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Singaporeans

Nimble and independent, Singaporeans create a unique space for their modern city-state to grow.

The free port of Singapore was built in the 19th century by the British authorities to take advantage of the island’s strategic position of Singapore Island in the Malacca Strait, along one of the world's busiest trade routes. Having gained independence against the turbulent background of 1960s Southeast Asia, the leaders of Singapore — highly skilled in politics, economics and diplomacy — were able to guarantee the island's independence and transform it into a major economic and financial hub for globalized trade.

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In its early years, Singapore's independence was fraught with challenges, and the country was forced to adapt to a fast-changing environment. After being expelled from the Malaysia Federation in 1965, the country became a city-state during a period of high racial tensions. The island’s British military bases, which had employed nearly 20% of its working population, were dismantled from 1968 onwards. In response, from 1959–1990, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew developed a political structure that would support swift and far-reaching economic and social change. Starting in the early 1960s, powerful semi-public institutions were created with the objective of planning and structuring the island's industrial development. In addition to local planning and development, the country invested massively in manufacturing, electronics, oil refining, shipyards, and harbor infrastructure that would enable Singapore to build a strong, dynamic economy. Today, the city's banking and financial services have a central role in the Southeast Asian economy, and its port has the highest cargo tonnage in the world. These factors, combined with a massive defense budget, mean that the country has a major diplomatic role in the region, despite its small size. A founding member of ASA (Association of Southeast Asia), then ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in 1967, the city now holds the headquarters of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) and is often praised for its role as a mediator within these multilateral organizations.

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While the country produced the majority of its own meat, fruit, and vegetables for consumption in the early 1970s, Singapore now depends almost entirely on neighboring countries for its daily supply of food and water.