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Flag of Singapore
Motto: Majulah Singapura  (Malay)
(English: "Onward, Singapore")
Anthem: Majulah Singapura
(English: "Onward, Singapore")
Location of Singapore
CapitalSingapore[lower-alpha 1]
1°17′N 103°50′E / 1.283°N 103.833°E / 1.283; 103.833Coordinates: 1°17′N 103°50′E / 1.283°N 103.833°E / 1.283; 103.833
Official languages
National languageMalay
Ethnic groups
GovernmentUnitary dominant-party parliamentary constitutional republic
• President
Halimah Yacob
Lee Hsien Loong
Sundaresh Menon
Tan Chuan-Jin
3 June 1959
16 September 1963
9 August 1965
8 August 1967
• Total
728.3 km2 (281.2 sq mi)[4] (176th)
• 2019 estimate
Increase 5,703,600[lower-alpha 2] (115th)
• Density
7,804/km2 (20,212.3/sq mi) (2nd)
GDP (PPP)2020 estimate
• Total
Increase $615.698 billion[6] (36th)
• Per capita
Increase $107,604[6] (3rd)
GDP (nominal)2020 estimate
• Total
Increase $391.875 billion[6] (31st)
• Per capita
Increase $68,487[6] (7th)
Gini (2017)Steady 45.9[7]
HDI (2019)Increase 0.938[8]
very high · 11th
CurrencySingapore dollar (S$) (SGD)
Time zoneUTC+8 (Singapore Standard Time)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy
Mains electricity230 V–50 Hz
Driving sideleft
Calling code+65
ISO 3166 codeSG

Singapore (/ˈsɪŋ(ɡ)əpɔːr/ (About this soundlisten)), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude (137 kilometres or 85 miles) north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, bordering the Straits of Malacca to the west, the Riau Islands (Indonesia) to the south, and the South China Sea to the east. The country's territory is composed of one main island, 63 satellite islands and islets, and one outlying islet, the combined area of which has increased by 25% since the country's independence as a result of extensive land reclamation projects. It has the second greatest population density in the world. The country has almost 5.7 million residents, 61% (3.4 million) of whom are Singaporean citizens. There are four official languages of Singapore: English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil. English is the lingua franca. Multiracialism is enshrined in the constitution, and continues to shape national policies in education, housing, and politics.

Although its history stretches back millennia, modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the British Empire. In 1867, the colonies in East Asia were reorganised and Singapore came under the direct control of Britain as part of the Straits Settlements. During the Second World War, Singapore was occupied by Japan in 1942, but returned to British control as a separate crown colony following Japan's surrender in 1945. Singapore gained self-governance in 1959, and in 1963 became part of the new federation of Malaysia, alongside Malaya, North Borneo, and Sarawak. Ideological differences led to Singapore being expelled from the federation two years later, becoming an independent country.

After early years of turbulence and despite lacking natural resources and a hinterland, the nation rapidly developed to become one of the Four Asian Tigers based on external trade, becoming a highly developed country; it is ranked ninth on the UN Human Development Index, and has the second-highest GDP per capita (PPP) in the world. Singapore is the only country in Asia with a AAA sovereign rating from all major rating agencies. It is a major financial and shipping hub, consistently ranked the most expensive city to live in since 2013, and has been identified as a tax haven. Singapore is placed highly in key social indicators: education, healthcare, quality of life, personal safety and housing, with a home-ownership rate of 91%. Singaporeans enjoy one of the world's longest life expectancies, fastest Internet connection speeds and one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.

Singapore is a unitary parliamentary republic with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government. While elections are considered generally free, the government exercises significant control over politics and society, and the People's Action Party has ruled continuously since independence. One of the five founding members of ASEAN, Singapore is also the headquarters of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat and Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) Secretariat, as well as many international conferences and events. Singapore is also a member of the United Nations, World Trade Organization, East Asia Summit, Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth of Nations.


