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Wednesday 4th August
Singapore Information - Page 2
Singapore was only a sparsely populated island covered with thick jungle, with fishing villages round its coast, when Sir Stamford Raffles founded a British trading post in 1819.

In 1826 Singapore joined Penang and Malacca to form the Straits Settlements, becoming their government centre in 1832.

Over the years the island, with its deep harbour, became more and more important as a staging port between Europe, India and the Far East. When the Suez Canal opened in 1869, shortening the voyage time to the East, Singapore's growth rapidly increased.

As well as its strength as a shipping and trading centre, Singapore was an important British naval base. Nevertheless, in 1942 the Japanese took the island of Singapore which they occupied until the end of the Second World War in 1945.

In 1959 Singapore gained its independence from Britain and in 1963 joined the Federation of Malaysia. However, in 1965 Singapore left the Federation becoming a completely independent country with a seat at the United Nations and a place in the Commonwealth.

In 1967 Singapore joined Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand in the economic cooperative, (ASEAN) - Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Later members included Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam and Vietnam.

From 1965 to 1977 Singapore's income per head increased by four hundred percent and the country became firmly established as one of the "Asian Tiger" economies.

Singapore has one of the world's busiest ports and one of the world's leading airports. It is an important centre for oil refining and ship repairing.

The financial and business services sectors of the economy have become the largest single contributor.

In October 2008 Singapore guaranteed billions of dollars worth of bank deposits for more than two years when governments throughout the world acted quickly to recapitalize their banking systems hit by the global financial crisis.

The electronics industry is a significant part of the manufacturing sector. Singapore's role as a trading centre between East and West has continued into the age of telecommunications. Singapore Telecom has developed a technologically advanced communications system networking the island. The country is linked internationally by submarine cables and satellite stations.

Singapore's soil is not very productive and the amount of land available for agriculture is small. Fishing is more significant, as is to be expected on an island. However, almost all Singapore's food has to be imported.

Tourism is an important earner of foreign exchange for Singapore's economy. Most visitors come for short stays, stopover or conferences. (2008)

Singapore's multicultural heritage gives its arts scene great variety.

The Singapore International Film Festival (annual) and the Singapore Festival of Arts (every two years) are major international events.

Chinese Opera dating from the Sung Dynasty (960-1279) is performed in the streets of Singapore. Performances are on outdoor stages close to temples and markets and are more frequent during the main festivals. The opera performances include, as well as drama and singing, mime, dance, acrobatics and fencing.

Western music is best represented by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, a world-class ensemble which is often supported by visiting international soloists and conductors. Chinese music has a three thousand year history. Most of the instruments are types of flutes and stringed instruments.

Singapore's Indian heritage can be seen in the displays of Indian dance. Classical Indian dancing was traditionally part of religious ritual. Dancers tell the stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. There is meaning in all gestures and movements, for example, hand gestures and facial expressions.

Singapore's most famous sports facility is the Padang, chosen by Raffles as a recreation area when he laid out the plans of the city; it has remained the site of the Singapore Cricket Club and the Singapore Recreation Club (started by Eurasians who were not allowed to join the SCC).

The biggest event today on the Padang is the Singapore Sevens International rugby tournament.

The Chinese in Singapore practise the traditional martial arts: Kung Fu, Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong as well as the Japanese art of Kendo, samurai sword fighting.

Though space is very limited on the island, there are a number of golf clubs and a modern horse-racing track.

Since Singapore is an island, water-sports such as sailing, windsurfing, water-skiing and scuba-diving are popular.

Singapore has public holidays on the Christian holidays of Easter and Christmas Day. Chinese and Indian holidays are celebrated as well as National Day and New Year's Day.

Many Chinese companies close for the Chinese New Year which begins on the first day of the lunar month.

Other Chinese celebrations include the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts: at this festival, regarded as an unlucky day, families take paper offerings of homes, cars, money, food, clothes, etc. and burn them as gifts for the ghosts; and the Moon Cake Festival: this is similar to a Harvest Festival and remembers a revolt against the Mongols when secret messages were passed on hidden in cakes.

Indian festivals include Thaiponggai which celebrates the end of the rainy season and Diwali, the Festival of Lights.

Other religious groups celebrate their own religious calendar, for example, the Islamic celebration of the End of Ramadan and the Feast of the Sacrifice.

News from Singapore is available in Newslink.

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