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Singapore

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 7 months ago

The Republic of Singapore (Malay: Republik Singapura; Chinese: 新加坡共和国, Pinyin: Xīnjiāpō Gònghéguó; Tamil: சிங்கப்பூர் குடியரசு, Ciŋkappūr Kudiyarasu), is an island city-state and the smallest country in Southeast Asia. It is on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of the Indonesian Riau Islands. Its coordinates are 1°17.583′N 103°51.333′E, just 137 kilometres (85 mi) north of the Equator.

 

The site of several ancient port cities and a possession of several empires in its history, Singapore was a Malay fishing village when it was colonised by the United Kingdom in the 19th century. It was further occupied by the Japanese Empire in World War II, and was later part of the merger which formed the Federation of Malaysia. When Singapore acquired independence, having few natural resources, it was sociopolitically volatile and economically undeveloped. Foreign investment and rapid government-led industrialisation has since created an economy which relies on exports of electronics and manufacturing primarily from its port.

 

More than 90 percent of Singapore's population lives in housing estates constructed by the Housing Development Board and nearly half uses the public transport system daily. As a result of public transport and environmental initiatives by government ministries, Singapore's pollution is mostly confined within the heavy industry area on Jurong Island. Singapore's political system is established as a representative democracy in its constitution. Singapore undertook a democratic socialist policy during independence, adopting of a welfare system, although government of Singapore has since shifted to the right. Singapore faces criticism for being a reduced democracy because of its dominant-party system and has attracted controversy for policies that were taken to achieve its development because they were unusual when compared to other developed nations.

 


 

History

 

Main article: History of Singapore

 

The name Singapore is derived from the Malay words singa (lion) and pura (city), which were themselves derived from the Sanskrit words सिंह siMha and पुर pura.1 Hence, Singapore is also known as the Lion City. The naming is attributed to a minor prince named Sang Nila Utama, who according to lore, saw a lion as the first living creature on the island and decided to name it Singapura as a result.2

 

The first records of Singapore's existence are in Chinese texts from the 3rd century CE. The island was an outpost of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire and originally bore the Javanese name Temasek. Temasek rose to become a significant trading city, but subsequently declined. There are few remnants of old Temasek in Singapore other than archaeological evidence.

 

Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, Singapore was a part of the Sultanate of Johore. During the Malay-Portugal wars in 1617, Singapore was set ablaze by Portuguese troops.

 

In 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, an official with the British East India Company, signed a treaty with the Sultan of Johore and established Singapore as a trading post and settlement, and saw instant growth and immigration from various ethnic groups. Singapore was later made a crown colony by Britain in 1867. After a series of territorial expansions, the British Empire soon raised Singapore's status to that of an entrepot town, due to its strategic location along the busy shipping routes connecting Europe to China.3

 

During World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Malaya and the surrounding region in the Battle of Malaya, which culminated in the Battle of Singapore. The British were unprepared and swiftly defeated, despite having more troops. They surrendered to the Japanese on February 15, 1942. The Japanese renamed Singapore as Syonan-to, which is Japanese for "Light of the South", and occupied it until the British arrived to repossess the island a month after the Japanese surrender to the United States in September 1945.4

 

In 1959, Singapore became a self-governing state with Yusof bin Ishak as its first head of state and Lee Kuan Yew from the People's Action Party (PAP) as its first Prime Minister, after the 1959 elections. After a national referendum in 1962, Singapore was admitted into the Federation of Malaysia along with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak as a state with autonomous powers in September 1963. After heated ideological conflict developed between the state government formed by PAP and the Federal government in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore was expelled from the federation on August 7, 1965. It gained official sovereignty two days later on August 9, 1965, which later became Singapore's National Day. Malaysia was the first country to recognise it as an independent nation,.5 Singapore's National Days are celebrated with annual parades and other festivities.