Ancient Singapore[edit]

In 1299, according to the Malay Annals, the Kingdom of Singapura was founded on the island by Sang Nila Utama.[9] Although the historicity of the accounts as given in the Malay Annals is the subject of academic debates,[10] it is nevertheless known from various documents that Singapore in the 14th century, then known as Temasek, was a trading port under the influence of both the Majapahit Empire and the Siamese kingdoms,[11] and was a part of the Indosphere.[12][13][14][15][16] These Indianised kingdoms were characterised by surprising resilience, political integrity and administrative stability.[17] Historical sources also indicate that around the end of the 14th century, its ruler Parameswara was attacked by either the Majapahit or the Siamese, forcing him to move to Malacca where he founded the Sultanate of Malacca.[18] Archaeological evidence suggests that the main settlement on Fort Canning was abandoned around this time, although a small trading settlement continued in Singapore for some time afterwards.[19] In 1613, Portuguese raiders burned down the settlement, and the island faded into obscurity for the next two centuries.[20] By then Singapore was nominally part of the Johor Sultanate.[21] The wider maritime region and much trade was under Dutch control for the following period after the Dutch conquest of Malacca.[22]

British colonisation[edit]

The British governor Stamford Raffles arrived in Singapore on 28 January 1819 and soon recognised the island as a natural choice for the new port.[23] The island was then nominally ruled by Tengku Abdul Rahman, the Sultan of Johor, who was controlled by the Dutch and the Bugis.[24] However, the Sultanate was weakened by factional division: the Temenggong (Chief Minister) of Tengku Abdul Rahman, as well as his officials, were loyal to the Sultan's elder brother Tengku Long, who was living in exile in Riau. With the Temenggong's help, Raffles managed to smuggle Tengku Long back into Singapore. Raffles offered to recognise Tengku Long as the rightful Sultan of Johor, under the title of Sultan Hussein, as well as provide him with a yearly payment of $5000 and another $3000 to the Temenggong; in return, Sultan Hussein would grant the British the right to establish a trading post on Singapore.[25] A formal treaty was signed on 6 February 1819.[26][27]

1825 survey map. Singapore's free port trade was at Singapore River for 150 years. Fort Canning hill (centre) was home to its ancient and early colonial rulers.

In 1824, a further treaty with the Sultan led to the entire island becoming a British possession.[28] In 1826, Singapore became part of the Straits Settlements, then under the jurisdiction of British India. Singapore became the regional capital in 1836.[29] Prior to Raffles' arrival, there were only about a thousand people living on the island, mostly indigenous Malays along with a handful of Chinese.[30] By 1860 the population had swelled to over 80,000, more than half being Chinese.[28] Many of these early immigrants came to work on the pepper and gambier plantations.[31] In 1867, the Straits Settlements were separated from British India, coming under the direct control of Britain.[32] Later, in the 1890s, when the rubber industry became established in Malaya and Singapore,[33] the island became a global centre for rubber sorting and export.[28]

Singapore was not greatly affected by the First World War (1914–18), as the conflict did not spread to Southeast Asia. The only significant event during the war was the 1915 Singapore Mutiny by Muslim sepoys from British India, who were garrisoned in Singapore.[34] After hearing rumours that they were to be sent to fight the Ottoman Empire, a Muslim state, the soldiers rebelled, killing their officers and several British civilians before the mutiny was suppressed by non-Muslim troops arriving from Johore and Burma.[35]

After the World War I, the British built the large Singapore Naval Base as part of the defensive Singapore strategy.[36] Originally announced in 1921, the construction of the base proceeded at a slow pace until the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. Costing $60 million and not fully completed in 1938, it was nonetheless the largest dry dock in the world, the third-largest floating dock, and had enough fuel tanks to support the entire British navy for six months.[36][37][38] The base was defended by heavy 15-inch naval guns stationed at Fort Siloso, Fort Canning and Labrador, as well as a Royal Air Force airfield at Tengah Air Base. Winston Churchill touted it as the "Gibraltar of the East", and military discussions often referred to the base as simply "East of Suez". However, the British Home Fleet was stationed in Europe, and the British could not afford to build a second fleet to protect their interests in Asia. The plan was for the Home Fleet to sail quickly to Singapore in the event of an emergency. As a consequence, after World War II broke out in 1939, the fleet was fully occupied with defending Britain, leaving Singapore vulnerable to Japanese invasion.[39][40]

World War II[edit]

British evacuation in 1945 after the Japanese surrender. Kallang Airport's control tower near the city has been conserved.

