Singapore is an island which lies south of Peninsular Malaysia (specifically, the state of Johor) and north of the Indonesian Riau archipelago.

The real administrative state. They want to know what you think. They tell you what you should think. Everyone exists for the advancement of the nation. Also one of the few places which tries to fully embrace meritocracy.

A small country with the main island only being slightly larger than 600 sq km, with currently a population of about three million Singaporeans of various ethnic backgrounds with about one million foreign workers around the place, Singapore has a very high population density.

Singaporean males have to go through two and a half years of National Service in the Army after they hit 18. They are then eligible for reservist duties until they reach 40. Many dislike this state of affairs but cannot help their circumstances.

Founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819, Singapore became fully independent in 1965 when it broke away from Malaysia, following a period of racial riots in Malaysia.

The PAP (People's Action Party) assumed power then and has won landslide victories in all general elections since, usually winning more than 90% of the seats in every election. Singapore's first Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, was the longest serving prime minister in the world. He has retired from prime ministership but continues to exert considerable influence as Senior Minister.

Singapore is an economic powerhouse and financial centre and has an unusually strong armed forces for such a small country.

The only country I know of where there is a $150 fine for not flushing public toilets and where chewing gum is a prohibited substance.

Changi International Airport on the Easternmost part of the main island of Singapore is the busiest airport in the region and a good contender for the busiest airport in the world.

Singapore's national anthem goes something like this:


Mari kita rakyat Singapura
Sama-sama menuju bahagia
Cita-cita kita yang mulia
Berjaya Singapura
Marilah kita bersatu
Dengan semangat yang baru
Semua kita berseru
Majulah Singapura
Majulah Singapura

It's due to a quirk in the constitution that the national anthem is in Malay, even though Malays only form less than 20% of the population of Singapore. Back when Singapore was founded, IIRC, one of the agreements between the Sultan of Johor and Sir Stamford Raffles was that Malay would be the official language. Today, Singapore recognizes four official languages but retains a national anthem in Malay.

Singapore is a fine city. ;-)

I've been working a few months in Singapore, and I can say I love it here. Here are the reasons why:

  • It's a book lover's paradise! The big booksellers are there: Borders, Kinokouniya, the local MPH. Plus the smaller book chains Popular and Times, which seem to be in every mall. Plus all those second-hand bookstores. Plus very accessible and well stocked libraries.
  • Geek heaven! Aside from the above mentioned books you can find all sorts of computer goodies: order from Dell or Compaq or build them yourself. They also seem to have an active Linux Users' Group. Pirated software abound (is it me, or do Asians have less qualms about copyright?). Although not as cheap as Hong Kong, you can find any geek toy in Singapore.
  • Fresh air, open spaces, but with the conveniences of a city. Coming from congested, polluted Manila, Singapore's parks and nature reserves (imagine, a small rainforest in the middle of the city!) are a welcome change.
  • Warm sunny weather: reminds me of my home town.
  • Intelligent, friendly people. The average Singaporean is well educated, and can speak 3 languages.

    And suprisingly, I do not feel the heavy handedness of the government. In fact I was amazed that I hardly encounter policemen anywhere.

  • Singapore is one of the busiest and most prosperous ports in the Far East. The success of the port is due to one man, Sir Stanford Raffles. In the early 19th century the British and Dutch were competing for the highly profitable trade routes of the Far East. Raffles was employed by the British East India Company.

    In the course of his duties, Raffles came to notice a swampy island called Singapore at the tip of the Malaysian Peninsula. Though it was an unattractive place, Raffles noticed that it stood at the crossroads of the very trade routes for which Britain and Holland were struggling.

    In 1819 he founded a British settlement in Singapore and persuaded the East India Company to buy the island from the Sultan of Jahore. The wisdom of this move was not at first apparent, and when Raffles died in 1826 the company charged his widow for the expenses of the transaction.

    Within a few years, however, Singapore had mushroomed into the large and vitally important port which it remains to this day.

    Official name The Republic of Singapore, island with an area of approximately 640 sq km (they're still reclaiming land). Located at the southern tip on the Malay Peninsula, above the Indonesian island state of Sumatra.

    Meritocratic and multiracial society.

    Males are required to undergo National Service (affectionately known as NS) after the age of 18 (19, for those who need an extra year to complete their tertiary studies at polytechnics or junior colleges). Compulsory service lasts for 2-2.5 years, and the conscripts get paid on a monthly basis. they are then eligible reservist duties up to the age of 40.