 

 

The fledgling nation had to struggle for self-sufficiency, and faced problems including mass unemployment, housing shortages and lack of land and natural resources such as petroleum. During Lee Kuan Yew's term as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, his administration curbed unemployment, raised the standard of living and implemented a large-scale public housing programme, developed Singapore's economic infrastructure, eliminated the threat of racial tension and created an independent national defence. This elevated Singapore into a developing nation and subsequently to developed status.

 

On 26 November 1990, Goh Chok Tong became prime minister. During his tenure, the country tackled the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the SARS outbreak in 2003, and terrorist threats posed by the Jemaah Islamiah (JI). Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the third prime minister on 12 August 2004, after securing the confidence of a majority of Parliament, which is still dominated by the PAP.

 

Politics and government

 

Main articles: Politics of Singapore and law of Singapore

 

Singapore is a republic with a Westminster system of a unicameral parliamentary government, with the bulk of the executive powers resting in the hands of a cabinet of ministers led by a prime minister. The office of the president was, historically, a ceremonial one as head of state, but the Constitution was amended in 1991 to create the position of a popularly elected president and also to grant the president veto powers in a few key decisions such as the use of the national reserves and the appointment of key judiciary positions.7 The legislative branch of government is the Parliament.

 

The politics of Singapore have been dominated by the People's Action Party (PAP) since its independence in 1965.8 Critics have called Singapore a de facto one-party state and have accused the PAP of taking harsh actions against opposition parties to impede their success, including censorship, gerrymandering and the filing of civil suits against the opposition for libel or slander. Critics claim that Singaporean courts have favoured the government and the PAP in these lawsuits, although there have been a few cases in which the opposition won. They consider the form of government in Singapore to be closer to authoritarianism rather than to true democracy, and could be considered an illiberal democracy or procedural democracy. Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore 140th out of 167 countries in its 2005 Worldwide Press Freedom Index.9

 

Despite these political issues, Singapore has what its government considers to be a highly successful and transparent market economy. The PAP's policies contain some aspects of socialism, including a large-scale public housing programme through the Housing and Development Board (HDB), a rigorous compulsory public education system, and the dominance of government-controlled companies in the local economy. Although dominant in its activities, the government has a clean, corruption-free image. Singapore has consistently been rated as the least-corrupt country in Asia and amongst the top ten cleanest in the world by Transparency International.10

 

Although Singapore's laws are inherited from British and British Indian laws, the PAP has also consistently rejected wholesale Western democratic values citing that there should not be a "one-size-fits-all" solution to a democracy. Laws restricting the freedom of speech are justified by claims that they are intended to prohibit speech that may breed ill will or cause religious disharmony within Singapore's multiracial society. For example, in September 2005, three bloggers were convicted with sedition for posting racist remarks targeting minorities.11 Some offences can lead to heavy fines or caning and there are laws to provide for capital punishment for first-degree murder and drug trafficking. Amnesty International has criticised Singapore for having "possibly the highest execution rate in the world" per capita.12 The Singapore Government responded by reasserting capital punishment as a sovereign right for the most serious crimes.13 Most recently, the PAP has relaxed some of its socially conservative policies and encouraged entrepreneurship.

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Geography

 

Main article: Geography and climate of Singapore

 

Singapore is a diamond-shaped island with surrounding smaller islands. There are two connections from Singapore to the Malaysian state of Johor — a man-made causeway known as the Causeway to the north, crossing the Tebrau Straits, and Tuas Second Link, a bridge in the western part of Singapore that connects to Johor.

 

Jurong Island, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin and Sentosa are the largest of Singapore's many smaller islands. The highest point of Singapore is Bukit Timah Hill, with a height of 166 metres (538 ft).

