Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, is an island city-state in Southeast Asia. It lies one degree (137 kilometres or 85 miles) north of the equator, at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, with Indonesia’s Riau Islands to the south and Peninsular Malaysia to the north. Singapore’s territory consists of one main island along with 62 other islets. Since independence, extensive land reclamation has increased its total size by 23% (130 square kilometres or 50 square miles). The country is known for its transition from a developing to a developed one in a single generation under the leadership of its founding father, Lee Kuan Yew.
In 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles founded colonial Singapore as a trading post of the British East India Company. After the company’s collapse in 1858, the islands were ceded to the British Raj as a crown colony. During the Second World War, Singapore was occupied by Japan. It gained independence from the British Empire in 1963 by joining Malaysia along with other former British territories (Sabah and Sarawak), but separated two years later over ideological differences, becoming a sovereign nation in 1965. After early years of turbulence and despite lacking natural resources and a hinterland, the nation developed rapidly as an Asian Tiger economy, based on external trade and its workforce.
Singapore ranks 9th on the UN Human Development Index with the 3rd highest GDP per capita. It is placed highly in key social indicators: education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety and housing. Although income inequality is high, 90% of homes are owner-occupied. According to the Democracy Index, the country is described as a “flawed democracy”. The Singaporean passport is second in the world after Japan for visa-free travel granted by the most countries to its citizens.[2
The city-state is home to 5.6 million residents, 39% of whom are foreign nationals, including permanent residents. There are four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil; most Singaporeans are bilingual and English serves as the nation’s lingua franca. Its cultural diversity is reflected in its extensive ethnic cuisine and major festivals. Pew Research has found that Singapore has the highest religious diversity of any country. Multiracialism has been enshrined in its constitution since independence, and continues to shape national policies in education, housing, politics, among others.
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