Located in Southeast Asia, Singapore is the hustle and bustle known for its rapid modernisation and a booming economy. This island boasts one of the busiest ports in the world, thriving corporate sectors and follows a strict regime of law and order. From being a major trading hub to one of the world's wealthiest economies, this tiny island at the southern tip of Malay Peninsula has come a long way.
Foundation: Once upon a time
Identified as an important international trading port by a Greek Cartographer, this island's existence came into notice upon arrival of emissaries in search of elephants, sent by Mongol Empire. The island was previously known as 'Singapura' meaning - the 'lion city'. The story behind its name is quite interesting story - a prince from Srivijaya, out on hunting, caught sight of an animal unknown to him before, and thought of it as a new city where the animal was spotted, and hence the name.
Emergence of modern Singapore: Raffles Effect
An essential British colonial port in the early nineteenth century and administered by the British East India Company, this tiny island was used to challenge Dutch domination of Spice Islands (Indonesia). The city served as a trading hub, attracting immigrants from India, China, and the Malay Archipelago and beyond. However, when the Indian Revolt led to the collapsing of British East India Company, it turned into a crowded colony. The Lieutenant Governor of Bencoolen, Raffles, who in no time realised the potential of this swamp covered island, saw the issue of growing disorderliness in the colony and took adequate steps including the segregation of ethnic residential areas into four areas.
Battle of Singapore
The British continued to directly rule Singapore until Japanese seized this island as part of their Southern Expansion Movement, during World war II, which later came to be known as 'Battle of Singapore'. After the World War II ended in 1945, British regained its control over Singapore but soon realised the lack of resources as the heart of Great Britain, London had been ruined from German Bombardments and few rocket attacks. As a result, they withdrew their interest to bestow it on a small, far-off colony such as Singapore. After it became a self-governing member of the British Commonwealth in 1955, the local government became responsible for controlling all its internal matters excluding security and policing by 1959. However, Singapore's foreign policy continued to be run by Britain.
Independence followed Conflict
Afterwards, when the island got independence from British Colonial rule in 1963, it got merged with its neighbouring island - Malaysia, which made it entirely independent from the British Empire. There were laws passed favouring ethnic Malay groups over minority groups. However, the Chinese remained and remains the majority ethnic community. The following year, 1964 was full of race riots which led to Malaysian parliament expelling Singapore from the federation as the politicians in Kuala Lumpur saw their heritage and political ideologies exposed to threat due to the growing population of Chinese community throughout the Island.
Problems did not see an end
With Singapore becoming formally independent on August 9 1965, Yusof bin Ishak served as its first president, while Lee Kuan Yew was elected as its Prime Minister. However, the problems did not come to an end as the population faced severe unemployment leading and settlement crisis as more than half of its population was living in slums. Even the necessities like proper sanitation, proper infrastructure and adequate water supply were not available. To overcome this crisis, Lee sought international assistance seeking development which remained unanswered leaving this tiny island on its own.
Beginning of the journey: Industrialization
As the unemployment situation further aggravated, leaders saw Industrialization as the most feasible solution with a major focus on labour-intensive industries. The idea turned out to be a boon for the nation, after facing various problems, as they had no expertise in the area. Difficulty in adaptability due to no prior industrial tradition and unfriendly nature of neighbouring nations, made Singapore look for opportunities beyond its borders and experiment with globalisation for its industrial growth and development.
Draconian Laws: Role in Globalization
Lee sought after the developed nations, convincing their multinational corporations to manufacture in Singapore, by creating an environment that was safe, low in taxation, corruption free and unimpeded by unions. All independent labour unions were repressed and remained into a single consolidated group known as the National Trade Union Congress. The laws were strict yet business-friendly and due to its advantageous relative location and established port system, and it seemed appealing to international investors.
It was not long since its independence and the country's GDP experienced annual double-digit growth as a result of its favourable investment conditions and the rapid expansion of the world economy. Additionally, the nation had the insight to develop its human resources along with its infrastructure. Technical schools were set up, and corporations were paid to train the unskilled workers in the field of Information Technology, electronics and petrochemicals. This strategy paid high dividends for the country, and by 1990s, Singapore was engaged in water fabrication, integrated circuit design, logistics, biotech research and even aerospace engineering apart from garments, textiles and basic electronics that it was primarily exporting in the 1970s.
Banning of Chewing Gums
Late in the 20th century, when the country was undergoing rapid modernisation, the government was concerned about the littering habit of people. They encountered few sticky gums left on the sidewalks, under park benches, elevator buttons and even the sensors of commuter train doors were blocked by these chewing gums, causing chaos and malfunctioning of few systems. This called in need for action and all the chewing gums suddenly vanished as the government strictly banned the trade of these gums, except for the tightly controlled imports of nicotine gums for people who wanted to quit smoking.
In addition to an ultra industrialised society that Singapore is, it is also thriving in the tourism industry attracting millions of tourists every year. The port of Singapore has surpassed the ports of Hong Kong and Rotterdam and is the world's busiest trans-shipment port today. The nation's medical to, as well as culinary tourism industries, have remarkably grown over the years becoming quite marketable - thankful of the advance medical technology and mosaic of cultural heritage.
Apart from the significant growth in the banking sector and biotech industry, Singapore today is also the fifteenth largest trading partner of the United States. The effectiveness of early-proposed economic business model is indeed commendable.