Singapore Botanic Gardens, a 52 hectare (128 acre) botanical garden in Singapore that includes the National Orchid Garden which has a collection of more than 3,000 species of orchids

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Singapore Botanic Gardens, a 52 hectare (128 acre) botanical garden in Singapore that includes the National Orchid Garden which has a collection of more than 3,000 species of orchids

 

The urban area used to be concentrated on the southern part of Singapore around the mouth of the Singapore River, while the rest of the land was tropical rain forest or used for agriculture. Since the 1960s, the government has constructed new towns in outlying areas, resulting in an entirely built-up and urban landscape with a few exceptions, such as the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. In addition, Singapore has reclaimed land with earth obtained from its own hills, the seabed and neighbouring countries. As a result, Singapore's land area grew from 581.5 square kilometres (224.5 sq mi) in the 1960s to 697.2 square kilometres (269.1 sq mi) today, and may grow by another 100 square kilometres (38.6 sq mi) by 2030.14

 

Without natural freshwater rivers and lakes, the primary domestic source of water in Singapore is rainfall, collected in reservoirs or catchment areas. Rainfall supplies approximately 50% of Singapore's water; the remainder is imported from Malaysia or obtained from recycled water facilities, a product called NEWater and desalination plants. More NEWater and desalination plants are being built or proposed to reduce reliance on foreign supply.15

 

Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate with no distinct seasons, under the Köppen climate classification. Its climate is characterised by uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity and abundant rainfall. Temperatures range from 22ºC to 34ºC (72º–93ºF). On average, the relative humidity is around 90% in the morning and 60% in the afternoon. During prolonged heavy rain, relative humidity often reaches 100%.16 The lowest and highest temperature recorded in its maritime history is 18.4ºC (65.1ºF) and 37.8ºC (100.0ºF) respectively.

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Economy

 

Main articles: Economy of Singapore, Tourism in Singapore

 

Singapore has a very highly developed market-based economy, which allows the state to play a major role in Asia. It ranks 25th on the Human Development Index which measures standard of living.17 Singapore also has one of the highest per capita gross domestic products in the world and is one of the "East Asian Tigers". Domestic demand is relatively low, and the economy depends heavily on exports produced from refining imported goods in a form of extended entrepot trade. This is especially true in electronics and manufacturing. Along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, Singapore's fast-paced industrialisation earned it a place as one of the four original East Asian Tigers.

The Central Area is the central business district and hub of economic transactions in Singapore, and is also the home of the Singapore Exchange, Asia-Pacific's first de-mutualised and integrated securities and derivatives exchange.

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The Central Area is the central business district and hub of economic transactions in Singapore, and is also the home of the Singapore Exchange, Asia-Pacific's first de-mutualised and integrated securities and derivatives exchange.

 

Singapore was hit hard in 2001 by the global recession and the slump in the technology sector, which caused the GDP that year to contract by 2.2%. The Economic Review Committee (ERC), set up in December 2001, made key recommendations in remaking Singapore's economy. The economy has since recovered from the recessions in response to improvements in the world economy, and grew by 6.4% in 2005.18 In the longer term the government hopes to establish a new growth path that will be less vulnerable to the external business cycle than the current export-led model, but is unlikely to abandon efforts to establish Singapore as Southeast Asia's financial and high-tech hub. The per capita GDP in 2005 is US$30,228. Recently, in January 2006, the unemployment rate was 2.5%.19 According to the Budget 2006 speech delivered by Finance Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 17 February 2006, the economy is expected to grow by 4-6% in the year 2006.20

 

Singapore introduced the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on April 1, 1994, starting at 3%. This has substantially increased government revenue as well assisted in maintaining the stability of the government's finances to spend on reforming the economy into more services and value added goods instead of relying on electronics manufacturing. The taxable GST was increased to 4% in 2003 and to 5% in 2004.