    One of the most stressful places to live in (also one of the only countries that actually assign you a grade for " extra-curricular activities").

    A country with more public high-rise apartments than private housing estates.

    A country where you have to pay for a piece of paper called the Certificate of Entitlement ("entitling" you to take your ride to the streets). COE costs about 10% of what your ride costs.

    Non-seasonal, tropical warm and wet climate. Wetter North-East monsoon hits in October, peaks in Decemer/January, subsides around March, while the drier South-West Monsoon takes over the rest of the year. Driest month is usually June. Average temperature between 26 to 31 deg C (79-88 deg F), average rainfall is 2345 mm. Rainfall is solely convectional.

    Singapore's independence was influenced by 3 major historical events:

    1. Sir Stamford Raffles' recognition of Hussein as the rightful heir to Singapore. Back then, Singapore was part of Dutch territory, and the Dutch installed Sultan Abdul Rahman as ruler of Singapore. No doubt Hussein was supposed to be ruler, but he was unfortunate enough to be away when his father died, and the crown went to Abdul Rahman. This caused major conflicts (none ended in violence, though) between England and Holland, both of which were vying for monopoly of the Spice trade in the East Indies. This was the first step towards Singapore's independence from colonial rule, because it turned out to be a very productive colony, and productive colonies attract merchants, traders and the like, who will eventually request independent rule given enough time to adapt and acclimatise.

    2. The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, which effectively put the Malay Peninsula under British control, and everything else south of that under Dutch control. Borneo was split between them.
    This is important, too, because it settles the debate over owndershp of the island. With this disute out of the way, the British could concentrate on making Singapore prosperous.

    3. Separation from Malaysia in 1965. Singapore merged with Malaysia in 1962. However, differences in political ideology ensured that this union would be short-lived. Malaysia was intended as a country for Malays, but Lee Kuan Yew wanted it to be a place for Malaysians (of any skin tone, race or religion).
    The merger was called off on 9 August 1965 (National Day for Singapore). Singapore requested membership of, and was admitted to the United Nations on 21 September 1965. It became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations on 15 October 1965. On 22 December 1965, it became a republic, with Yusof bin Ishak as the republic's first President (Yang di-Pertuan Negara). On 8 Aug 1967, Singapore joined Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines to form the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

    The Government was in a very bad position: The post-war economy was in shambles, there was a baby boom (thanks to soldiers returning from World War II) and nothing seemed like it didn't need fixing. Ministries and Boards were set up to take care of individual problems.

    1. The EDB and TDB (Economic/Trade Development Board) were created to invite multi-national corporations (MNCs) to set up branches here.

    2. HDB (Housing and Development Board) created to settle the problem of inadequate housing. They hired construction firms to mass-produce high-rise flats. The old high-rise flats were plain white rectangles. Now, they are well-designed, comfortable and somewhat less affordable than they used to be.

    3. Jurong Town Corporation was set up to manage the industrial sector. Industrial estates were created all over hte island, with the largest one located in Jurong, at the South-West corner of Singapore. Singapore's industries are comprised of a mix of light, medium and heavy industries, such as garment-manufacturing, textile manufacturing and oil refining.

    4. The Ministry of Education was created to handle the education of the workforce and children on the nation. the government intended to make the workforce skilled but affordable, so as to attract the MNCs. The focus of education later shifted away from technical education, towards service and information-related education.

    With the main problems solved, the goverment's focus began to change. The workers were getting too educated, and workers in surrounding countries (Malaysia, Indonesia, Phillipines) became more affordable. The focus thus shifted from the manufacturing industries to electronic industries, and today Singapore's economy is information-driven. the service sector forms the bulk of the economy, and manufacturing industries (~25%) serve only as supplements to this sector.

    today, Singapore is a prosperous country. As of January 2003, it has a population of 4.16 million (squeezed onto 640 sq km of land), literacy rate of 93.2%, total trade of S$432 billion, GDP of S$153 billion and Internet penetration rate of 48.4 (more E2 users!). Its education system is based on the British system, but is slowly moving away from that, and should soon be halfway between the British and American systems.

    Contrary to popular belief, chewing of gum is not prohibited, but its import and sale are. There is a good reason for it - idiots used to spit them onto the train tracks (here we call it the Mass Rapid Transit, MRT for short), which resulted in delays. And since we are heavily dependent on the service sector (being natural resource-free), delays cost us hell. If you try to be discreet about it, Customs will usually let you through; stuff the gum in your bag, don't let it hang out of your pants of bag pockets. And don't chew it in public - do it at home. Dispose of it properly.

