Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore (Malay: ; Chinese: ; Tamil: ), is a sovereign city-state and island country in Southeast Asia. It lies one degree (137 km) north of the equator, at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, with Indonesia's Riau Islands to the south and Peninsular Malaysia to the north. Singapore's territory consists of one main island along with 62 other islets. Since independence, extensive land reclamation has increased its total size by 23% (130 km2). The country is known for its transition from third world to first world in a single generation, under the leadership of its founding father, Lee Kuan Yew.
Stamford Raffles founded colonial Singapore in 1819 as a trading post of the British East India Company. After the company's collapse in 1858, the islands were ceded to the British Raj as a crown colony. During the Second World War, Singapore was occupied by Japan. It gained independence from the UK in 1963 by federating with other former British territories to form Malaysia, but separated two years later over ideological differences, becoming a sovereign nation in 1965. After early years of turbulence and despite lacking natural resources and a hinterland, the nation developed rapidly as an Asian Tiger economy, based on external trade and its workforce.
Singapore is a global hub for education, entertainment, finance, healthcare, human capital, innovation, logistics, manufacturing, technology, tourism, trade, and transport. The city ranks highly in numerous international rankings, and has been recognized as the most "technology-ready" nation (WEF), top International-meetings city (UIA), city with "best investment potential" (BERI), world's smartest city, world's safest country, second-most competitive country, third-largest foreign exchange market, third-largest financial centre, third-largest oil refining and trading centre, fifth-most innovative country, and the second-busiest container port. The Economist has ranked Singapore as the most expensive city to live in, since 2013. It is identified as a tax haven. Singapore is the only country in Asia with an AAA sovereign rating from all major rating agencies, and one of 11 worldwide. Globally, the Port of Singapore and Changi Airport have held the titles of leading "Maritime Capital" and "Best Airport" respectively for consecutive years, while Singapore Airlines is the 2018 "World's Best Airline".
Singapore ranks 9th on the UN Human Development Index with the 3rd highest GDP per capita. It is placed highly in key social indicators: education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety and housing. Although income inequality is high, 90% of homes are owner-occupied. According to the Democracy Index, the country is described as a "flawed democracy". The Singaporean passport is second in the world after Japan for visa-free travel granted by the most countries to its citizens.
The city-state is home to 5.6 million residents, 39% of whom are foreign nationals, including permanent residents. There are four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil; most Singaporeans are bilingual and English serves as the nation's lingua franca. Its cultural diversity is reflected in its extensive ethnic cuisine and major festivals. Pew Research has found that Singapore has the highest religious diversity of any country. Multiracialism has been enshrined in its constitution since independence, and continues to shape national policies in education, housing, politics, among others.
Singapore is a unitary parliamentary republic with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government. The People's Action Party has won every election since self-government began in 1959. As one of the five founding members of ASEAN, Singapore is the host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat and Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) Secretariat, as well as many international conferences and events. It is also a member of the East Asia Summit, Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth of Nations.