Economists describe Singapore as a modern miracle because it has built its success on only one resource, its people. Lacking natural resources, Singapore's strength is its hardworking, adaptable, goal-oriented, and resilient population. In fact, it is highly regarded by the Business Environment Risk Intelligence as one of the best labor forces in the world.
Singapore's population of approximately 3,612,000 (June 1996) comprises 77.3% Chinese, 14.1% Malays, 7.3% Indians, and 1.3% people of other descent. Singapore's indigenous people were the Malays, but after the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles and the establishment of a British trading post, Singapore became a magnet that drew thousands of migrants and merchants. It still retains its special multiracial quality acquired from its early days when Arabs, Chinese, Europeans, Indians, and Straits-born Chinese (or Peranakan) came to live side by side with the indigenous Malays. Though inter-marriages have taken place over the years, each racial group within Singapore has retained its own cultural identity while developing as an integral part of the Singapore community. It is a country where the three main races (Chinese, Malay, and Indian) complement and supplement each other.
There are four official languages in Singapore: Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, and English. The working language is English and it is widely spoken and understood. Most Singaporeans are bilingual, speaking both their mother tongue and English.
With this mixture of people, Singapore is also a mixture of religions. Its skyline boasts the distinctive minarets of mosques, spires of gothic cathedrals, intricate figurines of Hindu temples, and distinctive roof architecture of Chinese temples. The main religions are Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, and Zoroastrians.
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