Singapore (i/ˈsɪŋəpɔər/ or /ˈsɪŋɡəpɔər/), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign city-state and island country in Southeast Asia. It lies off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula and is 137 kilometres (85 mi) north of the equator. Made up of the lozenge-shaped main island (widely known as Singapore Island but also as Pulau Ujong, its native Malay name) and over 60 much smaller islets, it is separated from Peninsular Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia’s Riau Islands by the Singapore Strait to its south. The country is highly urbanised, with very little primary rainforest remaining. Its territory has consistently expanded through land reclamation.
Part of various local empires since being settled in the second century AD, modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the East India Company with the permission of the Johor Sultanate. The British obtained sovereignty over the island in 1824, and Singapore became one of the British Straits Settlements in 1826. Occupied by the Japanese during World War II, Singapore declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1963 and united with other former British territories to form Malaysia, from which it departed two years later. Since then, it has developed rapidly, earning recognition as one of Four Asian Tigers.
Singapore is one of the world’s leading commercial hubs, with the fourth-biggest financial centre and one of the five busiest ports. Its globalised and diversified economy depends heavily on trade, especially in manufacturing, which constituted 26 percent of Singapore’s GDP in 2005. In terms of purchasing power parity, Singapore has the third-highest per capita income in the world. It ranks high in international rankings of education, healthcare, government transparency, and economic competitiveness.
Singapore is a unitary multiparty parliamentary republic with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government. The People’s Action Party has won every election since self-government in 1959. Slightly over five million people live in Singapore, of which around 2 million are foreign-born. Singapore is highly diverse: 75 percent of the population are Chinese, followed by significant minorities of Malays, Indians, Eurasians, and others. This diversity is reflected in the country’s four official languages — English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil — as well as in official policies that promote multiculturalism.
One of the five founding members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Singapore is also the host of the APEC Secretariat, and a member of the East Asia Summit, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Commonwealth. Singapore’s rapid development has given it disproportionate influence in global affairs, leading some analysts to identify it as a middle power.