Released by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Official Name: Republic of Singapore
Area: 641 sq. km. (247 sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Singapore (country is a city-state).
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Singaporean(s).
Population (1996): 3.4 million (including resident foreigners).
Annual growth rate: 1.9%.
Ethnic groups: Chinese 76%, Malays 15%, Indians 6%.
Religions: Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu.
Languages: English, Mandarin and other Chinese dialects, Malay, Tamil.
Education: Years compulsory--none. Attendance--93%. Literacy--91%.
Health (1997 est.): Infant mortality rate--4.7/1,000. Life expectancy--75 yrs. male, 82 yrs. female.
Work force (1996 est.): 1.8 million. Industry and commerce--28%. Services--72%.
Type: Parliamentary republic.
Constitution: June 3, 1959 (amended 1965 and 1991).
Independence: August 9, 1965.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state, 4-yr. term); prime minister (head of government).
Legislative--unicameral 83-member parliament (maximum 5-yr. term).
Judicial--High Court, Court of Appeal, subordinate courts.
Political parties: People's Action Party (PAP), Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), Workers' Party (WP), Singapore's Peoples Party (SPP).
Suffrage: Universal and compulsory at 21.
Central government budget (FY94): $10.7 billion.
Defense (FY94): 4.8% of gross domestic product.
National holiday: August 9.
Flag: Two equal horizontal sections, red over white, with a white crescent and five stars in the upper left corner.
GDP (1996 est.): $93.6 billion.
Annual growth rate (1996 est.): 6.5%.
Per capita income (1996 -- purchasing power parity): $21,200.
Natural resources: None.
Agriculture: Products--poultry, orchids, vegetables, fruits.
Manufacturing (28% of real GDP): Types--electronic and electrical products and components, petroleum products, machinery and metal products, chemical and pharmaceutical products, transport equipment (mainly shipbuilding and repairs), food and beverages, printing and publishing, textiles and garments, plastic products, instrumentation equipment.
Trade (1996, excluding Indonesian trade, which is not reported by Singaporean authorities): Exports--$145 billion: office and data machines, machinery, petroleum products, telecommunication apparatus, chemicals, textiles and garments, transport equipment. Major markets--U.S. (18.4%), Malaysia (18%), Hong Kong (9%), and Japan (8%). Imports--$151 billion: aircraft, crude oil and petroleum products, electrical, machinery, manufactured goods, chemicals, foodstuffs, and textiles and garments. Major suppliers: Japan (21%), Malaysia (15%), and U.S. (15%).
Singapore is located in Southeast Asia at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula and is separated from Malaysia by the Strait of Johore, which is traversed by a 1.2-kilometer (3/4-mi.) causeway carrying a road and a railway. The Singapore Strait separates the country from Indonesia. Singapore is a focal point for Southeast Asian sea routes. Its total land area of 641 sq. km. includes one large island and some 58 nearby islets. The diamond-shaped main island is 42 kilometers (26 mi.) at its broadest from east to west, and 23 kilometers (14 mi.) from north to south.
Much of Singapore is lowland and originally consisted of swamp and jungle. Now mainly urban and industrialized, its geographical features are small in scale--the highest point on the main island, Bukit Timah (Hill of Tin), is only 177 meters (581 ft.) above sea level; the longest river is 14 kilometers (9 mi.) long. A central plateau of about 31 square kilometers (12 sq. mi.) contains a water catchment area and nature preserve. The main urban area lies on the southern part of the island, primarily on land reclaimed from swamp and sea.
Singapore's climate is characterized by warm temperatures, high humidity, and copious rainfall. Virtually no seasonal temperature variation exists. The average daily temperature is 27 degrees C (80 degrees F); the average annual rainfall is 240 centimeters (94 in.). Rain falls all year around, but is most abundant from November to January.
Singapore is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The estimated annual growth rate for 1997 is 1.9%.
Singapore has a varied linguistic, cultural, and religious heritage. Malay is the national language, but Chinese, English, and Tamil also are official languages. English is widely used in professions, businesses, and schools.
The government mandated that English would be the primary language used at all levels of the school systems by 1987, and it aims to provide at least 10 years of education for every child. In 1993, primary and secondary school students totaled almost 442,000, or nearly 14% of the entire population. In 1995, enrollment at the National University of Singapore was approximately 18,300 (both undergraduate and graduate) and approximately 40,500 at Singapore Polytechnic and Singapore's three other polytechnics. The same year, the practical engineering-oriented Nanyang Technological University, established in 1981, had 14,772 students. The country's literacy rate is 91%.
