Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, is a modern 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. The country’s territory consists of the diamond-shaped main island, commonly referred to asSingapore Island in English and Pulau Ujong in Malay, and more than 60 significantly smaller islets. Singapore is separated from Peninsular Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to the north, and from Indonesia’s Riau Islands by the Singapore Strait to the south. The country is highlyurbanised, and little of the original vegetation remains. The country’s territory has consistently expanded through land reclamation.
The islands were settled in the second centuryAD and subsequently belonged to a series of local empires. Modern Singapore was foundedin 1819 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the East India Company with permission from 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 Japaneseduring World War II, Singapore became independent from the United Kingdom in 1963 and united with other former British territories to form Malaysia, from which it was expelled two years later through a unanimous act of parliament. Singapore has since developed rapidly, earning recognition as one of the Four Asian Tigers.
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Singapore is one of nine countries with the top AAA rating from all credit rating agencies and the only Asian country on the list. It is one of the world’s major commercial hubs, the fourth-largest financial centre and one of the fivebusiest ports. Its globalised and diversified economy depends heavily on trade, especially manufacturing, which accounted for around 30 percent of Singapore’s GDP in 2013. In terms of purchasing power parity, Singapore has the third-highest per capita income in the world but the most severe income inequality among developed countries.
It places highly in international rankings with regard to education, healthcare, and economic competitiveness. Nearly 5.5 million people live in Singapore (as of end-June 2014), of which well over 2 million are foreign born. While Singapore is ethnically diverse, ethnic Chinese Singaporeanspredominate with about 74.1% of the resident population, followed by significant minorities ofMalays (13.4%), Indians (9.2%), andEurasians. There are four official languages—English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil—and the country promotes multiculturalism through a range of official policies.
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