    One thing you should take note of should you decide to visit: drugs are major contraband here. The authorities are very strict about this, so don't try your luck even with 1 gram of the stuff. Leave it at home. Don't say you weren't warned.

    Amazingly, there are fines for not flushing the toielt afer use. The toilet fine varies from place to place: I've seen it hit $500 before. But this isn't enforced - relax, just be responsible about toilet usage. We have cleaners to clean up after you, but don't abuse them. Be responsible for your poop.

    Censorship is a terrible problem in Singapore. Be warned: if you see a circular green-and-orange sticker on anything you buy, look closely. If it says "censorship board" or the equivalent, it is most likely censored. Even the seemingly-innocent Animatrix was somewhat heavily censored. The censorship board is lightening up on its censoring criteria, but this is happening far too slowly for me to notice. This is also one of the reasons why pirated VCDs are selling like hotcakes here. Try not to laugh when you see anti-piracy campaign posters all over the place.

    Far worse than censorship is the phenomenon of self-censorship. Case in point: Chee Soon Juan spoke out against some of the government's policies, was impounded by the ISA (Internal Security Act), and henceforth little was heard about him. Singaporeans are politically apathetic, but this is hardly any fault of theirs. The newspapers are controlled by the government (by this I mean that "politically destabilisng" articles are not allowed to be published), so forum discussions on government policies are pretty much pointless (little changes that do not affect the big picture have been made, though, to silence murmurs from the population).

    The PAP has enjoyed an indestructible monopoly in the field of local politics since the founding of Singapore. A portion of each member's paycheck goes to the party fund, while other parties are denied funding from corporations and companies. Singapore is divided into constituencies, with the parties vying for control for these individual constitutencies by garnering votes during elections. Opposition party-controlled constitutencies are denied privileges granted to PAP-controlled ones, such as public apartment upgrades, new amenities and facilities. These constituencies are usually promptly broken up and assimilated into other constituencies to divide opposition support. Potong Pasir GRC is one of the few remarkable constituencies that still remain under opposition control. However, since the government hasn't screwed up yet, few people complain about this lack of political diversity.

    Malay is the official national language. The lesser-known reason for this is that the indigenous people were Malay, and this is done out of respect for our origins. The current majority of the population is Chinese (76.5%). The other races include Malays (13.8%), Indians (8.1%), and other races (1.6%).

    Any place that doesn't serve an economic, commercial or residential purpose will have green stuff planted on it. This widespread greenery is readily apparent in bird's-eye views of the country.

    The average Singaporean is well-educated, but isn't exactly creative (a side-effect of the rigid education system). He/she can speak 2 languages: English, and his/her own native tongue. Most of the Chinese can speak their native dialect in addition to Mandarin. Along the way we pick up smatterings of other languages, and incorporate this into the English language, forming what many of us term "Singlish". It is a big headache for the government because the foreigners find it hard to understand us when we speak that, because even though most of the words are derived from the English Language, the grammar and sentence structure is completely different. The only way to speak Singlish improperly is to speak proper English. Those who are used to it usually don't find it a headache - it shortens many oft-used but lengthy statements.

    Most Singaporeans are proud of the fact that they are one of the few prospering multiracial nations. Racial harmony has been the status quo for more than 20 years since Singapore's independence - the racial riots that broke out a few years after independence still remain fresh in the minds of older generations, and few take this peace for granted.

    Don't you get me started on cost of living. The cars cost 3 times as much here. Add COE to this, and it means you'll have to work like mad to earn enough for one. But since the public transport system is very well-developed (Point A to B anywhere on mainland island within 1.5 hours), cars usually serve as a symbol of wealth, and not much more.

    Singapore has no tourist spots, no matter what your travel agency might say. Don't come for them.

    Some information courtesy of Singapore Infomap. Most of it courtesy of my history teacher.

    Singapore is a small country that is 3.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. and that lies off of the southern tip of Malaysia. This country consists of one major island and more than 58 small adjacent islands. Singapore is located in southeast Asia between Malaysia and Indonesia. It is not very large and is only about 240 miles in area. It is in an exclusive fishing zone; subsequently, fishing brings in a lot of money to Singapore's economy. Its climate is tropical: hot, humid, and rainy. There aren't any actual rainy or dry seasons, although thunderstorms occur 40 percent of all days; in April, they occur 57 percent of all days. The terrain is low barring a few plateaus that act as natural water encasement and nature preserves. The elevation extremes are not drastic, the highest point being 166 meters while the lowest point is 0 meters. Also, Singapore is a popular place because it has no evident natural hazards.