 

Singapore as a travel destination is popular among vacationers, making tourism one of its largest industries. In 2005, a total of 9.05 million tourists visited Singapore. Much of its attraction can be attributed to its cultural diversity that reflects almost 200 years of colonial history with immigrant cultures originating from Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian and Arab ethnicities. Singapore's cuisine attracts many tourists; the city is also touted by the Singapore Tourist Board as the business hub of Southeast Asia. The Orchard Road district, which is dominated by multi-storey shopping centres and hotels, is the centre of tourism in Singapore. Other popular tourist attractions include the Singapore Zoo and its Night Safari and the tourist island of Sentosa. To attract more tourists, the government decided in 2005 to legalise gambling and to allow two casino resorts to be developed at Marina South and Sentosa.21

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Military and defence

 

Main articles: Military of Singapore,

 

The military of Singapore serves primarily as a deterrent to potential invaders of the island, and has mutual defence pacts with several allies that it militarily cooperates with, such as those in the Five Power Defence Arrangements. Singapore has sought a strong defence force after her last defeat in the Battle of Singapore by the Imperial Japanese Army on February 15, 1945. Singapore uses the concept of Total Defence, which classifies defence into five aspects. The date of the fall of Singapore is now known as "Total Defence Day". Besides the military, other aspects of Total Defence include civil defence, which is carried out by the Singapore Civil Defence Force, and concepts of "economic defence", "psychological defence", and "social defence".

 

The military of Singapore comprises various armed forces, collectively known as the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). Supporting the combat role of the SAF, are other governmental organisations of the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). Private companies also play a role in building up Singapore's military capabilities. The military of Singapore is one of the most modernised in Asia, its current standing reflects the continued Singapore government's emphasis in military defence, with military expenditures dominating the government's budget annually.

 

The recent uses of unconventional warfare and terrorism have elevated the other aspects of Total Defence. The Gurkha Contingent, which is part of the Singapore Police Force is also a counter-terrorist force. Singapore's defence resources have been used for international aid, and United Nations peacekeeping in areas such as in Iraq. Even after the war before independence, in the Federation of Malaysia, Singapore suffered bomb attacks sponsored by Indonesia while it was under President Sukarno. Other recent threats include the regional organisation the Jemaah Islamiyah, which tried to attack Singapore in the Singapore embassies attack plot.

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Culture

 

Main article: Culture of Singapore

 

Singapore is a small and relatively modern amalgam of an indigenous Malay population with a majority of third generation Chinese as well as Indian and Arab immigrants with some intermarriages. There is little in terms of culture that is specifically Singaporean. However, there exists a Eurasian community and a community of Peranakan or "Straits Chinese," of mixed Chinese and Malay descent. Singapore has also achieved a significant degree of cultural diffusion with its unique combination of these ethnic groups, and this has given Singapore a rich mixture of diversity for its young age. One of the prime examples is in Singapore's cuisine, often a cultural attraction for tourists.

 

The English used is primarily British English, with some American English influences. The local colloquial dialect of English is Singlish or formally known as Singapore Colloquial English. It has many creole-like characteristics, having incorporated vocabulary and grammar from various Chinese, Malay, and Indian languages. Similar to Manglish, the colloquial Malaysian dialect of English, Singlish is a dialect that many Singaporeans identify with and is spoken commonly on the streets, but often frowned upon in official contexts. English used among the population generally became more widespread after the implementation of English as a first language medium in the Singapore education system, and English is the most common language in Singapore literature.

 

 

Singapore has several ethnic neighbourhoods, including Little India and Chinatown, which were formed under the Raffles Plan to segregate the new immigrants into ethnic ghettoes. At present, segregation is not as pronounced, but these ethnic neighbourhoods retain selective elements of their specific culture. The usage of such neighbourhoods is mainly commercial or for a cottage industry specific to the culture of its ethnic neighbourhood. These neighbourhoods have a diverse patronage whose main intentions are to either eat or buy something specific to that culture. In other parts of the country, such segregation is discouraged. Housing policies are in place to ensure a mix of all races within each housing district in order to foster social cohesion and national loyalty, crucial for sustaining Singapore.

