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Singapore Guide. Singapore Country Profile.

Country Profile: Singapore.

Trivia: Geographically, Singapore has an interesting shape. The main island is shaped like a diamond, nestled between Indonesia and Malaysia.

Singapore was under British rule and was established as a trading colony of the British in 1819. It joined the Malaysian Federation briefly in 1963 but became independent after two years. It is a very busy nation and has become a center of commerce due to its strategic location as a major international seaport. It is a country dotted with state-of-the art architecture, varied and numerous skyscrapers interspersed with verdant and lush parks and natural reserves, temples and museums. It is a beautiful island where people of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds happily and peacefully co-exist.

:: Background of Singapore ::

According to history records the name Singapore was coined by Srivijayan Prince San Nila Utama, also called Sri Tri Buana, combining Malay and Sanskrit words Singha and Pura meaning Lion City. Allegedly the prince saw a tiger when he reached the island in the 13th century. Prince Parameswara of Palembang ruled the island in the 14th century and Singapore became a vital port. Singapore was however destroyed in 1613 by Portuguese invaders.

The British under Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles established Singapore as one of their trading colonies, as they expand their colonial rule and trade routes by 1819. He was determined for Britain to surpass Netherlands’ control of the region because the trade route between British India and China traverses the region. He was able to convince the Governor-General of India, Lord Hastings, who was also his superior at the British East India Company to release funds to finance an expedition to look for alternative base. He landed in Singapore on January 29, 1819 and the naturally deep harbor around the island convinced him that it will be suitable as a trading post. Singapore also had abundant supply of fresh water and available timber that can be used to repair their ships.

The island of Singapore at that time was marginally ruled by Tengku Rahman, the Sultan of Johor and controlled by the Dutch. There were in-fighting within the sultanate and were easily overcame by Temenggong Abdu’r Rahman, the head of the small settlement installed by the British, and the followers that were loyal to Tengku Hussein, the elder brother of Tengku Rahman. Tengku Hussein was successfully brought back to the country by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles with the help of Temenggong. A treaty was formally signed between the British and Tengku Hussein on February 6, 1819 wherein Hussein was recognized by the British as the Sultan of Johor and Hussein granted them power to install a trading post in the country. Singapore according to Raffles should be a free port and that signaled the birth of modern-day Singapore.

Raffles left the management of Singapore under Major William Farquhar and he increased the settlement in the country, although Raffles later criticized Farquhar who had granted licenses for gambling and the selling of opium to generate revenue. Raffles established ethnic and functional subdivisions to organize Singapore and named it the Raffles Plan of Singapore. He also replaced Farquhar with John Crawfurd as the new governor. Crawfurd signed a treaty with the Sultan as well as Temenggong wherein almost the whole island came under British rule. The commercial importance of Singapore spread far and wide and soon there were many merchant groups who settled in the country, and by 1827 the Chinese became the largest ethnic group of settlers. They were followed by the Malays who were predominantly wage earners, craftsmen and fishermen. Soon after, in 1860, Indian traders, unskilled laborers and convicts began to populate the island of Singapore.

The government was ineffective and lawlessness prevailed. There was rampant prostitution, drug (opium) abuse and gambling and Chinese criminal (secret) societies began to form and eventually became very powerful, being able to attract membership by the thousands. The population during that time was close to 60,000 and there were only 12 police officers in Singapore. This earned Singapore a reputation that is was populated by the very dregs of society.

Singapore came under Japanese rule for three and a half years from February 15, 1942 and was given the name Syonan meaning the Light of the South. The British again ruled Singapore starting from September 1945 and started to rebuild post-war Singapore. However, the failure of the British to defend Singapore during the war instilled a desire for independence and Merdeka became their battlecry. On April 1, 1946 Singapore became a Crown Colony and conducted their own elections.

There was internal turmoil during 1955 to 1959 as several factions including leftist, waged war for power. The Merdeka Talks in 1956 led by David Marshall failed and he resigned, to be replaced by Lim Yew Hock, the new Chief Minister. Under the Internal Security Act he started a crackdown on the leftist and communist groups and sent pro-communist trade union leaders and members in prison. The British recognized his efforts and granted Singapore with a right to self-government in 1957. The State of Singapore was established in August 1958.

