Singapore country profile - Overview
- 29 January 2015
- From the section Asia
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 been aimed at boosting the birth-rate and encouraging Singaporeans 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, and according to a government forecast published in 2013, by 2030 immigrants will make up nearly 50% of the population.
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 as 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.