    In 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles founded Singapore as a British trading port: the British East India Trading Company. In 1824, the sultan of Johor deeded the land to Britain. It flourished as a trading and manufacturing center and passed from the company to the British government. On September 6, 1945, the city was liberated from Britain and on June 3, 1959, it was united with Malaya, North Borneo, and Sarawak to form Malaysia. In 1965 Singapore separated from Malaysia, and in December of that year was proclaimed a republic. On September 2, 1993, Ong Teng Cheong (of the People's Action Party) became the country's first directly-elected president.

    Singapore's population is an estimated 4.6 million people and has a 3.42 percent growth rate. The population mainly consists of Chinese, Malays, and Indians, and the four official languages are English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. Among the main religions found in the country are Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, Sikh, Taoism, and Christianity.

    Singaporeans have a high standard of education, cleanliness, and pride. More than 93 percent of Singapore's citizens can read and write. Demerits are not tolerated. Once, an American tourist committed an act of vandalism and was caned. Health and housing standards are also high.

    Singapore's government is a parliamentary republic. The current president is President Sellapan Rama, who was elected in 1999. Singapore is governed under a constitution that was amended in 1965. Its government consists of a president; a prime minister; and the Parliament, which has 81 members.

    Singapore's economy has done well since the 1960s. Tourism is a major part in their economy, but dropped sharply in 1983 as a result of foreign trade problems. Then in 1985, Singapore brought in over $3 million from trade and the slump was over. Since 1989, 80 percent of Singapore's economy has been gleaned from tourism. Other industries of Singapore include petroleum refining; electronics; oil drilling equipment; rubber processing and products; processed food and beverages; ship repair; entrepot trade, places where goods are stored or deposited and from which they are distributed; financial services; and biotechnology. Singapore has agricultural benefits as well: rubber, copra(coconut oil), fruits and vegetables, and poultry.

    Singapore has traditions, festivals, and tourist sights. In late summer, the Singaporean streets are decorated for the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. You might also see a wayang or street opera. These wonderful displays of culture are shows performed in the street, and 'good versus evil' is often a theme. Also, a huge statue guards the mouth of the Singapore River. Half lion, half fish, it is called a mulion; this is Singapore's national symbol and it represents strength and pride, as well as their fishing-oriented economy. Singapore has a unique transportation system. While there are only nine airports, approximately 3,000 km of highway, and 48 train stations, their main harbor is the busiest port in the entire world.

    Singapore, like any country, has problems as well. Many Singaporean AIDS victims do not tell their significant others of their disease, and the government has decided to mandate spouses sharing this medical information. As of late, there have been disputes with Malaysia over deliveries of fresh water to Singapore. Other national issues include Singapore's land reclamation works on Johor, and debates over the country's maritime boundaries. Also, because of Singapore's bustling port, Golden Triangle heroin is being smuggled out of Singapore into the United States, western Europe, and third world countries.

    There has been a lot of criticism of the Singapore government, on this site most of it originates from me. However, there are a number of things which are hard to criticize – especially in light of how successful Singapore has become due to the government's policies. Human rights may be ignored; the laws are strict and, some say, draconian in nature; and there are so many things about Singaporean society which seem to be so very wrong; but Singapore is a phenomenal success, and for that we have Lee Kuan Yew and the ruling People's Action Party to thank.

    Singapore has no natural resources to speak of; the only thing that it originally had in its favor is its prime location at the tip of the Malay peninsula. It was for this reason that it was declared an ideal place for a colony by Sir Stamford Raffles, and it is also largely for this reason that, as an independent nation, it is successful today.

    Singapore today boasts some of the world's finest shipping facilities, constructed because Singapore is first and foremost a shipping hub. It is an ideal location for ships from Europe to stop on the way to China and East Asia. Stemming from this is its position today as a location for multi-national corporations to set up their regional headquarters – which has brought it more success today than shipping ever had. To position Singapore as such an ideal location, the government has ensured that Singapore boasts one of the most highly skilled workforces in the region; highly literate and with many opportunities for tertiary education locally. To further ensure that Singapore is seen as an ideal location for setting up business, tax rates are extremely low, and there are no minimum wage requirements.