Singapore generally allows religious freedom, although religious groups are subject to government scrutiny and some religious sects are restricted or banned. Almost all Malays are Muslim; other Singaporeans are Hindus, Sikhs, Taoists, Buddhists, Confucianists, or Christians.
Although Singapore's history dates from the 11th century, the island was little known to the West until the 19th century, when in 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived as an agent of the British East India Company. In 1824, the British purchased Singapore Island, and by 1825, the city of Singapore had become a major port, with trade exceeding that of Malaya's Malacca and Penang combined. In 1826, Singapore, Penang, and Malacca were combined as the Straits Settlements to form an outlying residency of the British East India Company; in 1867, the Straits Settlements were made a British Crown Colony, an arrangement that continued until 1946.
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the advent of steamships launched an era of prosperity for Singapore as transit trade expanded throughout Southeast Asia. In the 20th century, the automobile industry's demand for rubber from Southeast Asia and the packaging industry's need for tin helped make Singapore one of the world's major ports.
In 1921, the British constructed a naval base, which was soon supplemented by an air base. But the Japanese captured the island in February 1942, and it remained under their control until September 1945, when it was recaptured by the British.
In 1946, the Straits Settlements was dissolved; Penang and Malacca became part of the Malayan Union and Singapore became a separate British Crown Colony. In 1959, Singapore became self-governing, and, in 1963, it joined the now-independent Federation of Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak (the latter two former British Borneo territories) to form Malaysia.
Indonesia adopted a policy of "confrontation" against the new federation, charging that it was a "British colonial creation," and severed trade with Malaysia. The move particularly affected Singapore, since Indonesia had been the island's second-largest trading partner. The political dispute was resolved in 1966, and Indonesia resumed trade with Singapore.
After a period of friction between Singapore and the central government in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore separated from Malaysia on August 9, 1965, and became an independent republic.
According to the constitution, as amended in 1965, Singapore is a republic with a parliamentary system of government. Political authority rests with the prime minister and the cabinet. The prime minister is the leader of the political party or coalition of parties having the majority of seats in parliament. The president, who is chief of state, previously exercised only ceremonial duties. As a result of 1991 constitutional changes, the president is now elected and exercises expanded powers over legislative appointments, government budgetary affairs, and internal security matters.
The unicameral parliament consists of 83 members elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage. In the last general election, in January 1997, the governing People's Action Party (PAP) won 81 of the 83 seats. The President may appoint up to six nominated members of parliament (NMP) from among nominations by a special select committee. NMPs enjoy the same privileges as MPs but cannot vote on constitutional matters or expenditures of funds. The maximum term of any one parliament is 5 years. Voting has been compulsory since 1959.
Judicial power is vested in the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The High Court exercises original criminal and civil jurisdiction in serious cases as well as appellate jurisdiction from subordinate courts. Its chief justice, senior judge, and six judges are appointed by the president. Appeals from the High Court are heard by the Court of Appeal. The right of appeal to the Privy Council in London was abolished effective April 1994.
Principal Government Officials
President--Ong Teng Cheong
Prime Minister--Goh Chok Tong
Senior Minister--Lee Kuan Yew
Deputy Prime Minister--Lee Hsien Loong
Deputy Prime Minister--Tony Tan
Communications--Mah Bow Tan
Community Development--Abdullah Tarmugi, Acting
Defense--Dr. Tony Tan
Education--Teo Chee Hean
Environment--Yeo Cheow Tong
Finance--Richard Hu Tsu Tau
Foreign Affairs--S. Jayakumar
Health--Yeo Cheow Tong
Home Affairs--Wong Kan Seng
Information and the Arts--George Yeo
Labor--Lee Boon Yang
National Development--Lim Hng Kiang, Acting
Trade and Industry--Yeo Cheow Tong
Ambassador to the United Nations--Bilihari Kausikan
Ambassador to the United States--Chan Heng Chee
Singapore maintains an embassy in the United States at 3501 International Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/537-3100, fax 202/537-0876).
The ruling political party in Singapore, in power since 1959, is the People's Action Party (PAP), now headed by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. Goh succeeded Lee Kuan Yew, who served as Singapore's prime minister from independence through 1990. Since stepping down as prime minister, Lee has remained influential as Senior Minister.
The PAP has held the overwhelming majority of seats in Parliament since 1966, when the opposition Barisan Sosialis Party (Socialist Front), a left-wing group that split off from the PAP in 1961, resigned from parliament, leaving the PAP as the sole representative party. In the general elections of 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1980, the PAP won all of the seats in an expanding parliament.
Workers' Party Secretary General J.B. Jeyaretnam became the first opposition party MP in 15 years when he won a 1981 by-election. Opposition parties gained small numbers of seats in the general elections of 1984 (2 seats out of a total of 79), 1988 (1 seat of 81), and 1991 (4 seats of 81). Meanwhile, the PAP share of the popular vote declined from 78% in 1980 to 65% in 1997.
