Republic of Singapore
Area: 710.3 sq. km.
Cities: Capital--Singapore (country is a city-state).
Population (2009): 4.99 million (including permanent
residents, foreign workers).
Annual growth rate (2009): 3.1% (total); 2.5% (Singapore
citizens and permanent residents).
Ethnic groups (2009): Chinese 74.2%, Malays 13.4%, Indians
9.2%, others 3.2%.
Religions: Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu.
Languages: English, Mandarin and other Chinese dialects,
Education: Years compulsory--six. Literacy (2009)--96.3%.
Health (2008): Infant mortality rate--2.1/1,000. Life
expectancy--78.4 yrs. male, 83.2 yrs. female.
Work force (2009, 2.99 million): Manufacturing--18.1%;
Type: Parliamentary republic.
Constitution: June 3, 1959 (amended 1965 and 1991).
Independence: August 9, 1965.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state, 6-yr. term);
prime minister (head of government). Legislative--unicameral
84-member Parliament (maximum 5-yr. term). Judicial--High
Court, Court of Appeal, subordinate courts.
Political parties: People's Action Party (PAP), Workers'
Party (WP), Singapore People's Party (SPP), Singapore
Democratic Party (SDP), Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA),
National Solidarity Party (NSP), Reform Party.
Suffrage: Universal and compulsory at 21.
Central government budget (FY 2010): Total expenditures U.S.
$33.1 billion (46.37 billion Singapore dollars).
Defense (FY 2010): 4.5% of gross domestic product.
National holiday: August 9.
GDP (2009 nominal prices): $177.1 billion.
Annual real growth rate: 8.7% (2006), 8.2% (2007), 1.4%
(2008), -2% (2009).
Per capita GDP (2009): $35,515.
Natural resources: None.
Agriculture (under 0.5% of GDP): Products--poultry, orchids,
vegetables, fruits, ornamental fish.
Manufacturing (18.2% of real GDP): Types--electronic and
electrical products and components, petroleum products,
machinery and metal products, chemical and pharmaceutical
products, transport equipment (mainly aircraft
repairs/maintenance, shipbuilding/repair and oil rigs), food
and beverages, printing and publishing, optical and
photographic equipment, plastic products/modules,
Trade (2009): Exports--$268.9 billion: petroleum products,
food/beverages, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, industrial
machinery and equipment, electronic components,
telecommunication apparatus, transport equipment. Major
markets--Malaysia (11.5%), Indonesia (9.7%), Hong Kong
(11.6%), Germany/France (2.9%), China (9.7%), United States
(11.2%), and Japan (4.6%). Imports--$245 billion: aircraft,
crude oil and petroleum products, electronic components,
radio and television receivers/parts, motor vehicles,
chemicals, food/beverages, iron/steel, electricity
generators. Major suppliers--Germany/France (6.6%), Malaysia
(11.6%), United States (14.7%), China (10.5%), and Japan
Singapore is one of the most densely populated countries in
the world. The annual population growth rate for 2009 was
3.1%, including resident foreigners. Singapore has a varied
linguistic, cultural, and religious heritage. Malay is the
national language, but Chinese, English, and Tamil also are
official languages. English is the language of
administration and also is widely used in the professions,
businesses, and schools.
The government has mandated that English be the primary
language used at all levels of the school systems, and it
aims to provide at least 10 years of education for every
child. In 2008, primary and secondary school students
totaled about 496,353, or 10.3% of the entire population. In
2008, enrollment at public universities was 69,028
(full-time/part-time) and 76,756 at the polytechnics. The
Institute of Technical Education for basic technical and
commerce skills has 24,367 students. The country's literacy
rate is 96.3%.
Singapore generally allows religious freedom, although
religious groups are subject to government scrutiny, and
some religious sects are restricted or banned. Almost all
Malays are Muslim; other Singaporeans are Taoists,
Buddhists, Confucianists, Christians, Hindus, or Sikhs.
Although Singapore's history dates from the 11th century,
the island was little known to the West until the 19th
century, when in 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived
as an agent of the British East India Company. In 1824, the
British purchased Singapore Island, and by 1825, the city of
Singapore had become a major port, with trade exceeding that
of Malaya's Malacca and Penang combined. In 1826, Singapore,
Penang, and Malacca were combined as the Straits Settlements
to form an outlying residency of the British East India
Company; in 1867, the Straits Settlements were made a
British Crown Colony, an arrangement that continued until
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the advent of
steamships launched an era of prosperity for Singapore as
transit trade expanded throughout Southeast Asia. In the
20th century, the automobile industry's demand for rubber
from Southeast Asia and the packaging industry's need for
tin helped make Singapore one of the world's major ports.
