Singapore (Listeni/ˈsɪŋəpɔər/ or /ˈsɪŋɡəpɔər/), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian sovereign city-state (one of only three in the world, and the only one that is also an island country) off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, 137 kilometres (85 mi) north of the equator. Made up of the diamond-shaped main island (widely known as Singapore Island but also known as Pulau Ujong, its native Malay name) and over 60 much smaller islets, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia’s Riau Islands by the Singapore Strait to its south. The country is highly urbanised with very little primary rainforest remaining, although more land is being created for development through land reclamation.
Part of various local empires since being inhabited in the second century AD, modern Singapore was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the East India Company in 1819 with the permission from the Johor Sultanate. The British obtained sovereignty over the island in 1824 and Singapore became one of the British Straits Settlements in 1826. Occupied by the Japanese during World War II, Singapore declared independence from the United Kingdom, uniting with other former British territories to form Malaysia in 1963, although it was separated from Malaysia two years later. Since then, it has had a massive increase in wealth, and is one of the Four Asian Tigers.
Singapore is the world’s fourth-leading financial centre, and its port is one of the five busiest ports in the world. The economy depends heavily on exports and refining imported goods, especially in manufacturing, which constituted 26% of Singapore’s GDP in 2005. In terms of purchasing power parity, Singapore has the third-highest per capita income in the world.
Singapore is a unitary multiparty parliamentary republic with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government. The People’s Action Party has won every election since self-government in 1959. Slightly over five million people live in Singapore, of which 2.91 million were born locally. The population is highly diverse; the majority are Chinese with almost 75% of the total population, while Malays and Indians forming significant minorities. Reflecting this diversity, the country has four official languages: English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil. One of the five founding members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the country is also the host of the APEC Secretariat, and a member of the East Asia Summit, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Commonwealth.
Employment and poverty
Singapore has the world’s highest percentage of millionaires, with one out of every six households having at least one million US dollars in disposable wealth. This excludes property, businesses, and luxury goods, which if included would further increase the number of millionaires, especially as property in Singapore is among the world’s most expensive. Despite its relative economic success, Singapore does not have a minimum wage, believing that it would lower its competitiveness. It also has one of the highest income inequality levels among developed countries, coming in just behind Hong Kong and in front of the United States.
Acute poverty is rare in Singapore; the government has rejected the idea of a generous welfare system, stating that each generation must earn and save enough for its entire life cycle. There are, however, numerous means-tested ‘assistance schemes’ provided by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports in Singapore for the needy, including some that pay out SGD 400 to SGD 1000 per month to each needy household, free medical care at government hospitals, money for children’s school fees, rental of studio apartments for SGD 80 a month, training grants for courses, etc