The new government was aggressive in its campaign for reform. The People’s Action Party had a brilliant leader in Lee Kuan Yew. Goh Keng Swee, the Finance Minister encourage local and foreign investments, giving tax incentives and providing a massive industrial estate in Jurong located in the western region of Singapore. The educational system was changed so that a skilled workforce can be trained and English was made the language of instruction. The new government also answered the need for low-cost housing and consolidated the labor unions into one umbrella organization. During this time, Prime Minister Lee and Finance Minister Goh thought that the future of Singapore lies with Malaysia and amid opposition the Federation of Malaysia, which include Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah was established on July 9, 1963.

However, the relation was shaky and there was racial tension. Singapore had restricted trading with Malaysia, prompting Singapore to refuse full loan extensions to Sarawak and Sabah that were previously agreed on. The tension increased and Malaysia suspected Singapore of providing funding to the communists. There were heated exchanges of writings and speeches, and there was a call for Lee Kuan Yew to be arrested. Finally, Singapore separated from the Federation of Malaysia on August 9, 1965.

To prevent threats from other neighboring countries, Singapore sought international memberships and started diplomatic relations with other countries. It became a member of the United Nations on September 21, 1965 and joined the Commonwealth on October 1965. The country became co-founder of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation on August 8, 1967.

With the rapid modernization and reforms to address the economic and social problems that Singapore faced, it began to attract large foreign investments, including Esso and Shell. The British were still influential in the development of Singapore until 1968 when the British announced that they will withdraw their troops starting 1971. Singapore slowly established their own Singapore Armed Forces, one of the best-equipped in Asia, with the help of military advisers from Israel.

Goh Chok Tong became the second prime minister after Lee Kuan Yew in 1990. He was succeeded by Lee Hsien Loong in 2004. Lee Hsien Loong is the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew and he is still the Prime Minister of Singapore.

:: Geography of Singapore ::

Singapore is mightily important as an international hub of commerce, much bigger than the country’s size. The land is generally undulating, with some low hills. What Singapore lacks in natural resources is overcompensated by its deep seaports, making it one of the busiest in the world.

Singapore is a collection of 63 islets in Southeast Asia, and nestled between Indonesia and Malaysia. Southeastern Asia, islands between Malaysia and Indonesia. Geographically, Singapore’s coordinates are 1° 22’ north and 103° 48’ east. Its total land mass is 697 square kilometers, with a total land area of 687 square kilometers and 10 square kilometers covered by water. Collectively the islets that make up Singapore are 3.5 times the land area of Washington D.C.

Land Boundaries
Singapore is situated between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. Singapore does not have any land boundaries. It is separated from Indonesia by the Singapore Strait while it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor. It does have 193 kilometers of coastline, with a territorial maritime claim of 3 nautical miles with an exclusive fishing zone that is within and beyond its territorial water, gained from traditional practice and special treaties.

With its proximity to the equator, the climate is Singapore is equatorial, which is generally hot and humid for most of the year with no distinct seasonal variations. Humidity can reach a 75% mark with an average rainfall of 100 inches and an average temperature of 75° F. The month of May is milder compared to the month of June, which is generally the hottest month in Singapore. Thunderstorms are a regular occurrence in Singapore due to its closeness to the equator and because of the prevailing climate. June, July and August are considered the best months of the year, as the rainy season in Singapore occurs in the months of November to December.

Singapore is generally a flat area with a central plateau. There are no natural lakes in the country but there are several catchment areas and nature preserves. The lowest point can be found in the Singapore Strait and its highest elevation, Bukit Timah, located near the center of the main island of Singapore rises to a height of 166 meters.

Natural Resources
Singapore is a city-state where land is at a premium so it is not rich in natural resources. Singapore though has deep water ports, making the country one of the busiest seaports in the world. Fish is abundant in its inland waters and around its territorial limits.

Land Use
Singapore is a small state where land is scarce. The main island is Singapore and the rest of the land area is composed of numerous islets. Only 1.47% of the land is arable and planted with permanent crops and the rest, or 97.06% is allocated for industries and infrastructures, residential areas and parks and numerous catchments.