In 1921, the British constructed a naval base, which was
soon supplemented by an air base. But the Japanese captured
the island in February 1942, and it remained under their
control until September 1945, when the British returned.
In 1946, the Straits Settlements was dissolved; Penang and
Malacca became part of the Malayan Union, and Singapore
became a separate British Crown Colony. In 1959, Singapore
became self-governing, and, in 1963, it joined the newly
independent Federation of Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak--the
latter two former British Borneo territories--to form
Indonesia adopted a policy of "confrontation" against the
new federation, charging that it was a "British colonial
creation," and severed trade with Malaysia. The move
particularly affected Singapore, since Indonesia had been
the island's second-largest trading partner. The political
dispute was resolved in 1966, and Indonesia resumed trade
After a period of friction between Singapore and the central
government in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore separated from
Malaysia on August 9, 1965, and became an independent
According to the constitution, as amended in 1965, Singapore
is a republic with a parliamentary system of government.
Political authority rests with the prime minister and the
cabinet. The prime minister is the leader of the political
party or coalition of parties having the majority of seats
in Parliament. The president, who is chief of state,
previously exercised only ceremonial duties. As a result of
1991 constitutional changes, the president is now supposed
to be elected and exercises expanded powers over legislative
appointments, government budgetary affairs, and internal
The unicameral Parliament currently consists of 84 members
elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage, and up to
nine "nominated" members of Parliament. A constitutional
provision assures at least three opposition members, even if
fewer than three actually are elected. A "nonconstituency"
seat held by the opposition under this provision since 1997
was again filled after the last election held on May 6,
2006. In the May 2006 general election, the governing
People's Action Party (PAP) won 82 of the 84 seats. The
president appoints nominated members of Parliament from
among nominations by a special select committee. Nominated
members of Parliament (NMPs) enjoy the same privileges as
members of Parliament but cannot vote on constitutional
matters or expenditures of funds. The maximum term of
Parliament is 5 years. NMPs serve for two-and-a-half-year
terms. Voting has been compulsory since 1959.
Judicial power is vested in the High Court and the Court of
Appeal. The High Court exercises original criminal and civil
jurisdiction in serious cases as well as appellate
jurisdiction from subordinate courts. Its chief justice,
senior judge, and twelve judges are appointed by the
president. Appeals from the High Court are heard by the
Court of Appeal. The right of appeal to the Privy Council in
London was abolished effective April 1994.
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--LEE Hsien Loong
Senior Minister--GOH Chok Tong
Senior Minister--S. JAYAKUMAR
Minister Mentor--LEE Kuan Yew
Deputy Prime Minister--TEO Chee Hean
Deputy Prime Minister--WONG Kan Seng
Community Development, Youth and Sports--Vivian BALAKRISHNAN
Defense--TEO Chee Hean
Education--NG Eng Hen
Environment and Water Resources--YAACOB Ibrahim
Foreign Affairs--George Yong-Boon YEO
Health--KHAW Boon Wan
Home Affairs--WONG Kan Seng
Information, Communications and the Arts--(Acting) LUI Tuck
Manpower--(Acting) GAN Kim Yong
National Development--MAH Bow Tan
Trade and Industry--LIM Hng Kiang
Transport--Raymond LIM Siang Keat
Prime Minister’s Office--LIM Swee Say, LIM Boon Heng, Mrs.
LIM Hwee Hua
Ambassador to the United Nations--K. V. Vanu Gopala MENON
Ambassador to the United States--CHAN Heng Chee
Singapore maintains an embassy in the United States at 3501
International Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel.
202/537-3100, fax 202/537-0876).
The ruling political party in Singapore, reelected
continuously since 1959, is the People's Action Party (PAP),
headed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The PAP has held
the overwhelming majority of seats in Parliament since 1966,
when the opposition Barisan Sosialis Party (Socialist
Front), a left-wing group that split off from the PAP in
1961, resigned from Parliament, leaving the PAP as the sole
representative party. In the general elections of 1968,
1972, 1976, and 1980, the PAP won all of the seats in an
Then-Workers' Party Secretary General J.B. Jeyaretnam (who
died in 2008) became the first opposition party member of
Parliament in 15 years when he won a 1981 by-election.