Singapore's strategic location on major sea lanes and industrious population have given the country an economic importance in Southeast Asia disproportionate to its small size. Upon independence in 1965 Singapore was faced with a lack of physical resources and a small domestic market. In response, the Singapore Government developed an international business outlook and an export-oriented economic policy framework that encouraged two-way flows of trade and investment. Singapore's economic strategy proved a success, producing real growth that averaged 8.3% from 1960 to 1993. The economy appeared to have achieved a soft landing in 1991 and 1992 with growth rates of 6.7% and 5.8% respectively, the lowest since the 1986 recession. In 1993, the economy rebounded with a growth rate of 9.9%, largely because of the recovery in the U.S. and the fast-growing market for disk drives and other computer peripherals. In 1995, the growth rate was 8.8%; in 1996, it was 7.0%.
Singapore's honest government, willing workforce, and modern and efficient infrastructure have attracted investments from more than 3,000 multinational corporations (MNCs) from the United States, Japan, and Europe. Foreign firms are found in almost all sectors of the economy. MNCs account for more than two-thirds of manufacturing output and direct export sales.
Manufacturing and financial and business services are the twin engines of the Singapore economy, and accounted for 27% and 31% respectively of Singapore's gross domestic product in 1996. Tourism is also a major income generator for the economy. The electronics industry leads Singapore's manufacturing sector, accounting for 45.5% of Singapore's total industrial output.
To maintain its competitive position despite rising wages and a strengthening Singapore dollar, the government has been promoting higher value-added activities in the manufacturing and services sectors. In addition, as part of its regionalization strategy, the government is now actively encouraging firms to invest abroad. Singapore's total direct investments abroad reached $32.8 billion by the end of 1995. The two largest of Singapore's investments in 1993 were in Malaysia (21.9%) and Hong Kong (19%). There is also significant increased investment in Indonesia (19%) and a move toward heavy investment in China (rising 57% over 1992 to $275 million in 1993). Singapore has also been strengthening its regional economic ties as a member of the newly launched ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and as host to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) secretariat.
Trade, Investment, and Aid
Singapore's total trade in 1996 amounted to $296 billion, or more than three times its GDP. Singapore imported $151 billion and exported $145 billion worth of merchandise. Japan was Singapore's main import source (21% of the market), while the U.S. was Singapore's largest market, absorbing 18.4% of Singapore's exports. Reexports accounted for 37% of Singapore's total exports in 1993. Singapore's principal exports are office and data machines, machinery, petroleum products, telecommunication apparatus, chemicals, textiles and garments, and transport equipment. Singapore's main imports are aircraft, crude oil and petroleum products, electrical machinery, manufactured goods, chemicals, foodstuffs, and textiles and garments.
Singapore continues to attract investment funds on a large scale despite its relatively high-cost operating environment. The U.S. leads foreign investment, accounting for 39% of new commitments to the manufacturing sector in 1996. Cumulative investment by American companies in Singapore is now approximately $15 billion (total assets). The bulk of U.S. investment is in electronics manufacturing, oil refining and storage, and the chemical industry.
The U.S provides no bilateral aid to Singapore.
In 1996, Singapore had a work force of about 1.8 million. The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), the sole trade union federation, comprises almost 99% of total organized labor. Extensive legislation covers general labor and trade union matters. The Industrial Arbitration Court handles labor-management disputes that cannot be resolved informally through the Ministry of Labor. The Singapore Government has stressed the importance of cooperation between unions, management, and government ("tripartism"), as well as the early resolution of disputes. There has been only one minor strike in the past 15 years.
Singapore enjoys virtually full employment with an unemployment rate of less than 3% in 1996. The Singapore Government and the NTUC have tried a range of programs to increase lagging productivity and boost the labor force participation rates of women and older workers. But labor shortages persist in the service sector and in many low-skilled positions in the construction and electronics industries. Foreign workers help make up this shortfall. There are about 360,000 foreign workers in Singapore, constituting 22% of the total work force.
Transportation and Communications
Situated at the crossroads of international shipping and air routes, Singapore is a center for transportation and communication in Southeast Asia. Singapore is a regional aviation hub served by 64 international airlines. Changi International Airport, opened in 1980, is being expanded. The country also is linked by road and rail to Malaysia and Thailand.
Telecommunications and telephone facilities are modern and comprehensive, providing high-quality communications with the rest of the world. Radio and television stations, though government-owned and -operated, have been corporatized, with a view to privatizing them in the future. Daily newspapers are published in English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil.
