Sunday, January 8, 2012


Singapore is a hi-tech, wealthy city-state in south-east Asia, also known for the conservatism of its leaders and its strict social controls.

The country comprises the main island - linked by a causeway and a bridge to the southern tip of Malaysia - and around 50 smaller islands.

Once a colonial outpost of Britain, Singapore has become one of the world's most prosperous places - with glittering skyscrapers and a thriving port.

Most of its people live in public-housing tower blocks. They enjoy one of the world's highest standards of living, but also a system of punishments for acts deemed to be anti-social.

Government-led initiatives have encouraged Singaporeans to have more babies and to be more courteous. Citizens are urged to "Speak Good English" in place of a local slang known as "Singlish".

Chinese make up more than 75% of the community; Malays and Indians make up much of the remainder. There are many foreign workers.

Although Singapore is a multi-party nation, the People's Action Party (PAP) has been the dominant force since independence, regularly winning well over 60% of the vote.

But some critics say the PAP cements its hold on power by a electoral system that makes it difficult for opposition parties to gain seats, as well warnings that it will target investment at constituencies that vote PAP.

Singapore is often referred to as one of Asia's economic "tigers". Its economy is driven by electronics manufacturing and financial services and has weathered regional crises, including the 1997 Asian markets slump, the 2003 Sars virus outbreak and the 2009 world banking crisis.

In the face of strong competition from regional manufacturers, Singapore is seeking to strengthen its services sector and tourism industry.

Singapore argues that its use of capital punishment - applied mostly for drugs trafficking offences - has stopped the growth of narcotics syndicates.

    * Full name: Republic of Singapore
    * Population: 4.8 million (UN, 2010)
    * Capital: Singapore
    * Area: 660 sq km (255 sq miles)
    * Major languages: English, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil
    * Religions: Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism
    * Life expectancy: 79 years (men), 84 years (women) (UN)
    * Monetary unit: 1 Singapore dollar = 100 cents
    * Main exports: Computer equipment, machinery, rubber products, petroleum products
    * GNI per capita: US $41,430 (World Bank, 2010)
    * Internet domain: .sg
    * International dialling code: +65

President: Tony Tan
Tony Tan, a former deputy prime minister, won the 2011 presidential election by a narrow margin. He was seen as the establishment candidate.

All four candidates in the election - the first of its kind for 18 years - shared the same surname, Tan.

Presidential candidates run as individuals because Singapore's head of state is supposed to be non-partisan.

Prime minister: Lee Hsien Loong
The elder son of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Hsien Loong took office in August 2004, without an election, as part of a planned handover of power.

He vowed to continue the policy of opening up Singapore's society.

Mr Lee won re-election with typically large PAP majorities in 2006 and 2011. However, the opposition made some significant gains in 2011, spurred by voter concern about income inequality and immigration.

The prime minister said the election marked a "shift in the political landscape", and said his party would undergo "soul-searching".

A former army officer, Mr Lee followed his father into politics at the age of 32, becoming deputy prime minister in 1990.

As finance minister in his predecessor's cabinet, he was credited with helping to secure Singapore's competitive edge amid growing competition from China.

Mr Lee's father, who oversaw the transformation of Singapore into an economic power, served as the cabinet's official mentor between 2004 and 2011, when he said it was time to make way for a younger generation.

From : BBC News