    In order to ensure that overseas investors would view Singapore in a good light, the government keeps property prices high – and they keep on rising. The high cost of living in Singapore can be largely attributed to the high cost of property, and when coupled with the low wages, it means that the quality of life of average Singaporeans is low – the problem is, what can be done about it? The more I think about it, the government is doing the only thing that it can do with what it has to work with – but Singapore is in a rather precarious position at the moment. China, one of the world's largest markets, is opening up; and it is getting rather difficult to ensure that Singapore will be chosen above it. Let me try to explain:

    Singapore has next to no natural resources, it cannot function without the constant flow of goods into the country. China has all the resources that it needs to be self-sufficient – for a long time it functioned in total isolation from the rest of the world. Singapore has no minimum wage requirements, but wages have to be high enough for the population to be able to survive with such a high cost of living. China has no minimum wage requirements, and because the cost of living is one of the lowest in the world, wages don't have to be high for the population to be able to survive on them.

    China is a market which has only started emerging recently; already a sizable portion of the world's manufactured goods are made there. Cost of living is low; wages are low; property prices are low – unfortunately for China, educational standards are also low, at least when compared to Singapore. Singapore's possession of a highly-skilled workforce would seem to be the only distinguishing feature that the island possesses, but China can be expected to devote much effort into improving the educational standards of its workforce – what happens to Singapore then?

    So what about all the criticism of Singapore? The fact is that much of what the government has been doing over the past several decades is the only thing that it can do. It has positioned itself in the only way it could, and our criticism comes from believing that there must be a better way to run a country. Take minimum wage for instance, many people believe that having a minimum wage is almost a requirement for “civilized countries.” Last time the government tried to adopt a minimum wage the entire country went into recession – it conflicted with the need for big businesses to be able to operate in Singapore at a low price.

    Singapore is one country that cannot afford to go into recession, all the things that are needed for human beings to live are imported from overseas. Our water comes across from Malaysia, our meat comes mainly from Australia, etc. The government has no choice but to do things which which may not seem to be good for the people, but are good for the country itself. Making sure that the crime rates are low, the country is clean, the people are educated are all things which are necessary in order to promote Singapore as being a prime location for big, Western businesses to set up shop here.

    As for the things like compulsory National Service, the country needs to be able to defend itself – just like any country. In Singapore however, given it's relatively small population, if joining the army was something that you only did by choice then there would be hardly enough of a force to repel any would-be invader. However, somewhere along the line the government got so preoccupied with making sure that the people would do things which were for the good of the nation, they managed to create a state where the people can barely operate without someone telling them what to do. They are trying to repair some of this damage, and they are doing it in the same way that they caused the problem in the first place, but in reverse.

    Take the birth-rate issue. The government decided at one point that the birth-rate was too high, so they held a series of public campaigns to lower it. It proved too successful, and now they have to try and get the birth rate back up to a level which will ensure that the population stays stable through the use of another public campaign. The fact is, as ludicrous as the idea may be for a country to have to have their government enforce mandatory mixers in order to encourage their people to have relationships, if the government didn't enforce it people wouldn't date.

    Singapore's future doesn't look as bright as it once did, not for me at least. Things feel as if they are about to go downhill – multi-national corporations are more interested in China these days. How can Singapore distinguish itself in a world where distance is not as important? Ships don't really need to stop here to resupply as much as they used to, and in China a business can operate at far less cost – although setting up business in China still has its disadvantages, how long will it take before Singapore has nothing aside from its location to position itself with?

    Related Nodes

  • CIA World Factbook - Singapore
  • The Everything People Registry : Singapore

  • Thomas Stamford Raffles - Founder of Singapore
  • Lee Kuan Yew - First Prime Minister, and the man who shaped what Singapore is today.
  • Goh Chok Tong - Second Prime Minister.
  • Lee Hsien Loong - (not yet noded) Lee Kuan Yew's son, and third Prime Minister.
  • Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam - (not yet noded) Only opposition leader to be remotely successful. A brief overview of what happened to him can be found here

  • Junior Colleges in Singapore - A list of Junior Colleges, with some discussion on the Singapore education system.
  • Broadcasting in Singapore - Commercialization of broadcasting companies in Singapore.

  • Breasts, Otters, Creativity and Greed - A critique of Singaporean society.
  • Romancing Singapore - A shining example of Singaporean public campaigns
  • Smoking in Singapore - Discussion on Singapore as a "fine city," especially in how it relates to smoking.
  • Disneyland with the Death Penalty - Regards an article of the same name written by William Gibson in 1993.
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