Singapore is nonaligned. As a small country heavily dependent on world trade, it has a special interest in maintaining wide international contacts. It is a member of the United Nations and several of its specialized and related agencies, and also of the Commonwealth. Singapore has participated in UN peacekeeping/observer missions in Kuwait, Angola, Namibia, and Cambodia. Singapore supports the concept of Southeast Asian regionalism and plays an active role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and APEC.
Singapore relies primarily on its own defense forces, which are continuously being modernized. Approximately 41% of government expenditures are devoted to the defense budget. For 1997, total military forces are estimated at 756,900. Reserve forces total about 250,000. Singapore defense forces engage in joint training with all the ASEAN nations and many others, including the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and India.
Singapore is a member of the Five Power Defense Arrangement together with the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia. Designed to replace the former defense role of the British in the Singapore-Malaysia area, the arrangement obligates members to consult in the event of external threat and provides for stationing Commonwealth forces in Singapore.
Singapore has consistently supported a strong U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. In 1990, the U.S. and Singapore signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which allows the U.S. access to Singapore facilities at Paya Lebar Airport and the Sembawang port. Under the MOU, a U.S. navy logistics unit was established in Singapore in 1992; U.S. fighter aircraft deploy periodically to Singapore for exercises; an increased number of U.S. military vessels visit Singapore.
The United States has maintained formal diplomatic relations with Singapore since that country became independent in 1965. Singapore's efforts to maintain economic growth and political stability and its support for regional cooperation harmonize with U.S. policy in the region and form a solid basis for amicable relations between the two countries. The growth of U.S. investment in Singapore and the large number of Americans living there enhance opportunities for contact between Singapore and the United States. Many Singaporeans visit and study in the United States.
The U.S. Government sponsors visitors from Singapore each year under the International Visitor Program. The U.S. Government provides Fulbright awards to enable selected American professors to teach or conduct research at the National University of Singapore and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. It awards scholarships to outstanding Singaporean students for graduate studies at American universities and to American students to study in Singapore. The U.S. Government also sponsors occasional cultural presentations in Singapore.
The East-West Center and private American organizations, such
as the Asia and Ford Foundations, also sponsor exchanges involving
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--Timothy A. Chorba
Deputy Chief of Mission--Emil Skodon
Economic/Political Counselor--William Monroe
Political Officer--John Chamberlin
Economic Officer--Bob Wong
Consul--David DonohuePublic Affairs Counselor--Michael Anderson
Public Affairs Counselor--Michael Anderson
Commercial Counselor--John Bensky
Administrative Counselor--Joseph Hilliard, Jr.
Defense Attache--Capt. Terry Douglas, USN
The U.S. embassy in Singapore is located at 27 Napier Street, Singapore 258508 (tel. 65-476-9100, fax 65-476-9340).
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and include information on immigration practices, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in the country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). To access CABB, dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. The login is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case is required). The CABB also carries international security information from the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-4000.
Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648)
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal Government Officials" listing in this publication).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at http://www.state.gov.
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a semi-annual basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.
These titles are provided as a general indication of material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.
Bloodworth, Dennis. The Tiger and the Trojan Horse. Singapore: Times Books International, 1986.
Chan Heng Chee. The Dynamics of One Party Dominance: The PAP at the Grass Roots. Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1976.
Chew, Ernest (Ed.). A History of Singapore. Singapore, Oxford University Press, 1991.
George, T.J.S. Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore. Great Britain: Andre Deutsch Limited, 1978.
Hassan, Riaz, ed. Singapore: Society in Transition. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1976.
Josey, Alex. Singapore: Its Past, Present and Future. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 1979.
Lim, Chong Yah. Policy Options for the Singapore Economy. Singapore: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1988.
Milne, R.S. Singapore: The Legacy of Lee Kuan Yew. Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press, 1990.
Minchin, James. No Man is an Island: A Study of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew. Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 1986.
Quah, John S.T. (Ed.). Government and Politics of Singapore. Singapore, Oxford University Press. 1985.
Sandhu, K.S. (Ed.). Management of Success: The Moulding of Modern Singapore. Singapore, ISEAS, 1989.
Seow, Francis T., To Catch a Tartar. Yale University Southeast Asian Studies, 1994.
Sesser, Stan. A Reporter At Large, "A Nation of Contradictions," The New Yorker, January 12, 1992.
Singapore Year Book. Singapore: Government Publications Bureau.
Turnbull, C.M. A History of Singapore 1819-1975. Singapore, Oxford University Press, 1989.
Vasil, Raj. Governing Singapore: Interviews with the New Leaders. Singapore, Times Books International, 1988.
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