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Recent Singapore History

Singapore, since it attained its independence on June 3, 1959, has been a thriving, trading nation. It had been controlled by the British, but after negotiations, was relinquished to self-autonomy with the understanding that it would remain a republic. Since then, it has reaffirmed its non-Communist stance and continued with progressive economic policies to the delight of the free world.

Singapore’s modern history begins with its independence. It quickly drafted a Constitution, which called for a nine-member cabinet, drawn from the 51-member legislature, and a Prime Minister. An additional stipulation was that there had to be a Malay Head of State in the predominately Chinese population. In the first election, the PAP, or People’s Action Party, won 43 seats in the legislature and its leader, Lee Kuan Yew, became Prime Minister. Sir William Goode, the former Governor, received the Malay position of Head of State.

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In 1961, Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman of Malay, proposed a closer cooperation between some of the Southeast Asian countries. Lee Kuan Yew supported this plan to have a central government that controlled defense, foreign affairs, and internal security. Backing for the merger was provided by a public referendum and on September 16, 1963, Malaysia, consisting of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, and Northern Borneo, was established.
Despite the overwhelming support for the merger, two years later, on August 9, 1965, Singapore withdrew from Malaysia. On September 21 of the same year, Singapore became a member of the United Nations. It also was joined into the Commonwealth of Nations on October 15. Singapore continued with the radical political changes and formed a republic on December 22 with Yusof bin Ishak as the first President. This struggling country with a myriad of races had now to restructure its economy and focus on its unsurpassed trading potential.

Still in control, the predominately PAP government began a series of acts and programs to help augment the economy and workforce. In 1968, The Employment Act and the Industrial Relations Act promoted industrial peace and workforce discipline. The same year, the Economic Development Board was reorganized and the Jurong Town Corporation and the Development Bank of Singapore were formulated. The Monetary Authority of Singapore was created in 1970 to regulate Singapore’s monetary policies. This policy of economic restructuring was stepped up after two oil crises. The education system was amended, technology was enhanced, and incentives were set up for industries to increase productivity.
Up until 1967, Britain had remained in Singapore as the military power. A new plan called for a removal of all forces by 1971, forcing Singapore to initiate a military. The Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute was formed in 1966 along with a mandatory military service, initiated in 1967. In 1969, the Singapore Air Defense Command and the Singapore Maritime Command were set up, thereby carrying out a major military buildup. To complete Singapore’s security, they joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Singapore remained incredibly stable from 1968 to 1981. The PAP controlled every seat in the Parliament during that time. By 1991, they had lost only four seats and still continue to dominate the government today. The only major governmental change came from Goh Chok Tong, who was placed into the office of Prime Minister in November of 1990 after Lee Kuan Yew stepped down.
Singapore has remained a trading nation since its formation. Even before that, though, since the 12th century, Singapore has relied on being a trading hub. All the themes through Singapore’s modern history are related to trade. Over the years, economic growth has shifted to different areas, but all focus on economically surviving with minimal resources. The only resource Singapore had was its workforce, so the first plans were to develop it. In the late 1960s, Singapore used its low-cost workforce to develop industry. Since then, the workforce has become highly educated, but slightly more costly. By the 1970s and 80s, Singapore tried to supplement the manufacturing economy and also become a service center. Next, Singapore’s interest was transferred to high-technology manufacturing and business services. Developing into a base for international trade firms supplemented Singapore’s economy. By that time, after all the economical advances, Singapore had become one of the 20 wealthiest nations.
Singapore is designated as a Parliamentary Democracy, although many restrictions are in place. Politically, opposition parties are severely limited with respect to advertising time during an election. The PAP, besides limiting another party’s chance to spread its ideas, proliferates its views to the public by placing party members at the head of all unions and communities. Despite these restrictions, a major change could be effected, and the lack of one is a testament to the party’s continued success. On a social level, the government controls television, radio and publications through censorship for moral value and annual licensing. Pornography laws have also been passed that restrict television and even tourists have been fined for possessing Playboy. Violence in movies or television results in banning or editing.

The government also controls another part of life, the population. Between 1948 and 1958, the population had doubled and changes had to be made or its own people would overrun the tiny island. Contraceptive methods were made known, and a family’s size resulted in a tax relief or penalties. After the third child, the tax relief dropped sharply, and by the fourth, mothers did not receive paid maternity leave. Workers were also offered extra vacation if they agreed to be sterilized. The program worked, and by the 1980s, the growth rate had almost been cut in half.

Singapore, throughout its history, has never forgot what it is, a trading nation. With no resources, that is its only way of surviving. In the past, Singapore has made sacrifices to continue its prosperity. This includes the strict censorship and the population control, but as Lee Kuan Yew stated, discipline is needed to climb up the economic ladder. The population has responded to the laws in a positive manner. They look past the restrictions of the government and to the prosperous future that would result. If this acceptance of government control continues, there is good reason to believe that Singapore’s affluence will continue.

To predict Singapore’s future, experts look at all aspects of the economy and government. The government is a very effective one, crime is kept at an incredibly low rate, the cities are extremely clean, and many cultures are accepted into society. This clean, safe and tolerant island makes an excellent place for tourists, which is now becoming a major part of Singapore’s economy. Its economy, since the 1960s, has been steadily improving. Experts have no cause to expect the prosperity to end now.

All indications point to Singapore’s continued success. With a motivated, educated workforce and fantastic location for trade, expectations are high for this small island nation. The government has made quality decisions for the benefit of the people in the past and these past decisions have given Singapore the means to thrive in an ever-changing economy.

1.Caldwell, Malcom (1997). ?Singapore.? Collier’s Encyclopedia, #21, 42-43. P.F. Collier. New York, NY.

2.Singapore Business: A portable encyclopedia for doing business with Singapore. Editor Hinkelman, Edward G. World Trade Press: Resources for International Trade. San Raphael, California. 1994
3. ?Singapore: History,? Copyright ? 1997 University of Texas at Austin
4.Editors of Time-Life Books (1987). Southeast Asia. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books Inc.

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