Singapore is a city-state in Southeast Asia. The country is situated one degree north of the equator, at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, with Indonesia's Riau Islands to the south and Peninsular Malaysia to the north. Singapore's territory consists of one main island along with 62 other islets. Since independence, the sovereign state extensive land reclamation has increased its total size by 23%.
Although its history stretches back millennia, modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the British East India Company. After the Company's collapse in 1858, the islands came under direct British control as a crown colony known as the Straits Settlements. During the Second World War, Singapore was occupied by Japan, following which Britain occupied it again. Singapore finally gained independence from the British Empire in 1963 by joining Malaysia along with Sabah and Sarawak, but separated two years later over ideological differences, becoming a fully sovereign state in 1965. After early years of turbulence and despite lacking natural resources and a hinterland, the nation developed rapidly as an Asian Tiger economy, based on external trade and its workforce.
Modern Singapore is a global hub for education, finance, healthcare, innovation, manufacturing, technology, tourism, trade, and transport. The city-state does well in international rankings, including: the most "technology-ready" nation (WEF), most competitive economy (IMD), top International-meetings city (UIA), city with "best investment potential" (BERI), Smart City, Safest country, third least-corrupt country, third-largest foreign exchange market, third-largest financial centre, third-largest oil refining and trading centre, fifth-most innovative country, and the second-busiest container port. The city-state is classified as an Alpha+ global city, indicating its influence on the global economy. Singapore is the only country in Asia with an AAA sovereign rating from all major rating agencies, and one of 11 worldwide. Globally, the Port of Singapore and Changi Airport have held the titles of leading "Maritime Capital" and "Best Airport" respectively for consecutive years, while Singapore Airlines is the 2018 "World's Best Airline". Singapore is a highly developed country and is ranked 9th on the UN Human Development Index, the highest in Asia for a sovereign state, with the 2nd highest GDP per capita in the world. It was ranked the most expensive city to live in from 2013 to 2019 by the Economist. It is identified as a tax haven. Singapore is placed highly in key social indicators: education, healthcare, quality of life, personal safety and housing, with a home-ownership rate of 90%. Singaporeans enjoy one of the world's longest life expectancy and one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. As of 2019, Singaporean citizens had visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 189 countries and territories, ranking the Singaporean passport 1st in the world, tied with Japan.
The city-state is home to 5.6 million residents, 39% of whom are foreign nationals, including permanent residents. There are four official languages of Singapore: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil; most Singaporeans are bilingual, with English serving as the nation's lingua franca, while Malay is the national language. Nonetheless, only about 10% of the population speaks Malay, with the most commonly spoken language at home being English. Its cultural diversity is reflected in its extensive ethnic cuisine and major festivals. Pew Research has found that Singapore has the highest religious diversity of any country. Multiracialism has been enshrined in its constitution since independence, and continues to shape national policies in education, housing and politics. The city-state's historical district features dozens of landmarks such as The Esplanade, Fort Canning Hill, the National Gallery Singapore, Raffles Hotel and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. There are also numerous famous attractions within the city-state, notably Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands, Sentosa Island, Orchard Road, Jewel Changi Airport and the Singapore Zoo, which was ranked the best zoo in Asia. The Singapore Botanic Gardens is the only tropical garden in the world to be honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Singapore is a unitary parliamentary republic with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government. According to the Democracy Index in 2018, the country is described as a "flawed democracy". As one of the five founding members of ASEAN, Singapore is the host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat and Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) Secretariat, as well as many international conferences and events. It is also a member of the East Asia Summit, Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth of Nations.
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