Opposition parties gained small numbers of seats in the
general elections of 1984 (2 out of 79), 1988 (1 of 81),
1991 (4 of 81), 1997 (2 of 83), 2001 (2 of 84) and 2006 (2
of 84). Meanwhile, the PAP's share of the popular vote in
contested seats decreased from 75% in 2001 to 66.6% in 2006.
In the 2006 election, opposition parties together contested
47 of the 84 seats, the largest number in 18 years.
Singapore's strategic location on major sea lanes and its
industrious population have given the country an economic
importance in Southeast Asia disproportionate to its small
size. Upon independence in 1965, Singapore was faced with a
lack of physical resources and a small domestic market. In
response, the Singapore Government adopted a pro-business,
pro-foreign investment, export-oriented economic policy
framework, combined with state-directed investments in
strategic government-owned corporations. Singapore's
economic strategy proved a success, producing real growth
that averaged 7.8% from 1965 to 2009. The worldwide
electronics slump in 2001 and the outbreak of severe acute
respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 dealt blows to the
economy, but growth bounced back each time, driven by world
demand for electronics, pharmaceuticals, other manufactured
goods, and financial services, particularly in the economies
of its major trading partners--the United States, the
European Union, Japan, and China, as well as expanding
emerging markets such as India. The global financial crisis
of 2008 and 2009 dealt a blow to Singapore's open,
trade-oriented economy. Singapore saw its worst two quarters
of contraction in late 2008 and early 2009, but quickly
recovered with strong performance in later quarters. The
official growth forecast for 2010 is between 4.5% and 6.5%.
Singapore's largely corruption-free government, skilled work
force, and advanced and efficient infrastructure have
attracted investments from more than 7,000 multinational
corporations from the United States, Japan, and Europe. Also
present are 1,500 companies from China and another 1,500
from India. Foreign firms are found in almost all sectors of
the economy. Multinational corporations account for more
than two-thirds of manufacturing output and direct export
sales, although certain services sectors remain dominated by
Manufacturing (including construction) and services are the
twin engines of the Singapore economy and accounted for 26%
and 69.3%, respectively, of Singapore's gross domestic
product in 2009. The electronics and chemicals (including
petroleum products) industries lead Singapore's
manufacturing sector, accounting for 31.5% and 27%,
respectively, of Singapore's manufacturing output in 2009.
To inject new life to the tourism sector, the government in
April 2005 approved the development of two casinos that
resulted in investments of more than U.S. $5 billion. Las
Vegas Sands' Marina Bay Sands Resort is scheduled to open in
April 2010, while Genting International's Resort World
Sentosa opened its doors in February 2010.
To maintain its competitive position despite rising wages,
the government seeks to promote higher value-added
activities in the manufacturing and services sectors. It
also has opened, or is in the process of opening, the
financial services, telecommunications, and power generation
and retailing sectors to foreign service-providers and
greater competition. The government also has pursued
cost-cutting measures, including tax cuts and wage and rent
reductions, to lower the cost of doing business in
Singapore. The government is actively negotiating eight free
trade agreements (FTAs) with emerging economic partners and
has already concluded 18 FTAs with many of its key trade
partners, including one with the United States that came
into force January 1, 2004. As a member of the Association
of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Singapore is part of the
ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), and is signatory to ASEAN FTAs
with China, Korea, Japan, India, and a joint agreement with
New Zealand and Australia. Singapore is also a party to the
Transpacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, which
includes Brunei, Chile, and New Zealand.
Trade, Investment, and Aid
Singapore's total trade in 2009 amounted to $513.9 billion,
a dip of 11.5% from 2008. In 2009, Singapore's imports
totaled $245 billion, and exports totaled $269 billion.
Malaysia was Singapore's main import source country, as well
as its second-largest export market, absorbing 11.5% of
Singapore's exports, after Hong Kong (11.6%). Other major
export markets include the United States (11.2%), China
(9.7%), and Indonesia (9.7%). Singapore was the 13th-largest
trading partner of the United States in 2009. Re-exports
accounted for 48.9% of Singapore's total sales to other
countries in 2009. Singapore's principal exports are
petroleum products, food and beverages, chemicals,
pharmaceuticals, electronic components, telecommunication
apparatus, and transport equipment. Singapore's main imports
are aircraft, crude oil and petroleum products, electronic
components, consumer electronics, industrial machinery and
equipment, motor vehicles, chemicals, food and beverages,
electricity generators, and iron and steel.