During the Pacific War, the Japanese invasion of Malaya culminated in the Battle of Singapore. When the British force of 60,000 troops surrendered on 15 February 1942, British prime minister Winston Churchill called the defeat "the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history".[41] British and Empire losses during the fighting for Singapore were heavy, with a total of nearly 85,000 personnel captured.[42] About 5,000 were killed or wounded,[43] of which Australians made up the majority.[44][45][46] Japanese casualties during the fighting in Singapore amounted to 1,714 killed and 3,378 wounded.[42][lower-alpha 3] The occupation was to become a major turning point in the histories of several nations, including those of Japan, Britain, and Singapore. Japanese newspapers triumphantly declared the victory as deciding the general situation of the war.[47][48] Between 5,000 and 25,000 ethnic Chinese people were killed in the subsequent Sook Ching massacre.[49] British forces had planned to liberate Singapore in 1945; however, the war ended before these operations could be carried out.[50][51]

Post-war period[edit]

After the Japanese surrender to the Allies on 15 August 1945, Singapore fell into a brief state of violence and disorder; looting and revenge-killing were widespread. British, Australian, and Indian troops led by Lord Louis Mountbatten returned to Singapore to receive the formal surrender of Japanese forces in the region from General Seishirō Itagaki on behalf of General Hisaichi Terauchi on 12 September 1945.[50][51] Meanwhile, Tomoyuki Yamashita was tried by a US military commission for war crimes, but not for crimes committed by his troops in Malaya or Singapore. He was convicted and hanged in the Philippines on 23 February 1946.[52][53]

Much of Singapore's infrastructure had been destroyed during the war, including those needed to supply utilities. A shortage of food led to malnutrition, disease, and rampant crime and violence. A series of strikes in 1947 caused massive stoppages in public transport and other services. However, by late 1947 the economy began to recover, facilitated by a growing international demand for tin and rubber.[54] The failure of Britain to successfully defend its colony against the Japanese changed its image in the eyes of Singaporeans. British Military Administration ended on 1 April 1946, with Singapore becoming a separate Crown Colony.[54] In July 1947, separate Executive and Legislative Councils were established and the election of six members of the Legislative Council was scheduled in the following year.[55]

During the 1950s, Chinese communists, with strong ties to the trade unions and Chinese schools, waged a guerrilla war against the government, leading to the Malayan Emergency. The 1954 National Service riots, Hock Lee bus riots, and Chinese middle schools riots in Singapore were all linked to these events.[56] David Marshall, pro-independence leader of the Labour Front, won Singapore's first general election in 1955.[57] He led a delegation to London, but Britain rejected his demand for complete self-rule. He resigned and was replaced by Lim Yew Hock in 1956, and after further negotiations Britain to grant Singapore full internal self-government for all matters except defence and foreign affairs.[58] During the subsequent May 1959 elections, the People's Action Party (PAP) won a landslide victory.[59] Governor Sir William Allmond Codrington Goode served as the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Head of State).[60]

Within Malaysia[edit]

Singapore thrived as an entrepôt. In the 1960s, bumboats were used to transport cargoes and supplies between nearshore ships and Singapore River.

PAP leaders believed that Singapore's future lay with Malaya, due to strong ties between the two. It was thought that reuniting with Malaya would benefit the economy by creating a common market, alleviating ongoing unemployment woes in Singapore. However, a sizeable pro-communist wing of the PAP was strongly opposed to the merger, fearing a loss of influence, and hence formed the Barisan Sosialis, splitting from the PAP.[61][62] The ruling party of Malaya, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), was staunchly anti-communist, and it was suspected UMNO would support the non-communist factions of PAP. UMNO, initially sceptical of the idea of a merger due to distrust of the PAP government and concern that the large ethnic Chinese population in Singapore would alter the racial balance in Malaya on which their political power base depended, became supportive of the idea of the merger due to joint fear of a communist takeover.[63]

On 27 May 1961, Malaya's prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, made a surprise proposal for a new Federation called Malaysia, which would unite the current and former British possessions in the region: the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Brunei, North Borneo, and Sarawak.[63] UMNO leaders believed that the additional Malay population in the Bornean territories would balance Singapore's Chinese population.[58] The British government, for its part, believed that the merger would prevent Singapore from becoming a haven for communism.[64] To obtain a mandate for a merger, the PAP held a referendum on the merger. This referendum included a choice of different terms for a merger with Malaysia but had no option for avoiding merger altogether. On 16 September 1963, Singapore joined with Malaya, the North Borneo, and Sarawak to form the new Federation of Malaysia under the terms of the Malaysia Agreement. Under this Agreement, Singapore had a relatively high level of autonomy compared to the other states of Malaysia.[65]

