Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, is very much a city-state. It has very limited space, and as a result has been involved in extensive land reclamation since independence in 1963. Is has increased its total size by 23% (130 km2) in that time.
The city offers great contrast between East and West, modernity and tradition. Stamford Raffles founded colonial Singapore in 1819 as a trading post of the East India Company. The islands were ceded to Britain and became part of its Straits Settlements in 1826.
The country gained independence from the UK in 1963 after initially federating with other former British territories to form Malaysia. Singapore was however expelled from the Malaysian federation two years later over 'ideological differences', and became a sovereign nation in 1965.
Singapore has since become a global commerce, finance and transport hub, and has been much copied by other city states and smaller countries that have tried to learn from it and adopt its recipes of economic success. Few have come close. Singapore's standings include: the most "technology-ready" nation (WEF), top International-meetings city (UIA), city with "best investment potential" (BERI), third-largest foreign exchange market, third-largest financial centre, third-largest oil refining and trading centre, and the second-busiest container port.
Despite being expensive it is also considered a great place to live. Singapore ranks 5th internationally and first in Asia on the UN Human Development Index, and 3rd highest per capita income. It is ranked highly in education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety, and housing.
Some 90% of homes are owner-occupied. while 38% of Singapore's 5.6 million residents are permanent residents and other foreign nationals.
The country regularly tops polls for expatriate life.