Linked to the southernmost tip of the Malay peninsula by a causeway, Singapore was established as a trading settlement in 1819. It is one of Asia’s most important commercial centers.
Geography: Little remains of the original vegetation on Singapore Island. The other 54 much smaller islands are little more than swampy jungle.
Climate: Equatorial. Hot and humid, with heavy rainfall all year round.
People and Society: Dominated by the Chinese, who make up three-quarters of the community. The old English-speaking Straits Chinese and newer Mandarin-speakers are now well integrated. Malays are generally the poorest group. The population is skilled and industrious; there is a significant foreign workforce. Society is highly regulated; official campaigns aim to improve public behaviour. Crime is limited and punishment can be severe.
The Economy: Wealth from success as entrepôt and center of high-tech industries, such as electronics and pharmaceuticals. Leads research in new biotechnologies. All food, energy, and water imported. Worst-ever recession in 2008–2009.
Insight: Chewing gum was banned outright from 1992 to 2004
Official Name: Republic of Singapore
Date of Formation: 1965
Population: 4.74 million
Total Area: 250 sq. miles (648 sq. km)
Density: 20,072 people per sq. mile
Languages: Mandarin*, Malay*, Tamil*, English*
Religions: Buddhist 55%, Taoist 22%, Muslim 16%, Hindu, Christian, Sikh 7%
Ethnic Mix: Chinese 77%, Malay 14%, Indian 8%, other 1%
Government: Parliamentary system
Currency: Singapore dollar = 100 cents