Singapore continues to attract investment funds on a large
scale despite its relatively high-cost operating
environment. The United States leads in foreign investment,
accounting for 63% of new commitments to the manufacturing
sector in 2008. As of 2008, the stock of investment by U.S.
companies in the manufacturing and services sectors in
Singapore reached about $106.5 billion (total assets). The
bulk of U.S. investment is in electronics manufacturing, oil
refining and storage, and the chemical industry. About 1,500
U.S. firms operate in Singapore.
The government also has encouraged firms to invest outside
Singapore, with the country's total direct investments
abroad reaching $206.5 billion by the end of 2007. China was
the top destination, accounting for 13.2% of total overseas
investments, followed by Malaysia (7.1%), Indonesia (6.1%),
United Kingdom (10.5%), Hong Kong (5.9%), Thailand (5.2%),
Australia (5.3%), and the United States (4.5%).
As of December 2009, Singapore had a total labor force of
about 2.99 million. The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC),
the sole trade union federation, comprises almost 99% of
total organized labor. Extensive legislation covers general
labor and trade union matters. The Industrial Arbitration
Court handles labor-management disputes that cannot be
resolved informally through the Ministry of Labor. The
Singapore Government has stressed the importance of
cooperation between unions, management, and government ("tripartism"),
as well as the early resolution of disputes. There have been
no strikes since 1986.
Singapore has enjoyed virtually full employment for long
periods of time. Amid slower economic growth in 2003,
unemployment rose to 4.0%. As of the end of June 2008, the
unemployment rate was 2.2%. In tandem with the global
economic crisis and the economy’s contraction, unemployment
as of end-September 2009 rose to 3.4% and resident
unemployment reached 5.0%. However, the overall and resident
unemployment rate dipped to 2.1% and 3.0%, respectively, in
December 2009 in view of the Singapore Government’s job
saving measures and the gradually improving global economy.
Overall, some of Singapore’s unemployment is attributable to
structural changes in the economy, as low-skill
manufacturing operations have moved overseas. Since 1990,
the number of foreign workers in Singapore has increased
rapidly to cope with labor shortages. Foreign workers
comprise 35% of the labor force; the great majority of these
are unskilled workers.
Transportation and Communications
Situated at the crossroads of international shipping and air
routes, Singapore is a center for transportation and
communication in Southeast Asia. Singapore's Changi
International Airport is a regional aviation hub served by
80 airlines. A third terminal opened in January 2008, and a
dedicated low-cost terminal for budget airlines has operated
since 2006. The Port of Singapore is the world's busiest for
containerized transshipment traffic. The country also is
linked by road and rail to Malaysia and Thailand.
Telecommunications and Internet facilities are
state-of-the-art, providing high-quality communications with
the rest of the world. Singapore is rolling out a nationwide
broadband network that promises high-speed Internet
connections at lower prices. Sixty percent of the country is
scheduled to be covered by the end of 2010. Radio and
television stations are all ultimately government-owned or
government-linked. The print media is dominated by a company
with close ties to the government. Daily newspapers are
published in English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil.
Singapore relies primarily on its own defense forces, which
are continuously being modernized. The defense budget
accounts for approximately 33% of government operating
expenditures (or 4.5% of GDP). A career military force of
55,000 is supplemented by 300,000 persons, either on active
National Service, which is compulsory for able-bodied young
men, or on Reserve. The Singapore Armed Forces engage in
joint training with Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) countries and with the United States, Australia, New
Zealand, and India. Singapore also conducts military
training on Taiwan.
Singapore is a member of the Five-Power Defense Arrangement
together with the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand,
and Malaysia. The arrangement obligates members to consult
in the event of external threat and provides for stationing
Commonwealth forces in Singapore.
Singapore has consistently supported a strong U.S. military
presence in the Asia-Pacific region. In 1990, the United
States and Singapore signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
which allows United States access to Singapore facilities at
Paya Lebar Airbase and the Sembawang wharves. Under the MOU,
a U.S. Navy logistics unit was established in Singapore in
1992; U.S. fighter aircraft deploy periodically to Singapore
for exercises, and a number of U.S. military vessels visit
Singapore. The MOU was amended in 1999 to permit U.S. naval
vessels to berth at the Changi Naval Base, which was
completed in early 2001. In July 2005, the United States and
Singapore signed a Strategic Framework Agreement to expand
cooperation in defense and security.
