Singapore's history dates back at least a millennium, having been a maritime emporium known as Temasek and subsequently as a major constituent part of several successive thalassocratic empires. Its contemporary era began in 1819 when Stamford Raffles established Singapore as an entrepôt trading post of the British Empire. In 1867, the colonies in Southeast Asia were reorganised and Singapore came under the direct control of Britain as part of the Straits Settlements. During World War II, Singapore was occupied by Japan in 1942, and returned to British control as a separate Crown colony following Japan's surrender in 1945. Singapore gained self-governance in 1959 and in 1963 became part of the new federation of Malaysia, alongside Malaya, North Borneo, and Sarawak. Ideological differences, most notably the perceived encroachment of the egalitarian "Malaysian Malaysia" political ideology led by Lee Kuan Yew into the other constituent entities of Malaysia—at the perceived expense of the bumiputera and the policies of Ketuanan Melayu—eventually led to Singapore's expulsion from the federation two years later; Singapore became an independent sovereign country in 1965.
After early years of turbulence whilst lacking natural resources and a hinterland, the nation rapidly developed to become one of the Four Asian Tigers based on international trade and economic globalisation, integrating itself within the world economy through free trade with minimal-to-no trade barriers or tariffs, export-oriented industrialisation, and the large accumulation of received foreign direct investments, foreign-exchange reserves, and assets held by sovereign wealth funds. A highly developed country, it is tied at 12th on the UN Human Development Index and has the second-highest GDP per capita (PPP) in the world. Identified as a tax haven, Singapore is the only country in Asia with a AAA sovereign credit rating from all major rating agencies. It is a major aviation, financial, and maritime shipping hub, and has consistently been ranked as one of the most expensive cities to live in for expatriates and foreign workers. Singapore is placed highly in key social indicators: education, healthcare, quality of life, personal safety, infrastructure, and housing, with a home-ownership rate of 88 percent. Singaporeans enjoy one of the longest life expectancies, fastest Internet connection speeds, lowest infant mortality rates, and lowest levels of corruption in the world.
Singapore is a unitary parliamentary republic with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government, and its legal system is based on common law. While the country is a multi-party democracy with free elections, the government under the People's Action Party (PAP) wields significant control and dominance over politics and society. The PAP has governed the country continuously since full internal self-government was achieved in 1959, with 83 out of 104 seats in Parliament as of the 2020 general election with 61.23% of the popular vote. One of the five founding members of ASEAN, Singapore is also the headquarters of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat, the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) Secretariat, and is the host city of many international conferences and events. Singapore is also a member of the United Nations (UN), World Trade Organization (WTO), East Asia Summit (EAS), Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and the Commonwealth of Nations.
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