 

Religious tolerance has been strongly encouraged since the British rule with many places of worship being built such as the Sri Mariamman Temple, a South Indian Hindu temple; the Masjid Jamae Mosque, which served Chulia Muslims from India's Coromandel Coast; and the Church of Gregory the Illuminator. These religious sites are now being preserved as national monuments.

The durian-shaped Esplanade (on the left) stands out in front of the Marina Bay area

 

The durian-shaped Esplanade (on the left) stands out in front of the Marina Bay area

 

The tall business buildings of the Central Area comprise the skyline along the coast of the Marina Bay, which is one of Singapore's famous tourist attractions. The statue of the Merlion is situated there. Since the late 1990s, the government has been striving to promote Singapore as a centre for arts and culture, including theatre and music, and to transform the country to be a cosmopolitan and diverse community at the "gateway between the East and West". The highlight of this plan is Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, a centre for performing arts that opened in 2003 and is noted for its exterior which resembles a durian.22

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Education

 

Main article: Education in Singapore

 

The use of ten year series is prominent in the education culture of Singapore.

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The use of ten year series is prominent in the education culture of Singapore.

 

Singapore has a compulsory education system which requires students to receive primary and secondary education. The curriculum is provided by the Ministry of Education, and there are a mix of private schools and public schools, as well as private schools that receive government aid. Each school must follow a core set of requirements by the Ministry of Education, but the public schools, which are run by the government directly, follow the Ministry of Education's guidelines closely, while private schools are given a degree of autonomy.

 

The education is rigorous and specialised, and has attracted many international students. There is a three-year kindergarten, which are non compulsory. After primary education, students take the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), which is a factor in which secondary school they enter. However, there have been criticisms of the education system by parents who complain about rigidity and an encouragement of rote by the prominent use of large examinations to judge ability, as well as complaints about excessive educational streaming in entry to schools. A major element of the examination-based education system is the common usage of ten year series by students in order to practice for examinations. After secondary education, a further set of examinations are taken which determine which kind of tertiary education they pursue, such as university, polytechnic or vocational education through the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). The use of vocational education makes complete dropouts rare. Singapore has hundreds of schools, most of them being in the neighbourhoods, and the literacy rate is 98%. Much of the remaining 2% consists of the elderly who did not receive an education in the English language.

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Transport

 

Main article: Transport in Singapore

 

A C751B train at Eunos MRT Station on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system, one of three heavy rail passenger transport lines in Singapore.

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A C751B train at Eunos MRT Station on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system, one of three heavy rail passenger transport lines in Singapore.

Singapore's Changi International Airport is one of the largest aviation facilities in Asia, serving 179 cities in 57 countries.

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Singapore's Changi International Airport is one of the largest aviation facilities in Asia, serving 179 cities in 57 countries.

 

Singapore is a major hub of transportation in Asia, as it lies strategically on major sea and air trade routes. Its history has been closely tied to the growth of its transportation industry since the establishment of its port. The transportation industry comprises over 10% of gross domestic product despite an increasingly diversified economy. The Port of Singapore, managed by port operators PSA International and Jurong Port, is the world's busiest port in 2005 in terms of shipping tonnage handled with 1.15 billion gross tons handled, and in terms of containerised traffic, with 23.2 million Twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) handled. It is also the world's second busiest in terms of cargo tonnage, with 423 million tons handled and second only to Shanghai. Singapore is also the world's busiest hub for transhipment traffic and the world's biggest ship refuelling hub with 25 million tonnes of bunker (marine fuel oil) sold in 2005.23

 

Singapore is a major aviation hub and is an important stopover point for the "Kangaroo route" between Australasia and Europe. Singapore Changi Airport has a network of 81 airlines connecting Singapore to 179 cities in 57 countries (2005). It is one of the top five airports in Asia in terms of passengers handled, with 30 million passengers passing through in 2004. It has been consistently rated as one of the best international airports by numerous international travel magazines and as the only 5 star airport in the world by Skytrax.24 A low-cost terminal which started operation in March 200625 and a third passenger terminal now under construction will increase the airport's total annual capacity to 66.7 million passengers by 2008. The national carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) has also received several accolades internationally and is renowned for the image of its air stewardesses, the Singapore Girls, who wear traditional dress of Sarong Kebaya. SIA will be the first airline in the world to fly the new Airbus A380 commercially.

