The Republic of Singapore consists of the main island of Singapore, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, and 58 nearby islands.
Singapore is the world's fourth-leading financial center, and its port is one of the five busiest ports in the world. The economy depends heavily on exports and refining imported goods, especially in manufacturing, which constituted 26% of Singapore's GDP in 2005. In terms of purchasing power parity, Singapore has the third-highest per capita income in the world.
An island city-state located off the south end of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore is often mistaken for simply being a city rather than an actual country that is comprised of 63 islands and six million people. Over the past 20 years, Singapore has developed into a highly urbanized, thriving economy fueled by thousands of immigrants taking up residence in Singapore in order to gain employment. Rainforests used to cover most of Singapore but little biodiversity remains due to rapid and aggressive development throughout the country. As one of the world's leading financial centers, Singapore has one of the top five busiest ports that actively manage the import and export of manufactured goods as well as natural resources. Aware that Singapore boasts the third highest per capita income, thousands of foreigners flock to this island city-state to take advantage of its low unemployment rate and market-based economy.
Politically, Singapore is a parliamentary republic heavily influenced by the People's Action Party, which has won all elections held in the country since 1959. Singapore's constitution affirms representative democracy as its primary political entity supported by a Westminster system of government. In addition, Singapore has been consistently rated as having the most transparent and least corrupted governments in the world. Executive power is held by a Cabinet ruled by the President and the Prime Minister. Although the president is elected by the majority of the public's vote, the Prime Minister is elected by members of the Cabinet.
Singapore's citizens represent a highly diverse population. Nearly 75 percent of this population are Chinese, with Indians and Malays comprising the remaining 25 percent. Tamil, English, Malay and Mandarin Chinese are acknowledged as the four official languages but because of the influx of an estimated 11 milllion transient people each year, it is possible to encounter dozens of different languages while studying in Singapore.
Essential Facts About Singapore
- Singapore is considered to have one of the most competitive, free and innovative, business-friendly economies in the world. Over 7000 multinational organizations currently exist in Singapore that originate from Japan, Europe and the U.S.
- Almost half of Singapore's workforce are non-Singaporeans.
- The economy is heavily promoted by the tourism industry, with an estimated 11 million tourists visiting Singapore each year.
- Since 2009, 25 percent of students enrolled in a Singaporean higher education institution were international students mainly from India, China and various Asian countries.
- The Singaporean military, comprised of the Air Force, Army and Navy, may be the most advanced technologically in SE Asia. However, this country's view of defense is one of deterrence and diplomacy and views its military as a guarantee of Singapore's independence.
- Because land is scarce in Singapore, the government has established a Housing Development Board to provide housing for nearly four-fifths of the city-state's population in the form of subsidized public housing. Alternately, home ownership stands at 85 percent and about one in every ten Singaporeans owns a vehicle.
Similar to most of SE Asia's tropical climate, Singapore's weather stays hot and humid all year long. Students attending school in Singapore can expect temperatures to consistently remain above 70 degrees (21 Celsius) with humidity hovering around 75 percent or higher. Residents see heavy rain during November and December, which increases the humidity levels. Fortunately, most of Singapore's buildings are air-conditioned and the government has taken steps to ensure the comfort level for tourists and visitors remains acceptable.
The Singapore dollar is the city-state's currency, which is interchangeable with the Brunei dollar. Comprised of 100 cents, or "units", the SGD is designated with a"$" or"S$". Silver and gold coins are issued in denominations of five, ten, 20, and 50 cents, with a one-dollar coin also available. Many places in Singapore accept foreign currency but students may exchange their money for SGDs at banks or currency exchange booths which can be found at most shopping malls.
Thirty-five percent of Singapore's population practice Buddhism, followed by Christianity, Taoism, Hinduism, or Islam. Nearly 20 percent are not affiliated with any religion. Singapore provides Dharma centers and monasteries representing the three Buddhist traditions - Vajrayana, Theravada, and Mahayana. The majority of Singaporeans are Chinese Buddhists who practice the Mahayana tradition.