Singapore, Republic of, independent city-state in southeastern Asia, comprising one major island and more than 50 small adjacent islets, located off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. Singapore Island, the one major island, is separated from Malaysia on the north by the narrow Johor Strait. On the south, it is separated from the Riau Archipelago of Indonesia by Singapore Strait, an important shipping channel linking the Indian Ocean to the west with the South China Sea on the east. The city of Singapore is at the southeastern end of the island; it is one of the most important port cities and commercial centers of Southeast Asia. The total area of the republic is 640 sq km (247 sq mi).
Low-lying Singapore Island has no prominent relief features. A central area of hills rises to the maximum elevation of 176 m (577 ft). Coral reefs are found in certain coastal areas, and numerous short streams drain the island. The country has a wet tropical climate, with an average annual temperature of 27.2° C (81° F). The average annual rainfall is 2413 mm (95 in); the wettest months are November through January. Most of the primary jungle and swamps have been removed for residential, industrial, and, to a lesser extent, agricultural use. A small area of the central hills retains its natural jungle cover. Soils are relatively infertile, and clays and sand are the only mineral resources.
The population (1992 estimate) was 2,818,200. The overall population density was 4400 persons per sq km (11,410 per sq mi). The majority of the population is concentrated on the southern part of the island. The population is ethnically diverse and consists principally of Chinese (about 78 percent), Malays (14 percent), and Indians (7 percent). The country has four official languages-English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. English is the language of administration. Among the principal religions of Singapore are Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Christianity. In the late 1980s the country had some 290 primary schools with 278,300 pupils and 160 secondary schools with 200,200 students. The principal institutions of higher education are the National University of Singapore (founded in 1980 with the merger of two major universities), several technical colleges, and a teachers college.
Singapore is governed under a constitution of 1959, as amended. A president, elected to a four-year term, is head of state, and a prime minister is head of government. The president used to be elected by Parliament, but by a 1991 constitutional amendment, the president is now elected directly by the people. Legislative power is vested in the Parliament, the 81 members of which are popularly elected. The People's Action party has been the dominant political party since Singapore became independent.
Singapore has one of the highest standards of living of any country in Asia. In the late 1980s the gross domestic product was estimated at $23.7 billion, or $8870 per capita; the annual budget included $5.8 billion in revenue and $6.2 billion in expenditure. Agriculture is relatively unimportant to the economy because of the limited land area and the relatively poor soils, but market vegetables and fruits are grown. The fishing industry is centered on the port of Jurong, on southwestern Singapore Island. In the mid-1980s the annual catch landed by Singapore vessels was about 13,200 metric tons. Industry has grown rapidly since the 1960s, and Singapore now produces a diversity of goods, including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electronic items, clothing, plastics, rubber products, steel pipes, plywood, and processed foods. Shipbuilding and petroleum refining are also important. The leading industrial area is the Jurong Industrial Estate. Singapore is a major world port and has extensive dock facilities along Keppel Harbour on the southern coast. Much of its trade involves the transshipment of goods produced in the region. In the late 1980s annual imports cost $40.3 billion while exports earned $38 billion. Singapore's principal trading partners include the United States, Japan, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Germany, and Hong Kong. Singapore is also a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Tourism and international banking are important sources of foreign exchange revenue. The country has one of the largest international airports in Asia, and a 26-km (16-mi) rail line that crosses Johor Strait and links with the Malaysian railroad system. The unit of currency is the Singapore dollar (1.629 Singapore dollars equal U.S.$1; 1992).
It is believed that Singapore was a trading center in the Sri Vijaya Empire until the 14th century, when title passed to the kingdom of Majapahit. It was claimed in the 15th century by the Malacca sultanate.
"Singapore, Republic of," Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 96 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1995
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