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Country profile: Singapore

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Map of Singapore

Singapore is south-east Asia's hi-tech  wealthy city-state which is also known for the conservatism of its leaders and its strict social controls.

The country comprises the main island - linked by a causeway and a bridge to the southern tip of Malaysia - and around 50 smaller islands.

Once a colonial outpost of Britain  Singapore has become one of the world's most prosperous places - with glittering skyscrapers and a thriving port.


Most of its people live in public-housing tower blocks. They enjoy one of the world's highest standards of living  but also a system of punishments for acts deemed to be anti-social.

Statue of Britain's Sir Stamford Raffles, Singapore
Britain's Sir Stamford Raffles saw Singapore's commercial potential

Government-led initiatives have encouraged Singaporeans to have more babies and to be more courteous. Citizens are urged to "Speak Good English" in place of a local slang known as "Singlish".

Chinese make up more than 75% of the community; Malays and Indians make up much of the remainder. There are many foreign workers.

Although Singapore is a multi-party nation  the People's Action Party (PAP) has been the dominant force since independence. Rights groups have accused some politicians of using defamation suits to silence their opponents.

Singapore is often referred to as one of Asia's economic "tigers". Its economy is driven by electronics manufacturing and financial services and has weathered regional crises  including the 1997 Asian markets slump and the 2003 Sars virus outbreak.

In the face of strong competition from regional manufacturers  Singapore is seeking to strengthen its services sector and tourism industry.

The country was referred to - less kindly - by the writer William Gibson as "Disneyland with the death penalty".

Singapore argues that its use of capital punishment - applied mostly for drugs trafficking offences - has stopped the growth of narcotics syndicates.


  • Full name: Republic of Singapore
  • Population: 4.7 million (UN  2009)
  • Capital: Singapore
  • Area: 660 sq km (255 sq miles)
  • Major languages: English  Malay  Mandarin  Tamil
  • Religions: Taoism  Buddhism  Islam  Christianity  Hinduism
  • Life expectancy: 78 years (men)  83 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Singapore dollar = 100 cents
  • Main exports: Computer equipment  machinery  rubber products  petroleum products
  • GNI per capita: US $34 760 (World Bank  2008)
  • Internet domain: .sg
  • International dialling code: +65


President: S R Nathan

S R Nathan began a second  successive six-year term in September 2005 after the other contenders for the post were disqualified. Candidates must meet strict selection criteria.

Though fulfilling a mainly ceremonial role  the president has the power of veto in key areas  including government spending  and can appoint senior civil servants.

Prime minister: Lee Hsien Loong

The elder son of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew  Lee Hsien Loong took office in August 2004  without an election  as part of a planned handover of power.

Singapore PM
Lee Hsien Loong's succession was long-anticipated

He vowed to continue the policy of opening up Singapore's society.

A former army officer  Mr Lee followed his father into politics at the age of 32  becoming deputy prime minister in 1990.

As finance minister in his predecessor's cabinet  he was credited with helping to secure Singapore's competitive edge amidst growing competition from China.

Mr Lee's father  who oversaw the transformation of Singapore into an economic power  is the cabinet's official mentor - a newly-created post.

Goh Chok Tong  Lee Hsien Loong's predecessor  is the senior minister in the cabinet  and thus the most senior advisor to the prime minister.


Singapore's media environment is highly regulated. Censorship is common  internet access is regulated and private ownership of satellite dishes is not allowed.

Government officials have a record of winning defamation suits against foreign publications. Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders says the press is "in the grip of a rigorous self-censorship" over its coverage of domestic politics.

Two players dominate the media scene. Singapore Press Holdings  which has close links to the ruling party  has a virtual monopoly of the newspaper industry. MediaCorp  owned by a state investment agency  operates TV and radio stations.

The two companies merged their free newspaper and TV operations at the start of 2005.

Political debate has found an outlet on the internet; however  those who post political material are expected to register with the authorities.

Singapore is a regional pioneer of high-definition and mobile TV services. The government's multi-million dollar "Media 21" blueprint aims to turn the country into a regional hub for the digital media industry and to create thousands of new jobs in the sector.

The BBC World Service is available via an FM relay.

The press


  • MediaCorp - operates entertainment-based Channel 5 and Channel 8  Malay channel Suria  Mandarin-language Channel U  and Channel NewsAsia







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