 

The backbone of domestic transport infrastructure is its road transport system which includes a network of expressways that form the arteries between distinct towns and regional centres as laid out in Singapore's urban planning. Private transport has been growing steadily since independence and has led to the rise of environmental issues such as air pollution and reliance of fuel, as well as concerns over traffic congestion. Consequently, the Land Transport Authority began a series of measures to discourage excessive use of private transport, by improving the public transport system such as the bus service and liberalising the hired vehicle market to allow for more taxi operators. Vehicles are subject to toll by an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system during hours of heavy road traffic to regulate road usage.

 

In 1987, the heavy rail passenger Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) metro system began operation. This is later augmented by Light Rapid Transit (LRT), the light rail system that is linked to the MRT and covers several expanses of housing estates. The EZ-Link system allows contactless smartcards to serve as stored value tickets for use in the public transport systems, and allows convenient transfer between individual components of Singapore's public transport system. Concerns regarding terrorism has led the government to take precautionary measures such as increasing security and conducting routine emergency exercises in public transport stations and interchanges.26

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Demographics

Built in 1843, the Sri Mariamman Temple is the largest Hindu temple in Singapore. It is also one of the many religious buildings marked as national monuments for their historical value.

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Built in 1843, the Sri Mariamman Temple is the largest Hindu temple in Singapore. It is also one of the many religious buildings marked as national monuments for their historical value.

 

Main articles: Demographics of Singapore and Religion in Singapore

 

Singapore is the second most densely populated independent country in the world. Eighty-four percent of Singaporeans live in public housing provided by the Housing and Development Board (HDB).27 Its population of 4.42 million (as of July 2005) is racially diverse. The Chinese, the majority, account for 76.8% of Singaporeans. Malays, who are the indigenous native group of the country, constitute 13.9%, though this number includes many Malay ethnic groups from other parts of the Malay archipelago including the Javanese, Bugis, Baweans and Minangkabau. Indians are the third largest ethnic group at 7.9%, consisting of several groups— Indian Tamils and Sri Lankan Tamils, who form the largest Indian group, and others such as Malayalees, Punjabis and Bengalis. The rest are made up of smaller groups such as Arabs, Jews, Thais, Japanese, European and the Eurasian community.28

 

Singapore is also a multi-religious country, due mainly to its location on one of the world's major transportation routes. More than 40% of Singaporeans profess that they adhere to Buddhism. This large percentage may be due to a lack of distinction between Taoism and Buddhism; Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and ancestral worship is merged into one religion by most of the Chinese population. Most Muslims are Malay. Christianity in Singapore consists of Roman Catholicism and various Protestant denominations, and comprises approximately 14% of the population. Other religions include Sikhism and Hinduism followed mainly by those of Indian descent.29

 

The government of Singapore has been careful to maintain ethnic harmony after racial riots erupted in the 1960s. Racial harmony has been emphasized in all aspects of society, including education, military and housing. So far the policy has been largely successful, and there have been few signs of ethnic tension since the early 1970s. Current issues include the ban on wearing the Islamic headscarf in public schools.

 

The national language of Singapore is Malay for historical reasons, and it is used in the national anthem. The official languages are English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. English has been promoted as the country's language of administration since independence, and it is spoken by the majority of the population. Most public signs and official publication are in English although there are also translated versions in the other official languages. The government has introduced a Speak Mandarin Campaign to promote Mandarin as a common language among the Chinese.

 

After two decades of a successful family planning policy, Singapore is now facing the threat of an aging population with declining birth rates. The government is encouraging Singaporeans to have more babies by providing financial incentives for the first to fourth child of each family.

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