Last Updated 10 Mar 2020

The Social Organization of Singapore

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My research will be based on Political, Economic, and Social Organization of Singapore—an industrialist city-state. Even though Singapore's history dates from the 11th century, the island was little known to the West until the 19th century. Singapore is one of the World's largest ports, because the city of Singapore has become a major port, with trade exceeding that of Malaya's, Malacca and Penang combined.

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the advent of steamships launched an era of prosperity for Singapore as transit trade expanded throughout Southeast Asia (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2010). Singapore is a very multicultural country, but education through social studies has brought the country into a social cohesive unit (Ho, 2009). Singapore is a Republic—a one-house Parliament makes the county’s laws. A prime minister leads a Cabinet, which carries out the operations of the Government.

The ruling political party in Singapore, reelected continuously since 1959, is the People's Action Party (PAP), headed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong” (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2010). The president (chief of state) previously exercised only ceremonial duties. As a result of 1991 constitutional changes, the president is now elected and exercises expanded powers over legislative appointments, government budgetary affairs, and internal security matters. The PAP believes that rationalism and expertise is the proper approach to social and economic problems that may arise (Bellows, 1985).

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The PAP has held the overwhelming majority of seats in Parliament since 1966, when the opposition Barisan Sosialis Party (Socialist Front), a left-wing group that split off from the PAP in 1961, resigned from Parliament, leaving the PAP as the sole representative party” (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2010). “Singapore became independent in August 1965, and has had compulsory voting since the late 1950s (every Singaporean 21 years of age or older must vote). Between 1968 and October 1981, in four national parliamentary elections and innumerable by-elections, the PAP won every seat” (Bellows, 1985).

The maximum term in Parliament is five years. The president appoints nominated members of Parliament from nominations by a special select committee. Nominated members of Parliament (NMPs) enjoy the same privileges as members of Parliament, but cannot vote on constitutional matters or expenditure of funds (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2010). Members of Parliament serve only two-and-a-half-year terms. As stated above, the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the advent of steamships launched an era of prosperity for Singapore as transit trade expanded throughout Southeast Asia (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2010).

Also, in the 20th century, the Automobile industry’s need for rubber and the packaging industry’s need for tin assisted Singapore in becoming one of the World’s major ports. Singapore’s location among major sea lanes, and its industrious population, is what gives this small country its economic importance (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2010). “Upon independence in 1965, Singapore was faced with a lack of physical resources and a small domestic market.

In response, the Singapore Government adopted a pro-business, pro-foreign investment, export-oriented economic policy framework, combined with state-directed investments in strategic government-owned corporations. Singapore's economic strategy proved a success, producing real growth that averaged 7. 8% from 1965 to 2009” (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2010). In addition to this economic strategy, the end of the cold war brought about less tension between Asian counties, which brought the region into a more globalizing production process (Heng, 2006, pg. 2).

In the 1980’s, Singapore entered into a growth triangle (GT) with Indonesia and Malaysia, also written as IMS-GT. This triangle would prove to be a good move for the three countries, but with free trade agreements (FTAs) and close economic partnerships (CEPs) coming onto the scene, the growth triangles introduced in the 80’s looked as if they may have competition in the economic realm, but GTs continue to be at the tip of the spear due to the cooperation between the three are still very productive for them all. With all three countries being relatively close together, costs are minimal.

Not to mention, this export-oriented cooperation is still attractive to foreign trading (Heng, 2006, pg. 1). The pioneering GT in Southeast Asia is that of the IMS-GT, and its evolution is very much tied to the economic development of the Singapore economy (Toh & Low, 1993, Kakazu, 1997). There are five GT’s in existence and GT’s are highly regarded by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). There were two major happenings that temporarily effected Singapore’s economy between 2001 and 2003—the worldwide electronics slump and the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Both times, growth bounced back, by world demand for electronics, pharmaceuticals, other manufactured goods, and financial services. The return was mostly contributed to by the economies of its major trading partners—the United States, the European Union, Japan, and China, as well as expanding emerging markets such as India (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2010). The next economic hit that Singapore would have to endure would not take place until 2008-2009. The hit was due to global financial crisis.

Singapore had their worst two quarters in late 2008 and early 2009, but would bounce back quickly (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2010). Manufacturing and services are the backbone of Singapore’s economy, producing 26% and 69. 3% of Singapore’s gross domestic product in 2009. Singapore’s manufacturing of electronics accounts for 31. 5%, while chemicals account for 27% of the country’s manufacturing output. The government also approved the development of two casinos in Singapore, in May 2005, to facilitate new life in tourism. The investment produced more than $5 billion U. S. dollars.

