,412,000 (2013)
GDP: 3.5% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: World ranking 9
Official language: English, Chinese (Mandarin), Malay, Tamil
Timezone: GMT plus 8hr
Currency: Singapore dollar (S$)
Area: Land area 699 sq km, including 63 small islands.
Capital city: Singapore
Population density (per sq. km): 7,742
The name ‘Singapore’ derives from the Sanskrit Singa Pura (‘City of the
Lion’). Situated in South-East Asia and lying just north of the equator,
the Republic of Singapore is separated from Peninsular Malaysia by the
narrow Johor Straits (1km wide), crossed by a causeway. A number of
smaller islands are included within its boundaries and a few kilometres
to the south are islands belonging to Indonesia.
Singapore City, Jurong, Bukit Panjang, Serangoon, Katong and Changi.
There are 3,260km of roads, all paved, with 118 flyovers, the longest of
which is the 2.1km Keppel Viaduct. The 42km Pan-Island Expressway is the
longest road. Traffic congestion became a major problem and private
traffic is rationed. A limited number of permits to put a vehicle on the
public roads is auctioned every month, greatly increasing the cost of
running a car. Traffic in the central business district is further
discouraged by a system of tolls, policed electronically.
The Mass Rapid Transit System (MRT) connects the city with all
residential areas and the international airport, serving more than 40
stations. A railway across the Straits of Johor causeway connects the
island with the Peninsular Malaysian railway system and beyond to
Singapore has an excellent harbour and is one of the world’s busiest
ports. It comprises six terminals, a container port and several
Changi International Airport, 20km east of Singapore City, has three
terminals; the third terminal was opened in January 2008.
Singapore is a member of Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation, Association
of Southeast Asian Nations, Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional
Cooperation, Non-Aligned Movement, United Nations and World Trade
Organization. Singapore hosts the headquarters of Asia–Pacific Economic
The land is flat apart from low hills (highest point is Bukit Timah at
163m). In the north-east large areas of swamp have been reclaimed. The
island is drained by a number of small streams.
A hot and humid tropical climate, without defined seasons. Heavy showers
November to January.
The most significant environmental issues are industrial pollution and
seasonal smoke/haze resulting from forest fires in Indonesia; and the
finite land and freshwater resources to support a very high population
Outside conservation areas, much of the natural dense forest and swamp
flora have been cleared, although there is extensive planting on any
spare ground in urban areas, and Singapore aims to be a ‘garden city
state’. To control the impact of industry and urban development,
environmental regulations are strict. Forest covers three per cent of
the land area and there was no significant loss of forest cover during
1990–2012. Arable land comprises one per cent of the total land area.
The last tiger was shot in 1932. Most of the animals found in Singapore
are confined to the rainforest area of the nature reserves and include
flying lemurs, squirrels and long-tailed macaques. Despite the
urbanisation of the country, there are over 300 species of bird. Some
ten mammal species and 14 bird species are thought to be endangered
Singapore was known to the Javanese as Temasek(‘Sea Town’) in the late
1300s, when Siam (Thailand) and the Majapahit Empire of Java were
contending for control of the Malay Peninsula. In 1390 Prince
Parameswara, in flight from Majapahit, briefly set himself up as prince
of Temasek, but was driven out and fled to Malacca. In the early 1400s
Temasek was ruled by Siam, but the Malacca sultanate soon took control
of the island. The Portuguese took Malacca in 1511, and the Malaccan
admiral established himself in Temasek, or Singapura, building a capital
which he called Johor Lama.
In 1587 the Portuguese took and destroyed Johor Lama. They made another
punitive expedition to Singapore in 1613, destroying a town at the
river-mouth. The island, henceforth sparsely populated, remained partly
the property of the Sultan of Johor, partly that of the Temenggong (the
Malay ruler of the island). In 1819 these two rulers, for a financial
inducement, permitted Sir Stamford Raffles, Lieutenant Governor of
Bencoolen, to establish a British trading post on the island.
Raffles was impressed by the magnificent harbour, and the island’s
suitable position for both Far East and local trade. By 1824 Raffles’s
move was paying off so well that Britain bought the island from its two
rulers. In 1826 it was united with Malacca and Penang as the Straits
Settlements, which were made a Crown colony in 1867. In 1869 the Suez
Canal was opened, increasing the amount of shipping calling at
Singapore. Its prosperity increased further after the 1870s, when
Malaysian rubber became one of its important exports.
From the mid-19th century, there was considerable immigration from all
over the region. In the early 1920s Britain began constructing a great
naval base, suitable for the biggest ships, in the Johor Straits. The
base was finished in 1938. From February 1942 until August 1945
Singapore was occupied by the Japanese army. In 1946, separated from the
Straits Settlements, Singapore became a colony with a provisional
advisory council. In 1955 Singapore became partially internally
self-governing, with a legislative assembly with 25 elected members out
of a total membership of 32, and a council of ministers. A speaker
presided in the assembly. In 1959 it became a state with its own
citizenship and complete internal self-government. The first prime
minister was Lee Kuan Yew. In September 1963 Singapore was incorporated
into the Federation of Malaysia. But in August 1965 it left the
Federation, by mutual agreement, after months of dispute between it and
the federal government, over a variety of issues, including ethnic
affairs. On 9 August 1965, Singapore became a separate independent state
and joined the Commonwealth. In December 1965, it became a republic with
a non-executive president. The People’s Action Party (PAP) was first
elected in 1959 and was continuously in power for the rest of the
century, in many elections winning every seat. In 1981 the Workers’
Party (WP) won one seat in a by-election. Two opposition members were
returned in the 1984 elections, one in 1988, and four in 1991.
During this period, Singapore developed a highly sophisticated economy
with extensive social services and one of the world’s highest rates of
GNI per capita. In 1990 Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of the PAP was
succeeded by his former deputy Goh Chok Tong, who called elections in
August 1991 and was returned to power, though with a reduced majority.
In 1991 the presidency was made elective. Ong Teng Cheong won the first
presidential election, held in 1993, and S R Nathan was the only
candidate in the second presidential poll in August 1999.
The PAP won the general election of January 1997 taking 65% of the total
vote, winning 81 seats (including all nine single member
constituencies). The prime minister, the two deputy prime ministers, the
senior minister (former Prime Minister Lee) and many other ministers
were returned unopposed. The Singapore Democratic Party took no seats,
while the Singapore People’s Party held its one seat with a decreased
majority. The WP held its one seat with an increased majority, and its
leader was offered a non-constituency seat.
The History of Singapore
The Miracle of Asia Full Documentary
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