Singapore is nonaligned. It is a member of the United
Nations and several of its specialized and related agencies,
and also of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth.
Singapore has participated in UN peacekeeping/observer
missions in Kuwait, Angola, Namibia, Cambodia, and Timor-Leste.
Singapore supports two Provincial Reconstruction Teams and
provides refueling aircraft in support of international
efforts in Afghanistan. Singapore strongly supports regional
and international anti-piracy efforts, and has undertaken a
leadership role in anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden.
Singapore supports the concept of Southeast Asian
regionalism and plays an active role in ASEAN, the ASEAN
Regional Forum, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
The United States has maintained formal diplomatic relations
with Singapore since it became independent in 1965.
Singapore's efforts to maintain economic growth and
political stability and its support for regional cooperation
harmonize with U.S. policy in the region and form a solid
basis for amicable relations between the two countries. The
United States and Singapore signed a bilateral free trade
agreement on May 6, 2003; the agreement entered into force
on January 1, 2004. The growth of U.S. investment in
Singapore and the large number of Americans living there
enhance opportunities for contact between Singapore and the
United States. Many Singaporeans visit and study in the
United States. Singapore is a Visa Waiver Program country.
The U.S. Government sponsors visitors from Singapore each
year under the International Visitor Program. The U.S.
Government provides Fulbright awards to enable selected
American professors to teach or conduct research at the
National University of Singapore and the Institute of
Southeast Asian Studies. It awards scholarships to
outstanding Singaporean students for graduate studies at
American universities and to American students to study in
Singapore. The U.S. Government also sponsors occasional
cultural presentations in Singapore. The East-West Center
and private American organizations, such as the Asia and
Ford Foundations, also sponsor exchanges involving
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Chargé d’Affaires--Daniel L. Shields III
Economic/Political Counselor--Joel Ehrendreich
Senior Economic Officer--Peter Thorin
Senior Political Officer--Daniel Jassem
Public Affairs Counselor--Aruna Amirthanayagam
Commercial Counselor--Daniel Thompson
Management Counselor--Raymond Kengott
Defense Attaché--Alan Oshirak
Financial Attaché (Southeast Asia)--Seth Bleiweis
The U.S. Embassy in Singapore is located at 27 Napier Road,
Singapore 258508 (tel. 65-6476-9100, fax 65-6476-9340). The
Embassy's website is at
AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information
Program advises Americans traveling and residing abroad
through Country Specific Information, Travel Alerts, and
Travel Warnings. Country Specific Information exists for all
countries and includes information on entry and exit
requirements, currency regulations, health conditions,
safety and security, crime, political disturbances, and the
addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information quickly
about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term
conditions overseas that pose significant risks to the
security of American travelers. Travel Warnings are issued
when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid
travel to a certain country because the situation is
dangerous or unstable.
For the latest security information, Americans living and
traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's
Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at
http://www.travel.state.gov , where the current
Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be
found. Consular Affairs Publications, which contain
information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip
abroad, are also available at
http://www.travel.state.gov. For additional information
on international travel, see
The Department of State encourages all U.S. citizens
traveling or residing abroad to register via the State
Department's travel registration website or at the nearest
U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make
your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary
to contact you in an emergency and will enable you to
receive up-to-date information on security conditions.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad
may be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the
U.S. and Canada or the regular toll line 1-202-501-4444 for
callers outside the U.S. and Canada.
The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S.
Department of State's single, centralized public contact
center for U.S. passport information. Telephone:
1-877-4-USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778); TDD/TTY: 1-888-874-7793.
Passport information is available 24 hours, 7 days a week.
You may speak with a representative Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to
10 p.m., Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.
Travelers can check the latest health information with the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta,
Georgia. A hotline at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) and a web
http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx give the most
recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or
requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety
for regions and countries. The CDC publication "Health
Information for International Travel" can be found at
Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at
http://www.state.gov , the Department of State web site
provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign
policy information, including Background Notes and daily
press briefings along with the directory of key officers of
Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security
Advisory Council (OSAC) provides security information and
regional news that impact U.S. companies working abroad
through its website
Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related
assistance and market information offered by the federal
government and provides trade leads, free export counseling,
help with the export process, and more.
STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of
Commerce, provides authoritative economic, business, and
international trade information from the Federal government.
The site includes current and historical trade-related
releases, international market research, trade
opportunities, and country analysis and provides access to
the National Trade Data Bank.