Las Vegas Sands’ Marina Bay Sands and Resort opened in April 2010 and Genting International’s Resort World Sentosa opened in February 2010 (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2010). Lee Kuan Yew once said, “A casino in the city state was possible, only over my dead body. ” Now, with the extra income to the economy, he seemed to have warmed up to the casinos. April 27, 2010, the opening of the Las Vegas Sands’ was published in USA Today and quoted as saying, “Singapore’s second casino-resort opened Tuesday, a massive $5. billion project by Las Vegas Sands Corp. that aims to makeover the city-state as a Southeast Asian gambling and tourism magnet” Singapore is continuing to grow economically as stated by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, “The government is actively negotiating eight free trade agreements (FTAs) with emerging economic partners and has already concluded 18 FTAs with many of its key trade partners, including one with the United States that came into force January 1, 2004.

As a member of the Association f Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Singapore is part of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), and is signatory to ASEAN FTAs with China, Korea, Japan, India, and a joint agreement with New Zealand and Australia. Singapore is also a party to the Transpacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, which includes Brunei, Chile, and New Zealand” (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2010). Singapore was a small society open to influence from the west through the English language and subject to homogenizing effects of modernization and industrialization. Ethnicity was not assured as a fundamental element (Unknown, n. d. ).

Singapore, as stated by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The annual population growth rate for 2009 was 3. 1%, including resident foreigners. Singapore has a diversity of linguistic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Malay being the national language, but Chinese, English, and Tamil are also recognized as official languages. English is utilized in administration, professions, business, and schools (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2010). English is mandated as the primary language by the Singapore Government to be used at all levels in schools.

The government is said to provide at least ten years of education in English for every child (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2010). I have personally experienced this to be quite true. I have been to Singapore on three different occasions during my Naval career, and there is a surprisingly amount of people in Singapore that speak very good English. Ordering food at a restaurant in Singapore proved to be much easier than expected. Another surprising fact is that the literacy rate in Singapore is 96. 3% (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2010). A touchy subject in Singapore is the terms race and ethnicity.

While 77% of the country’s population is Chinese, all Singaporeans are assigned a “race” at birth (determined by the father’s race), and this is indicated on an official identification card (Ho, 2009). The Singapore Department of statistics assigns the same meaning to both race and ethnicity and states the term ethnic group refers to a person’s race (Ho, 2009). The Singapore constitution also contains provisions that prohibit discrimination and guarantee protection to minorities, including articles 12, 16, and 152 (Tan, 2004). Singapore has diversity in ethnicity when it comes to religion.

Singapore allows freedom of religion for the most part, but religion is subject to government view. Thus, some religions have been banned or restricted. “Almost all Malays are Muslim; other Singaporeans are Taoists, Buddhists, Confucianists, Christians, Hindus, or Sikhs” (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2010). The Buddhism is prominently displayed through Buddhist temples throughout Singapore. I actually saw many of these temples in my travels to Singapore. Some of these temples are very extravagant works of art. You may also see the diversity among Singaporeans if you are visiting during National Holidays.

The people of Singapore will display their different cultures through dance and cultural clothing all across the country. The Singapore government experienced a loss of cohesiveness due to this multicultural social organization. The Government introduced Social Studies into the educational system in order to bring cohesiveness back into the country. The social studies curriculum was introduced, in 2001, to secondary educational levels—students from fifteen to seventeen years old. It is designed to allow students to grasp an understanding of Singapore’s geopolitical situation, including its strengths and vulnerabilities (Ho, 2009).

This curriculum brings to light the differences in this culturally diverse country. This in turn brings the different people of Singapore together, thus encouraging social cohesiveness. Singapore has risen to every challenge that has come her way. Singapore has grown politically, economically, and socially with minimal negative results. Politically, the PAP remains the leader in the government. Realizing the need for economic growth, the PAP has always stood by industrialization. The building of casinos in the city-state has shown a remarkable ability to tap into tourism.

Singapore remains at the head of the spear in terms of global trade. The social organization will continue to strengthen with education of youth. This fact has been recognized—education of the next generation will lead to political, economic and social success. “Economic, social, and political development requires autonomy and creativity as well as an effective, interventionist government staffed by a highly qualified and dedicated civil service. Singapore has come closer to achieving this mix than most other third World countries. There is much that other developing countries could adopt from the Singapore experience” (Bellows, 1985).

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