Natural Hazards
Despite being surrounded by water, Singapore is a sheltered nation where no major natural disasters take place. Heavy rains, strong winds and flooding occur due to the monsoon seasons. Earthquakes can be felt in Singapore and tsunamis are possible.

Current Environmental Issues
Singapore is highly industrialized, as it belongs to the four Asian tigers or fast-emerging economies including Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea. As such, it is plagued by industrial pollution. It also has limited natural freshwater resources and has problems with waste disposal due to the lack of available land. The seasonal forest fires in Indonesia carry smoke and haze that can envelop parts of the country.

International Agreements
Singapore, like most developed and developing nations has entered into international environmental agreements affecting climate change-Kyoto protocol, desertification, climate change, law of the sea, endangered species, ozone layer protection, hazardous wastes, ship pollution and biodiversity. None of the selected agreements have been ratified although the country has signed them.

:: People of Singapore ::

According to the July estimates, Singapore is home to 4,740,737 people. The males outnumber the females slightly in the zero to fourteen age group, with 13.8% males, equivalent to 338,419 over 314,704 females. In the 15 to 64 age bracket, the females edges slightly over the males, with 1,874,985 females to 1,774, 444 males, representing 77% of the population. There are 242,084 females and 196,101 males in the 65 years and over age brackets, representing 9.2% of the population.

The median age in Singapore is 40.1 years, with the males averaging 39.6 years and females placed at 40.6 years. The population, according to 2011 estimates grows at the rate of 0.817% annually. This represents 8.5 births per 1,000 population. The total fertility rate in Singapore is quite low, estimated at 1.11 children born for every woman of child-bearing age. The death rate is Singapore according to July 2011 estimates is 4.95 for every 1,000 population. Net migration, according to July estimates is 4.63 migrants per 1,000 people.

Males marginally dominate females in the sex ratio. At birth there are 1.077 males born than females. In the under fifteen age bracket, there are 1.08 males over females. In the 15 to 64 age group, the ration is 0.95 males per female while in the 65 years and over bracket, there are 0.81 male for every female, making the total population average of 0.95 males for every female.

Infant Mortality Rate
Of the total population, the average infant mortality rate is placed at 2.32 deaths for every 1,000 live births. Males edge the females slightly, with 2.52 deaths for every 1,000 live births while there are only 2.11 deaths for every 1,000 live births for females.

Life Expectancy at Birth
Life expectancy at birth is Singapore is quite high, with the average placed at 82.14 years. Breakdown is 79.53 years for the male population and 84.96 for the females, according to the July 2011 estimates

Adult prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Singapore is estimated in 2009 to be 0.1%, with 3,400 persons estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS. There are fewer than 100 deaths caused by HIV/AIDS, according to the estimates done in 2009.

Singapore nationals are called Singaporeans. This is used as a noun. Singapore is used as the nationality adjective.

Ethnic Groups
Singapore is a very densely populated country with various ethnicities but the majority is composed of Chinese which represents 76.8% of the total population. Next to the Chinese are the Malays, comprising 13.9% while the Indian population represents 7.9%. Other smaller ethnic groups comprise 1.4% of the population according to the census done in 2000.

Due to the existence of various ethnic groups in Singapore there are also several religions being followed. The Buddhists comprise the majority of the population with 42.5%, followed by the Muslims at 14.09%. There is also 8.5% of the population following Taoism. Hinduism is followed by 4% of the population while Catholics are placed at 4.8%. Other Christian religions are followed by 9.8% of the population and about 14.8% did not indicate their religion when the 2000 census was conducted.

Several languages are officially spoken in Singapore, it being a culturally-mixed nation and a hub for commerce and industry. Mandarin is an official language that is spoken by 35% of the population. Other official languages are English with 23%, Malay with 14.1% speakers and Tamil with 3.2%. Several Chinese dialects are also spoken by the rest of the population, broken down into Hokkien with 11.4%, Cantonese with 5.7% and Teochew spoken by 4.9%, with some undefined Chinese dialects spoken by 1.8% of the population. Still other minor languages are spoken by 0.9% of the population according to the 2000 census.

Literacy in Singapore is very high and those 15 years and over can read and write. The literacy rate of the whole nation is placed at 92.5%, with the males slightly ahead of the females, with 96.9% literary rate for males versus 88.6 for the females. The figures were based on the 2000 census.

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