Indonesia opposed the formation of Malaysia due to its own claims over Borneo and launched konfrontasi (Confrontation in Indonesian) in response to the formation of Malaysia.[66] On 10 March 1965, a bomb planted by Indonesian saboteurs on a mezzanine floor of MacDonald House exploded, killing three people and injuring 33 others. It was the deadliest of at least 42 bomb incidents which occurred during the confrontation.[67] Two members of the Indonesian Marine Corps, Osman bin Haji Mohamed Ali and Harun bin Said, were eventually convicted and executed for the crime.[68] The explosion caused US$250,000 (equivalent to US$Error when using {{Inflation}}: NaN/calculation error, please notify Template talk:Inflation. in 2019) in damages to MacDonald House.[69][70]

Even after the merger, the Singaporean government and the Malaysian central government disagreed on many political and economic issues. Despite an agreement to establish a common market, Singapore continued to face restrictions when trading with the rest of Malaysia. In retaliation, Singapore did not extend to Sabah and Sarawak the full extent of the loans agreed to for economic development of the two eastern states. Talks soon broke down, and abusive speeches and writing became rife on both sides. This led to communal strife in Singapore, culminating in the 1964 race riots.[71] On 7 August 1965, Malaysian prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, seeing no alternative to avoid further bloodshed, advised the Parliament of Malaysia that it should vote to expel Singapore from Malaysia.[72] On 9 August 1965, the Malaysian Parliament voted 126 to 0 to move a bill to amend the constitution, expelling Singapore from Malaysia, which left Singapore as a newly independent country.[58][73][74][75]

Republic of Singapore[edit]

Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore

After being expelled from Malaysia, Singapore became independent as the Republic of Singapore on 9 August 1965, with Lee Kuan Yew and Yusof bin Ishak as the first prime minister and president respectively.[76][77] In 1967, the country co-founded the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).[78] Race riots broke out once more in 1969.[79] Lee Kuan Yew's emphasis on rapid economic growth, support for business entrepreneurship, and limitations on internal democracy shaped Singapore's policies for the next half-century.[80][81] Economic growth continued throughout the 1980s, with the unemployment rate falling to 3% and real GDP growth averaging at about 8% up until 1999. During the 1980s, Singapore began to shift towards high-tech industries, such as the wafer fabrication sector, in order to remain competitive as neighbouring countries began manufacturing with cheaper labour. Singapore Changi Airport was opened in 1981 and Singapore Airlines was formed.[82] The Port of Singapore became one of the world's busiest ports and the service and tourism industries also grew immensely during this period.[83][84]

The PAP, which has remained in power since independence, is believed to rule in an authoritarian manner by some activists and opposition politicians who see the strict regulation of political and media activities by the government as an infringement on political rights.[85] In response, Singapore has seen several significant political changes, such as the introduction of the Non-Constituency members of parliament in 1984 to allow up to three losing candidates from opposition parties to be appointed as MPs. Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) were introduced in 1988 to create multi-seat electoral divisions, intended to ensure minority representation in parliament.[86] Nominated members of parliament were introduced in 1990 to allow non-elected non-partisan MPs.[87] The Constitution was amended in 1991 to provide for an Elected President who has veto power in the use of national reserves and appointments to public office.[88]

In 1990, Goh Chok Tong succeeded Lee and became Singapore's second prime minister.[89] During Goh's tenure, the country went through the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2003 SARS outbreak.[90][91] In 2004, Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the country's third prime minister.[91] Lee Hsien Loong's tenure included the 2008 global financial crisis, the resolution of a dispute over land ownership at Tanjong Pagar railway station between Singapore and Malaysia, and the introduction of the 2 integrated resorts (IRs), located at the Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa.[92] The People's Action Party (PAP) suffered its worst ever electoral results in 2011, winning just 60% of votes, amidst debate over issues including the influx of foreign workers and the high cost of living.[93] On 23 March 2015, Lee Kuan Yew died, and a one-week period of public mourning was observed nationwide.[81] Subsequently, the PAP regained its dominance in Parliament through the September general election, receiving 69.9% of the popular vote, although this remained lower than the 2001 tally of 75.3%[94] and the 1968 tally of 86.7%.[95] The 2020 election saw the PAP drop to 61% of the vote, while the opposition Workers' Party took 10 of the 93 seats, the highest number ever won by an opposition party.[96]


  1. Singapore has no official distinct capital city as it is a city-state.[1]
  2. Of which 3,471,900 are citizens.[5]
  3. The break down of British Empire losses included 38,496 United Kingdom, 18,490 Australian, 67,340 Indian and 14,382 local volunteer troops. Total Australian casualties included 1,789 killed and 1,306 wounded.[42]



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